Dec 03 2006
Associates of Litvinenko point to a man desparate for money, and crazy enough to build a Chechen dirty bomb:
In early May, Litvinenko first approached Julia Svetlichnaja, a 33-year-old Russian-born academic who is examining the roots of the Chechen conflict for a book she is writing. Litvinenko asked if she was interested in becoming involved in his ‘blackmail’ project.
‘He told me he was going to blackmail or sell sensitive information about all kinds of powerful people including oligarchs, corrupt officials and sources in the Kremlin,’ she said. ‘He mentioned a figure of Â£10,000 they would pay each time to stop him broadcasting these FSB documents. Litvinenko was short of money and was adamant that he could obtain any files he wanted.’
It appears Litvinenko, a vociferous critic of President Vladimir Putin, may have finally acquired the firepower to hurt some of the Kremlin’s most powerful interests. Svetlichnaja said: ‘He did not seem worried. Quite the opposite; Litvinenko sensed he could finally make some money of his own after years of being supported by his friend [and fellow Russian exile] Boris Berezovsky.’
Among the theories that remain open is that the poisonings were an accident that happened while Litvinenko tried to assemble a dirty bomb for Chechen rebels. Those who know him believe he was crazy enough to attempt such a thing and, in the past week, some have implicated him in the smuggling of nuclear materials from Russia.
This week should bring the results of the postmortem on Litvinenko. For the first time, detectives will know how much polonium he ingested. Vast quantities would point to a murder; smaller quantities possibly to accidental contamination. From Washington to London to Moscow, detectives, governments and spies are watching and waiting.
So it seems we have a man desparate for cash and fearless about how he could obtain it. As I wrote earlier today here and here, I am of the opinion an assassination attempt would not spend the extra amounts of money to procure 100’s of lethal doses for just one man. A single dose of Polonium-210 should cost around $1 million dollars (a heavy price to pay to replace one bullet). Since Litvinenko had 100 times the lethal dose I doubt seriously we are talkiing about a $100 Million hit job. No way. So I am of the opinion the more Polonium-210 found the less likely it is an assasination attempt.
Update: It seems “Sasha” (as Litvinenko is known) was involved with nuclear material smuggling last year – tied to Scaramella:
FOUR ITALIANS PROBED ON SUSPECTED URANIUM TRAFFIC
Source: Corriere della Sera website, Milan, in Italian 11 Jun 05
LENGTH: 647 words
HEADLINE: FOUR ITALIANS PROBED ON SUSPECTED URANIUM TRAFFIC
Text of report by Virginia Piccolillo, “Uranium to make atom bomb sold to
four Italians”, published by Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera website
on 11 June
Rome: “During the month of September 2004 I was approached by an Ukrainian
national, whom I know by the name of Sasha, who wanted to sell me a
briefcase containing radioactive material, and, more precisely, uranium for
military use.” There is enough testimony by Giovanni Guidi, a Rimini
businessman, and by other defendants – Giorgio Gregoretti, Elmo Olivieri and
Giuseppe Genghini – to fuel a spy story [preceding two words published in
English] worthy of a novel by Le Carre. Involved is a briefcase containing
five kilos of highly enriched uranium, half of which would be enough to
build an atomic device, which remained for months in a Rimini garage. A
briefcase, however, which eluded investigators, and which managed to get
back into the hands of the Ukrainian national, who perhaps is still in
Italy. Together with another briefcase having a similar content, and a third
believed to conceal a tracking system. The entire kit geared to the assembly
of a small tactical atomic bomb.
A mystery story fuelled by information supplied the Rimini police department
by a consultant of the Mitrokhin committee, Mario Scaramella, who, acting on
behalf of the agency presided over by Paolo Guzzanti, was trying to track
illegal funds from the former USSR that had transited through [the Republic
of ] San Marino. The two defendants’ defence attorney warns that this “could
be the trial of the century, but also the century’s biggest hoax”. The
mystery, however, continues, and emerges from the testimony of the
defendants, who were questioned Wednesday [8 June] night and all day
Thursday, and subsequently released with the charge of possession of war
The uranium was allegedly contained in a hermetically sealed, black, leather
briefcase, along with a photo illustrating its content. Five uranium bars
weighing one kilo each. Sasha delivered the briefcase to Guidi. “My
precarious economic situation induced me to accept,” explains the
46-year-old Rimini businessman, who is married to a Russian woman, and runs
an import-export firm that has dealings with Russia and Ukraine. Guidi in
turn informed Giorgio Gregoretti, who “placed it [the briefcase] in a
cardboard box, which he subsequently stored in his garage.” There it
remained until it was placed in the trunk of Gregoretti’s car, where it was
seen by Elmo Olivieri, a financial consultant. Time passes “without their
finding anyone interested in the material”, says Guidi, and the Ukrainian
“asks for the briefcase back”.
Guidi also testified that “even another briefcase was to arrive” from the
warehouse of a multinational firm in Basel. At which time he makes another
bid, this time asking for 60/70,000 euros, in addition to bank guarantees
sealed by a three-million-euro credit letter. “We often went to San Marino,”
but nothing came of it, says Guidi. At this point, the three decide to ask
for Genghini’s help, “who in the past had proven to be a war-material
expert”, says Guidi, who reports having learned from Genghini himself that
the uranium was worth 30m euro per kg. Genghini admits having spoken of
radioactive material, but “geared to hospital use”. Later, according to
Guidi, Olivieri mentions a prospective purchaser: a Swiss multinational.
Then, the affair gets muddled. Guidi boasts of being protected by the
intelligence services, and claims he was threatened on 2 June. The only sure
thing is that the Rimini police, headed by Sebastiano Riccio, start looking
for the “atomic” briefcases on 9 June, as soon as they learn that the
defendants are planning to transfer to Lugano. The case is by no means
closed, with search operations still under way.
Source: Corriere della Sera website, Milan, in Italian 11 Jun 05
LOAD-DATE: June 12, 2005
Hat tip Reader SBD. I have no idea if this is the same man – but it could be.