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Triple agent! Poisoned Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko was working for British AND Spanish intelligence, says wifeFormer KGB agent was working for both MI6 and at their behest Spanish intelligence services at the time of his deathAlexander Litvinenko was advising on how closely linked Russian Mafia were to the country's governmentSpy was poisoned after allegedly having tea with former KGB colleaguesFamily claim he may have been poisoned in bid to silence him or as warning
Lugovoy – now Russian MP – was double crossing his government and working alongside Mr Litvinenko in handing over information to Spain
23:20 GMT, 13 December 2012
Poisoned former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko was effectively a triple agent working for MI6 and the Spanish secret service, it was claimed yesterday.
He was on the payroll of MI6 and had a handler called ‘Martin’, a barrister for his widow Marina said.
The Spanish secret service was also bankrolling his espionage activities and both stipends were paid into a joint bank account he held with his wife, it was said.
Doomed: Litvinenko in hospital on November 20, 2006. He died three days later
A pre-inquest hearing yesterday was
told that the Government has ‘established’ Moscow has a case to answer
that Mr Litvinenko was assassinated in London.
Mr Litvinenko was poisoned with radioactive polonium-210 while drinking tea at the Millennium Hotel in Mayfair.
As he lay dying in hospital,
‘reluctant to tell police that he was an MI6 agent’, he handed
detectives the mobile phone number of his MI6 handler ‘Martin’, the
hearing conducted by High Court judge Sir Robert Owen was told.
The death of 43-year-old Mr
Litvinenko, a fugitive from the Putin regime, in November 2006 plunged
Anglo-Russian diplomatic relations into deep freeze.
Determined: Marina Litvinenko, the widow of former spy Alexander, arrives at Camden Town Hall in London today
Former KGB agents Andrei Lugovoy and
Dmitry Kovtun, who met him at the Millennium Hotel, are prime suspects
in the murder. Both deny involvement.
The Crown Prosecution Service wants to charge Lugovoy, but Russia refuses to extradite him.
Mr Litvinenko’s widow believes MI6
failed to protect her husband. Her QC, Ben Emmerson, told the hearing at
Camden Town Hall in North London: ‘Mr Litvinenko had been for a number
of years a regular and paid agent and employee of MI6 with a dedicated
handler whose pseudonym was Martin.’
He said that, at the behest of MI6, Mr
Litvinenko was also working for the Spanish security services, where
his handler was called ‘Uri’.
Mr Emmerson said the inquest should
consider whether MI6 failed in its duty to protect Mr Litvinenko against
a ‘real and immediate risk to life’.
He suggested there was ‘an enhanced
duty resting on the British Government to ensure his safety when tasking
him with dangerous operations involving engagement with foreign
He said Mr Litvinenko was supplying the Spanish with information on organised crime and Russian mafia activity in Spain.
Mr Emmerson said: ‘It is Marina
Litvinenko’s belief that the evidence will show that her husband’s death
was a murder and that Andrei Lugovoy was the main perpetrator.’ The QC
claimed Mr Litvinenko and Lugovoy were working together and had planned
to travel to Spain to deliver information about links between the
Russian mafia, the Kremlin and the country’s President Vladimir Putin.
‘He had a separate telephone for
contacting Martin and by the time of his death he also had a separate
direct phone for contacting Lugovoy,’ he said.
When Mr Litvinenko fell ill – but
before he realised he was slowly dying from polonium – he phoned Lugovoy
from his bed in University College Hospital to say that he could not
make the trip.
Couple: Alexander Litvinenko and wife Marina in London on November 4, 2000
In a further twist, it was claimed by a
lawyer acting for Russian dissident billionaire Boris Berezovsky that
Lugovoy was actually double-crossing his spymasters at the Kremlin. Mr
Litvinenko died three weeks after being poisoned by the radioactive
An inquiry set up after his death said
secret Government documents, which included material submitted by
Scotland Yard and intelligence agencies, showed that the Russian state
did have a case to answer.
The extraordinary claims are expected to plunge relations between Britain and Russia to a new low.
Hugh Davies, counsel to the inquest,
said: ‘Our assessment is that the Government material does establish a
prima facie case as to the culpability of the Russian state in the death
of Alexander Litvinenko.’
Memories: Widow Marina Litvinenko with her deceased husband Alexander Litvinenko on their wedding day in 1994
Mr Litvinenko, 43, was allegedly poisoned while drinking tea during a meeting with former KGB contacts at the Millennium Hotel in Grosvenor Square, pictured, in November 2006
He added the evidence ruled out the
involvement of Chechen terrorist groups, the Spanish mafia, Russian
exile Mr Berezovsky and the British Government in his death.
Mr Davies said assessments of material submitted by the Government had shown no evidence it had failed to protect him.
Until now, the Russians have remained
at arm’s length but yesterday the Kremlin indicated it would like to
become an ‘interested party’ when the full inquest begins next year,
giving its own QC the chance to make submissions and cross-examine
Mr Emmerson said the evidence amounted
to a ‘state-sponsored assassination’ by Moscow. At yesterday’s hearing,
he also cited evidence from a Wikileaks cable which quoted Mr
Litvinenko saying Putin was implicated in the nation’s mafia and that
Russia was a ‘mafia state’.
Neil Garnham QC, representing the Home
Office, told the hearing he could ‘neither confirm nor deny’ whether Mr
Litvinenko was employed by British intelligence services.
After the hearing, Mrs Litvinenko said
she was ‘hopeful’ the full inquest would answer her questions,
especially about Moscow’s alleged involvement. The full inquest,
beginning on May 1, will be held before Sir Robert Owen who has been
appointed assistant deputy coroner.
THE FUGITIVE FROM PUTIN'S 'MAFIA STATE'
Alexander Litvinenko fled to Britain after accusing senior officials in Moscow of ordering a number of assassinations.
The former KGB officer was granted asylum with his wife and son in 2000 and allegedly started working with both MI5 and MI6, revealing secrets on the Putin regime.
Mr Litvinenko, 43, is also believed to have worked with other European intelligence agencies and he wrote a series of books in which he accused the FSB – the successor to the KGB – of carrying out terror attacks and murders to help get Vladimir Putin into power.
Keen for information on the Russian mafia, he met two former FSB men, Andrei Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovturn, at the Millennium Hotel in Mayfair, on November 1, 2006.
Hours later, he collapsed at home and began vomiting. He was admitted to hospital three days later.
Litvinenko, who lost his hair because of the radiation, released a statement blaming ‘barbaric’ Putin for involvement in his poisoning. He died on November 22.
Police went to Moscow to interview Lugovoy and Kovturn, but Russia refused to extradite Lugovoy, triggering a diplomatic row in which both countries expelled diplomats.