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Authorities Question Italian Who Met with Former Russian Spy in London


An Italian man who met with a former Russian spy in London the day the former KGB agent fell ill from poisoning is being questioned by Rome magistrates. For VOA, Sabina Castelfranco reports from Rome.

Italian magistrates are questioning Mario Scaramella in the Rome prison of Regina Coeli, where he is detained since his arrest December 24. Scaramella was arrested in Naples soon after arriving at the airport from London and transferred to the Rome prison.

Scaramella met with former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko on November 1 in a London sushi bar. That same day Litvinenko became ill from radioactive polonium 210 poisoning and subsequently died. The Italian has said he met with Litvinenko to warn him he was on a hit list.

In Italy, Scaramella's arrest is not believed to be directly linked to the case of Litvinenko. Italian prosecutors say he was arrested on charges of slander, arms trafficking and violating state secrets.

Scaramella, a self-styled security and environmental expert, is accused of fabricating a story that there was a plot against his life and that of senator Paolo Guzzanti, who served as chair of the Mitrokhin Commission. That body, for which Scaramella consulted, was established in 2002 with the aim of investigating cases of KGB infiltration in Italy.

Scaramella said he was given the information about the plot by a former Ukrainian spy, Aleksandr Talik. But prosecutors say Talik has denied this and believe Scaramella made up the plot to gain credit with officials of the Mitrokhin commission and of the secret services.

Scaramella denies the charges against him. His lawyer, Sergio Rastrelli, said Wednesday he intended to ask for his client's immediate release from prison.

Rastrelli said his client intended to respond to all questions and would clarify any misunderstanding.

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