Litvinenko, the poisoned man who could not testify against Putin: the embryo of the investigation in Spain

On Wednesday, November 1, 2006, Alexander Litvinenko, who had been a spy for the FSB (the former KGB) until in 1998, together with several officers at a press conference, denouncing that their superiors had ordered the assassination of the oligarch Boris Berezovski, went to the Millennium Hotel in Mayfair, London, to have tea with former colleagues from Russian intelligence. And just a few days later died poisoned after being intoxicated with polonium 210.

Already on those dates, this Russian Army colonel had provided important information to the British secret services (MI5), and since June 1 had begun a collaboration with the Spanish National Intelligence Center (CNI). But the most important thing is that Litvinenko, faced with the suspicions of the Spanish Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office, had shown his intention to testify in secret at the National High Courtwhich at that time had opened a secret investigation into the activities of the Russian mafia in Spain and the alleged links of criminal organizations with the Moscow authorities, including Vladimir Putin.

The then head of the Investigating Court number 4 of the National High Court, Fernando Andreu, and the prosecutor José Grinda had in 2006 ordered the Civil Guard agents to tap the phones of the main leaders of the St. Petersburg mafia clan called ‘Tambovskaya -Melyshevskaya,’ Gennadios Petrov and Alexander Melyshev.

But also those of dozens of members of the criminal organization who were in charge of laundering money from Cyprusa country in which Russian oligarchs and criminals hid the funds they had obtained from their criminal activities in Russia.

“Thieves in Law”

They had also launched investigations into the activities of other “thieves in law” (‘vory v zakonen’, in Russian) like Russian-Georgian mob boss Zakhar Kalashov (Shakro) and Vladimir A. Tiourine, based in Siberia. According to the transcript of the interrogation of Litvinenko carried out on June 1, 2006 in London, published on its website by the Group of Experts on the Fight against Cross-Border Corruption of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, in which the journalists Anastasia Kirilenko and Atanas Chobanov, the former Russian spy, provided information about these two alleged criminals, who had settled in Spain.

In his testimony, Litvinenko also noted the involvement of the then Russian prime minister, Vladimir Putin, whom he accused of controlling, along with other Russian citizens, the heroin trade in Afghanistan, the world’s leading producer of this drug. Among the alleged partners of the now Russian president was Mikhail Chernoi, who along with Oleg Deripaska was investigated by the Civil Guard in Spain.

According to this preliminary investigation, the content of which has been accessed by El Periódico de España, a newspaper of the same group, Prensa Ibérica, that this newspaper, Mijail Chernoi and Oleg Deripaska were related to the Russian criminal structure Izmailovskayain which the former played the role of absolute leader of the economic section.

Funds for Putin

These initial investigations went further into Putin’s links with the oligarchs, as they pointed out that organized crime could have provided funds for him to be elected president of the Russian Federation. Specifically, Oleg Deripaska was attributed with having participated in an organized crime meeting in which it was decided to bet on Putin. The chosen person had to accept the conditions of the oligarchsamong which was that of not relieving several ministers and high-ranking Administration officials, considered essential, within a period of eight years.

Initial investigations of the Civil Guard considered “undoubted” the link between Russian organized crime with the Russian Administrationsomething that was confirmed, the agents pointed out, by the control that the oligarchs maintained over the most profitable businesses in the country, which were the product of privatizations after the fall of the Soviet Union (USSR).

After initiating a procedure in the National Court against Deripaska and Iskandar Makhmudov, who are now two of the richest men in Russia, -although after the Russian invasion of Ukraine they have been subject to sanctions by the United States and the European Union ( EU)-, Judge Fernando Andreu decided to send the procedure to Russia. A court in this country shelved the proceedings against these two oligarchs in 2016, not seeing any evidence of a crime.

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Judge Andreu also referred in 2014, against the criteria of the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor, theThe investigations that had begun against the alleged capo of the mafia clan BratskayaVladimir Tiourine, who controlled organized crime in Siberia. Litvinenko himself, despite the fact that he assured the Spanish authorities that he did not know this criminal, did link him to the privatization of a pulp company in Brats, the original town of Tiourine. Recently, the Russian authorities, who have kept the case against this Russian citizen open for eight years without being able to put him on the bench, have pointed out to the National Court the possibility of returning the case to the Spanish Central Court of Instruction number 4, as as reported by El Periódico de España.

In 2021, 15 years after the poisoning, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) determined that the Russian government had been directly responsible for the death of Litvinenko, whose testimony pointed to, among others, the Russian-Georgian Kalashov. This “thief in law”, after being accused by the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office, was convicted of the crimes of criminal organization and money laundering in Spain, a country in which he spent eight years in prison until he was extradited to Russia.

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