Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Display:
The 'suspected nuclear-component smuggler' is of course another former KGB agent, Alexander Talik, whose framing by Scaramella and Litvinenko was discussed at length by de Gondi.  The clear implication of Epstein's comment would seem to be that, although Talik was framed by Scaramella, he is suspected of involvement in nuclear smuggling.  By whom is not made plain -- as elsewhere in his article, Epstein makes an elliptical comment which suggests that he has much more information than he as yet feels in a position to make public.

Considering his talent, I do hope that Epstein's allusion to a "suspected nuclear-component smuggler" does not refer to Alexander Talik. There is an individual previously condemned in Italy as an agent provocateur for arms and nuclear smuggling who is linked to a vast network, also involved in international criminal activity, of which the Berlusconi witch-hunts and disinformation campaigns are part. However it is unlikely that he or his accomplices would be set up to be framed like Talik. Quite to the contrary.

As for Talik, there is really no information available, despite the suggestive Guardian piece, that would have him as some sort of sleeper capable of organizing a murder on commission with an exotic weapon, much less to be involved in an international criminal organization. He appears very much a small fry caught up in an intrigue far beyond himself and his capabilities.

With Scott-Clark and Levy we are requested to lay faith in their sources (Italian security services), a notoriously dodgy concession when dealing with deception in Italy. All the more so when some of the information they offer is characterized by suggestive atmospheres and omissions, when not misrepresentation. One does wonder how the authors had access to the so-called Litvinenko files, presumably in the vaults of the Mitrokhin commission, while there was on-going opposition in the recent legislature to making them available to public scrutiny. It would also have been kind on their part to inform the reader that the Berlusconi Senator Gian Paolo Pelizzaro, presented as a consultant for the Mitrokhin commission, theorizes rightwing fringe conspiracies that were perfectly in keeping with the commission's agenda. It is certainly not a question of Pelizzaro's opinions but a matter of contextualizing them. One does hope that Scott-Clark and Levy did not rely on Pelizzaro or his entourage to get in contact with the "Italian security services."

At what point should the Litvinenko dossier be taken seriously? On March 3, 2005 (Repubblica, 26 November 2006), Litvinenko declared on tape that after each interrogation session with Scaramella he would sign the transcripts translated into Italian without knowing if they faithfully reflected his declarations. Further, Scaramella emailed prefabricated documents to Litvinenko expressly asking him to print and sign them, and send them back (Repubblica, 29 December 2006).

The matter of the so-called Limarev document alleging an assassination plot that prompted Scaramella's trip to London has long since been denied and debunked by Limarev as reported here and here . The same goes for the unverifiable assertion attributed to Trofimov that Prodi was their man in Italy, which in Guardian article morphs into a declarative sentence. Coincidently the phrase "Prodi is our man" was suggested by Guzzanti to Scaramella in a taped conversation of 28 January 2006. Guzzanti, who is well known for his uncanny capacity to imitate voices, is apparently also capable of making the dead talk. Because the tapes involved a Senator they could not be used by prosecutors without prior consent by the Senate. The past legislation never freed the tapes of this obligation.

Talik's mishaps at the hands of Scaramella and Litvinenko are far more mundane than what the authors would like us to believe. Scaramella and his "personal assistant" Andreij Ganchev, much like the cat and the fox of Pinocchio fame, promised Talik pipe dreams of fast money if he collaborated with them. Talik and Ganchev eventually had a falling out over a vacation resort get-rich scheme that saw the two haggling over € 1200. Nor were relations with Scaramella fruitful. The resourceful Scaramella eventually felt that Talik could serve as a fall guy in his mad scheme to frame Prodi  and create a media event in which he and Guzzanti could be billed as would-be martyrs.
Aspects of the case can be grotesque. Scaramella's denouncement of Talik and the two vans at the Dante commissariat in Naples (not Rome) immediately aroused suspicion in the police. They determined that Scaramella placed several phone calls to the vans on his cell phone as the vans drove down the Adriatic coast. It is uncommon for a self-designated victim to call up his would be assassins to see how their trip is getting along. It is no wonder then that the Naples investigation of Talik never lead to his arrest. It is a curious twist that Talik called Scaramella for advice on what to say when he was summoned for a police interrogation in November 2005. And it was the clumsy bragging of Litvinenko to the Ukranian press at the end of November that rightly outraged Talik as you have so well described.

It is scandalous that the dossier of the Naples investigation took fifteen months to get to Teramo where the four Ukrainians were held in custody for smuggling weapons. It was an authentic coup de théâtre when the Naples evidence was produced in court. Just as the testimony (Repubblica, 07 March 2007) of the ex-functionary of the Ukrainian secret services, Vladimir Kobik, who declared that Scaramella had approached him asking him to either procure weapons of war for the Mitrokhin commission or indicate how to procure them. Following Kobik's refusals,  Scaramella then asked him if he would be willing to vouch for the provenance of the weapons were Scaramella to procure them on his own. Kobik's testimony was confirmed by evidence found in Scaramella's personal computer as well as paper trails imprudently left by Scaramella. The court immediately suspended the trial and ordered the release of the four Ukrainians. At the final hearing on May 22, 2007, the judges took all of 30 minutes to declare the defendants not guilty "for not having committed the crime."

In this light, phrases of the following tenure are misleading:

The trial of the six [sic] Ukrainians who had been arrested with the grenades, and who had been in custody since October 2005, collapsed for lack of evidence.

Trial transcripts are public. The authors have had plenty of time to verify what sort of "lack of evidence" they have in mind. Before the 1989 reform of the criminal code a sentence could be given with the formula "not guilty for lack of evidence," definitely not the case in the Teramo trial. Evidence abounded. Alas, phrases of such tenure evoke the sort of illations Senator Guzzanti has accustomed us to.

In September 2007, after nine months in police custody, Scaramella was placed under house arrest at his family's villa near Gaeta, a seaside town north of Naples. He denies the charges.

On February 14th, 2008, two weeks after the Guardian article, Mario Scaramella plea bargained a guilty sentence for aggravated and continuous calumny, smuggling of weapons of war and violation of official secrets. He was sentenced to four years imprisonment. He had already spent 14 months in custody and house arrest. Scaramella was immediately released thanks to the benefits of the Prodi-Mastella indulgence law expressly written to condone all criminal activity conducted before and during the Berlusconi (XIII) legislature 2001 through May 2006. Mario Scaramella is currently charged with embezzlement for having pocketed one million euro in government funds for the false demolition of 23 abusive buildings in the Vesuvius National Park. He is also involved in a case of attempted embezzlement of 500,000 euro under similar circumstances in the Gargano National Park in Puglia.
Whatever Scaramella may have to face in the near future, it is unlikely he will be out of work. He is a very resourceful individual who had no problems continuing his activities after the Mitrokhin Commission. Police raids turned up a stash of $ 20,000, brand new, in a series that did not originate in Europe. The recovery of his computer revealed documents with false charges sent to an American destination, all contrived in mid-2006.

You have rightly brought attention to the Niger forgeries in this context. I can only add that in the sophisticated art of deception, forgeries can actually be far more effective if they are badly made. What counts in the final analysis is the impact and controversy in the media. What is missing or barely suggested draws attention and leads to fascination. The polarization of public opinion is very persuasive, and the first victim is fact. A perfect forgery would imply that a chain of authority would have to assume responsibility for its contents and effects. The Niger forgeries case will remain as one of the most extraordinary and effective disinformation campaigns since the gift of Constantine. In the end it hardly matters who actually forged them.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Sun May 4th, 2008 at 06:31:32 AM EST

Others have rated this comment as follows:

Display:

Top Diaries

Occasional Series