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BBC Falls for Scaramella Scam- with Update

by de Gondi Thu Jan 25th, 2007 at 07:48:45 AM EST

On Monday evening, January 22nd, the BBC ran a special on the murder of Alexander Litvinenko. The program contained excerpts from an interview with Alexander Litvinenko conducted by Mario Scaramella. The BBC presented the interview as "fresh evidence" and "top secret." In the video interview Litvinenko declares that when he sought to leave Russia for Italy he was discouraged by General Trofimov (assassinated in 2005) because Prodi was a long-standing KGB agent.

The interview is part of the continuous, grave and obsessive efforts by Berlusconi Senator Paolo Guzzanti and his shill, Mario Scaramella, to smear political adversaries with false charges.

There is nothing "top secret" about the interview. While in London last December Scaramella freely distributed the interview to all the reporters who interviewed him. Scaramella had at the time acquired a certain international notoriety by staging a polonium poisoning of himself, trumpeted as a deliberate assassination attempt. Recent investigations have determined that initial analysis of Scaramella for polonium poisoning were "false readings."

From the diaries -- whataboutbob

The BBC has further damaged its reputation by omitting key facts about the interview, such as Litvinenko's pay-off of € 600 for "expenses" by Mario Scaramella, as well as a further € 200 to Litvinenko's brother for "translations". The BBC should keep in mind that reporters do not pay for interviews or evidence as a matter of professional ethics. Nor do news services censor gravely compromising facts such as the pay-off in question.

The interview (discussed here at Eurotrib) is also part of the evidence acquired by Italian investigators. The interview was conducted on February 3, 2006, just days after a telephone conversation between Senator Paolo Guzzanti and Mario Scaramella in which Guzzanti exhorts Scaramella in no uncertain terms to come up with something that "proves" Prodi is a KGB agent. Investigators have asked Parliament to admit this taped conversation as evidence in their case against Scaramella.

Scaramella continues to be held in isolation since his arrest last Christmas.

La Repubblica also has written today that they possess the full unexpurgated version of the interview.

Further, the BBC neglects to consider evidence to the contrary such as an interview with Oleg Ghordievsky who was present at the meeting in which Scaramella arranged the Trofimov scam with Litvinenko. In the interview Ghordievsky (published here at Eurotrib) clearly states that Litvinenko was lying and did so most likely for money, a supposition now ascertained by Italian investigators. Both Vladimir Bukovsky and Oleg Ghordievsky were present at the preliminary meeting and refused to be part of Scaramella's scam.

The Italian government has released a statement deploring the BBC service as a scam. "[We are] surprised that the English television whose authority has always been a point of honour would continue to lend credence to false news reports from improbable sources and from news buccaneers."

It is of note that the BBC interview was released in coincidence with Romano Prodi's trip to Moscow.

The BBC did not verify Litvinenko's accusations nor cross check with Romano Prodi, victim of those accusations.

With the presentation of this interview the BBC has gravely damaged its reputation. One could pretend immediate amend with equivalent primetime coverage- although a similar disclaimer may entail exposing Berlusconi's systematic production of false information by his media machine, as well as the crucial role played by Paolo Guzzanti.

It would be far more interesting than feasting on the hired words of the dead.

In the meantime, knowledgeable readers may wonder just how far this urban legend will carry. And what kind of suckers will continue to fall- either by design, negligence or stupidity- for the garbage manufactured by Berlusconi's slander machine.

Update [2007-1-25 4:39:39 by de Gondi]: January 25th, 2007

Yevgeny Limarev released a statement yesterday to la Repubblica concerning the BBC special on Litvinenko’s poisoning (la Repubblica- January 26, 2007, page 26). Limarev has emerged as a key figure in debunking the Guzzanti-Scaramella scams and was targeted by Scaramella as having supplied the bogus emails Scaramella took to London to show to Litvinenko. Guzzanti further defamed Limarev by accusing him of being part of the Litvinenko assassination plot.

Yevgeny Limarev will be the subject of my next post.

Il video di Litvinenko che parla di rapporti fra Prodi e il Kgb è stato fabbricato ad arte. Posso dirlo perché Scaramella mi inviò due mail, una il 6 febbraio e l´altra il 17 febbraio, chiedendomi di collaborare all´operazione. In particolare nel messaggio del 17 febbraio, Scaramella mi sollecitava urgentemente ad attivarmi presso giornalisti russi affinché li convincessi a pubblicare sui loro giornali le stesse notizie contenute in quel video. Questo gli serviva per rinforzare l´intervista di Litvinenko che si reggeva solo sulle dichiarazioni di un morto. Mi aveva anche offerto la possibilità di pagare i giornalisti russi con somme da 600 a 800 euro. The video in which Litvinenko talks about the relation between Prodi and the KGB was artfully contrived. I can assert this because Scaramella sent me two emails, one dated February 6th [2006] and February 17th [2006] asking me to collaborate in the scheme. In particular, in the message of February 17th, Scaramella urgently solicited me to intervene with Russian journalists to convince them to publish the same news contained in the video in their newspapers. This was necessary to reinforce the Litvinenko interview which was based only the declarations of a dead man. He offered me the possibility to pay the Russian journalists a sum between 600 and 800 euros.

This diary owes a great deal to articles that have appeared in la Repubblica, especially an article by Alberto Custodero published January 24th, page 25.


It should be clear even from the name of the piece, i.e. "How To Poison A Spy", that accuracy was not one of BBC goals.
by blackhawk on Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 07:19:51 AM EST
The BBC has further damaged its reputation by omitting key facts about the interview, such as Litvinenko's pay-off of € 600 for "expenses" by Mario Scaramella, as well as a further € 200 to Litvinenko's brother for "translations".

Just a small point, but those are vanishingly small ammounts in the world of modern media (incl. BBC.)  £400 will get you a night in a hotel, your meals, and your taxi fares for the next day.  I know one could do things cheaper, but I don't think this is a Bed & Breakfast type of scenario. £140 is three or four hours work (or less?) for a good translator.  Again, it seems to small a sum for anyone to worry over (esp. those who are in it "for the money"...?)

Well, that's my take, but I really don't know anything about the money habits and needs of any of these characters.  It was just a thought as I read through.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 07:38:11 AM EST
I'll just remove an "m" and add an "o" back there.

Ammount -- NO!  WRONG!



(I'll get it right sooner or later.)

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 07:44:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
does any one believe the bbc to be entirely agenda-less?

in a relative world, their bias is less obvious than the rest.

maybe al jazeera's growing presence will goose them to better reporting.

they are attached to being seen as objective, but i wish that were even more the case.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 10:05:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
does any one believe the bbc to be entirely agenda-less?

More to the point, does anyone think we could get de Gondi to hammer out a script?  I think the script writers were working from the shallow information pool and simply thought:

"Wow!  This is a real life spy story!  We simply must (money money!) make a docu-drama out of it.  Imagine what they could have produced if, with the same motivation, they'd dived in the deep end?

Or maybe there are libel laws about that.

What I don't understand is: how come it isn't as simple as e-mailing relevant journalists with the contrary info?  Their job would be to package the narrative for their readers...and there's plenty enough intrigue, big names, sex, lies, and corruption aplenty (I'm guessing on the sex...but assuming it'll be there somewhere)...so why go with a not-accurate-to-the-facts version?  Laziness?

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 11:18:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's one o dem days.

Should read:

"Wow!  This is a real life spy story!  We simply must (money money!) make a docu-drama out of it."

Imagine what they could have produced if...

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 11:19:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There's no such animal as 'The BBC' any more. It's really more of a patchwork of competing and only notionally inter-related fiefdoms, with an even wider network of freelance outsiders, with a variety of viewpoints.

While there's some pressure on editorial policy, what gets made and shown depends on what commissioning editors can get away with, with half an eye on how sensitive the subject is (which in practice means the likelihood of Gilligan-style fall-out that could damage the chances of a licence hike in future.)

'Show me the money' is increasingly a motivation for many program makers, and I think it's just as likely that this was poor journalism - hardly a rare thing at the Beeb - as evidence of a dastardly Establishment plot designed to paint Putin and Prodi in a bad light.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Jan 25th, 2007 at 09:47:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Great reporting - I share de Gondi's indignation.

Re the smallness of the amount - seem to remember that in an interview with La Repubblica (I think) recorded before the poisoning but published afterwards, Litvinenko had said that when Scaramella proffered the amount in question he had reacted very coldly - recalling the event he said it was insulting, Scaramella was treating him like "a beggar".  Dunno whether he then actually pocketed the sum or not, far as I recall the interview didn't make that aspect crystal-clear - also don't know whether Litvinenko had felt "insulted" because he had been offered payment at all, or because the payment was so paltry.

"Ignoring moralities is always undesirable, but doing so systematically is really worrisome." Mohammed Khatami

by eternalcityblues (parvati_roma aaaat libero.it) on Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 03:55:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hey, welcome back!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 04:22:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here's the passage you refer to, published November 26th, 2006 by la Repubblica. The actual interview had been conducted on March 3rd, 2005. Litvinenko expressly underwrote the contents of the interview.

La Repubblica apparently sat on the interview until Guzzanti and Scaramella made their first move.

«Quando finì il mio lavoro a Napoli, Mario mi mise in mano 600 o 800 euro in contanti. Mi sentii umiliato. Gli dissi che non vendevo informazioni e che avevo accettato l´incarico perché collaborare con l´Italia era per me un´occasione irripetibile di far sapere all´occidente cosa è stato il Kgb, chi è Putin e quanto sia corrotto il suo regime. Aggiunsi che era giusto che fossi retribuito come un consulente professionista, con parcelle regolarmente accreditate sul mio conto dalla Commissione. E soprattutto in modo trasparente, perché l´Fsb non sospettasse che mi ero intascato in nero milioni di dollari per le mie informazioni. Era una questione di trasparenza e di sicurezza. Mario non mi accreditò nessun denaro. Continuò a dirmi di non preoccuparmi. Che sarei diventato famoso e avrei testimoniato di fronte al Parlamento italiano. Che avrei potuto portare la mia famiglia in vacanza in Italia. Mi aveva preso per un pezzente». When I finished my work in Naples, Mario put 600 or 800 euros cash in my hand. I felt humiliated. I told him that I don't sell information but that I had accepted the job because the possibility to collaborate with Italy was a once in a lifetime opportunity to let the West know what the KGB was, who Putin is, and how corrupt his regime is. I added that it was correct that I be remunerated as a professional consultant, with a fee regularly accredited to my account with the Commission. And above all in a transparent way so that the FSB would not suspect that I had pocketed millions of dollars covertly. It was a matter of transparency and security. Mario never accredited me a cent. He continuously told me not to worry. That I would be famous and testify before the Italian Parliament. That I could someday bring my family on vacation in Italy. He treated me like a beggar.
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 04:47:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
(Can the pro tempore host here reduce the damned font size above, please? Thanks!)
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 04:51:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Doesn't the UK have some libel laws that this may run into? I seem to remember that it does.
by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 08:24:36 AM EST
Richard Perle sought to sue Seymour Hersh in England for a New Yorker article. Libel suits are easier to argue there- which leads to exceptional cases of censoring magazines for British distribution.

It's unlikely that the head of a government would seek redress under English law, though- just as it is unlikely that Trofimov or Litvinenko would also do so.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 12:20:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've been listening to the BBC World Service for decades for much of my news, at least until the appearance of the Internet. Since Tony Bliar falsely accused someone on the BBC of not telling the truth (about him or about the reasons for going to war, I'm not sure anymore) and arranged a high-powered investigation which conveniently 'proved' that false accusations had been made, the BBC World Service has become a ghost of itself. However tendentious it may have been in the past, it is now very much concerned with pushing the anglo-saxon agenda set up by the U.S. and its client state the U.K. More than ever, it has become necessary to sift their reporting and be aware of the drift of the formulations. I remember when Judy Swallow used to almost tell someone they were lying, now she barely gets to asking a follow-up question about the statements made by interviewees like government spokespersons, party officials, think-tank big-mouths, etc. Just count the number of times someone from a U.S. right-wing think tank is given the opportunity to air his views as opposed to someome who may be more moderate or, heaven forbid, liberal, leftist, just plain different. The BBC brand has become very soiled.
by Quentin on Thu Jan 25th, 2007 at 08:50:11 AM EST

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