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28 Dec, 2006 12:20

Alleged Yukos trail in Litvinenko case

Alleged Yukos trail in Litvinenko case

Russian prosecutors say they are investigating the possibility that the co-owner of bankrupt oil company Yukos, Leonid Nevzlin, could have ordered the poisoning of the former Russian security officer, Aleksandr Litvinenko.

However, a spokesman for Mr Nevzlin has dismissed the allegations as “ridiculous”.

Leonid Nevzlin used to be the company's co-chairman, along with Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

In 2002, Mr Nevzlin was charged with a number of crimes – from tax evasion worth around $US 1 MLN to more serious ones. The authorities claimed that he was the man behind a number of contract killings – all believed to be of Yukos competitors.

However, unlike Khodorkovsky who was sentenced to 8 years imprisonment and is now serving the term, in 2003 Leonid Nevzlin managed to get Israeli citizenship and went on the run.

Since his settlement in Israel Russian authorities have been continuously demanding his extradition.

The Russian investigators will be trying to contact their counterparts in Israel in the hope that this could shed some light on the mystery.

Leonid Nevzlin is now believed to be in the US, but the chances of US authorities detaining or handing him over are very slim.

Meanwhile in Italy, Mario Scaramella, who met with Litvinenko in London on the day the Russian ex-officer fell ill, is pushing to be released from prison. He was arrested on Sunday reportedly not in connection with the death of Alexander Litvinenko, but for slander.

According to Scaremella, the meeting was to show Litvinenko e-mails from a confidential source identifying the possible killers of Anna Politkovskaya, and a potential hit list. In an interview with the Russian newspaper Kommersant, Ltivinenko’s widow, Marina posed an important question: “If Sacaramella received the information via e-mail, why couldn’t he just send it to Litvinenko the same way?” she asks.

Scaramella is now being held in Rome and the Italian media claim that his stories about threats against his life are fabricated.