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Scaramella: I warned poisoned spy

By Matthew Chance
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- The Italian security consultant who met Alexander Litvinenko on the day he was believed to have been poisoned said he wanted to warn the ex-spy his life was in danger.

"I received several e-mails from another source he [Litvinenko] introduced to me some years before, saying that him and me were under the special attention of hostile people, so to take care," said Mario Scaramella.

In an exclusive interview with CNN from his room at University College Hospital in London, Scaramella told of the November 1 meeting he had with Litvinenko.

"The problem for me was these mails were so full of details, so specific that they didn't seem genuine." (Watch Scaramella talk of warning Litvinenko Video)

Litvinenko died on November 23 in a London hospital. He is believed to have been killed by polonium-210, a rare radioactive element. (Learn more about polonium-210)

Doctors have also found low levels of polonium-210 in Scaramella's system, though he said he did not feel ill. He was discharged from hospital on Wednesday.

Scaramella said he tried to warn Litvinenko that they were being targeted by "people linked with some clandestine organizations, not directly under control of Russian establishment but from Russia ... generally retired people from the security service."

Litvinenko, 43, was a former colonel in the Russian FSB security service and an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Key players)

Putin and other Russian officials have denied any involvement in the matter and pledged to cooperate with British investigators. (Watch as the radioactive trail leads to Moscow Video)

Scaramella served with Litvinenko on an Italian parliamentary probe of alleged links between Italian politicians and the Soviet-era KGB. He said he sought out Litvinenko's opinion during a business trip to London because of his prior contacts with the source.

But he said he does not believe his associate could have been poisoned at the London sushi restaurant Itsu, where they met -- "simply because there were no other people, any strange situation."

"Alexander was always on alert," said Scaramella, who did not eat during the meeting. "And considering that I survived and I feel well, I don't think I was a target as well, it's important to underline that."

He said he did not eat during the meeting because he doesn't like sushi. But he had met Litvinenko there before, "because he liked this kind of food." He said British police investigating Litvinenko's death do not consider him a suspect, and he has cooperated with the probe.

Scaramella's credibility has been under scrutiny, as well. He has made dramatic and unproven allegations in the past, including claims that current Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi had KGB ties. Andrea Mergelletti, an intelligence adviser to the Italian Senate, said Scaramella has a reputation as a fabricator.

"Mario Scaramella is one of the people who works in the gray world of intelligence," Mergelletti said. "We may consider them a sort of wannabe 007, people that want to play a role -- but in reality, in the theater of reality or not reality of the intelligence field, they just play as a supporting actor."

British officials have said traces of radioactive material were found at Litvinenko's home and places where he ate and met others just before becoming sick.

Russia's chief prosecutor announced Tuesday that Russian investigators would not be allowed to talk to two men the British hope to question:

  • Andrei Lugovoy, a former KGB agent who met with Litvinenko at London's Millennium Hotel the same day he met with Scaramella;
  • Mikhail Trepashkin, a former counterintelligence colleague of Litvinenko who once warned the ex-spy of a plot to kill him. Trepashkin is now imprisoned for exposing state secrets.
  • CNN's Rome Bureau Chief Alessio Vinci contributed to this report.

    Scaramella claims he and Litvinenko were being targeted by "people linked with some clandestine operations."



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