Litvinenko Ties Putin to Crime Lord From Beyond Grave

Published: 27 January 2015

mogilevich 2001Semion Mogilevich in 2001


A recording released by the British newspaper the Telegraph purports to reveal close ties between Russian president Vladimir Putin and crime boss Semion Mogilevich, who is on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.  

The ten-year-old recording, from November 2005, was obtained in a Telegraph investigation, and appears to feature the now-deceased former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko alleging links between the Russian president and Mogilevich, a Ukrainian national, described by investigative organization Global Witness as “the most dangerous mobster in the world”.

On the tape, Litvinenko claims that Mogilevich has had a “good relationship” with Putin since 1993 or 1994. He also alleges that Mogilevich sold weapons to al-Qaeda. This is not the first time that links have been drawn between Putin and Mogilevich; a leaked conversation between former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and a top security official in February 2000 also suggested that the two were on good terms.

Mogilevich, 68, is wanted by the FBI for his alleged participation in a fraud case involving a public company headquartered in Pennsylvania, US, that cost investors more than US$ 150 million in the mid-1990s. He was indicted in Pennsylvania in April 2003 on charges of fraud, money laundering, and falsification of records, among other economic crimes. The FBI suspects his involvement in weapons trafficking, murder, extortion, drug trafficking and prostitution, outside of the US.

Other claims surfacing from the Litvinenko recording include an allegation that a Federal Security Service (FSB) official is linked to al-Qaeda and the training of Chechen rebels. Under legal advice the Telegraph redacted the name of the official from the published tape, but suggest that it will come out during the inquiry into Litvinenko’s death, which begins Jan. 27.

Litvinenko, a former KGB and FSB officer, fled to Britain in 2000 and died on Nov. 23, 2006 from radiation poisoning caused by a lethal dose of polonium-210. British prosecutors charged Andrey Lugovoy, 48, with Litvinenko's murder on May 22, 2007, and requested his extradition from Moscow. The Russian government refused to comply. Lugovoy, a former KGB officer, is currently a member of the Russian Parliament. Litvinenko allegedly met with Lugovoy in London shortly before his death.

Theresa May, the United Kingdom Secretary of State for the Home Department, announced on July 22, 2014, that the British government would launch an inquiry into Litvinenko’s death. The public hearings are scheduled to begin Jan. 27, 2015.