Murdered Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko was killed because of an eight-page dossier he had compiled on a powerful Russian figure for a British company, a business associate told the BBC on Saturday.
Litvinenko died in London on November 23 after receiving a lethal dose of radioactive polonium 210. On his deathbed, he accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of ordering his killing. The Kremlin has denied involvement.
Ex-spy Yuri Shvets, who is based in the United States, said Litvinenko had been employed by Western companies to provide information on potential Russian clients before they committed to investment deals in the former Soviet Union.
He said Litvinenko was asked by a British company to write reports on five Russians and asked Shvets for help. The British company was not named. Shvets said he had passed Litvinenko the information for the dossier on one individual in September.
The BBC said it had obtained extracts of the dossier, which British detectives also have, from an unnamed source. The BBC said the report contained damaging personal details about a “very highly placed member of Putin’s administration”.
“Litvinenko obtained the report on September 20,” Shvets told the BBC. “Within the next two weeks he gave the report to Andrei Lugovoy. I believe that triggered the entire assassination.”
Lugovoy is a former Russian spy who told Reuters on Thursday he had known Litvinenko casually for nearly a decade and had worked closely with him during 2005, meeting him about 10 times.
Shvets said Litvinenko had given the dossier to Lugovoy to show him how reports on Russian companies and individuals should be presented to Western clients.
However, Shvets said he believed Lugovoy was still employed by the Russian secret service the FSB, the successor to the KGB, and had leaked Litvinenko’s dossier to the Russian figure.
Shvets said the report had led to the British company pulling out of a deal, losing the Russian figure potential earnings of “dozens of millions of dollars”.
Lugovoy and businessman Dmitry Kovtun met Litvinenko at a central London hotel, soon after he had met Italian KGB expert Mario Scaramella at a sushi bar. Litvinenko felt ill that night and two days later was admitted to hospital.
“Litvinenko told me he met Lugovoy and other Russians and they offered him tea that wasn’t made in front of him, said Shvets.
Lugovoy told Reuters in an interview that he met Litvinenko in October and November but he has repeatedly denied having anything to do with his death.
Litvinenko never blamed Lugovoy publicly for his murder before dying in the London hospital. However, Shvets said he had come around to that possibility.
“I asked Litvenenko who did you think did it?” Shvets told the BBC. “He immediately said Scaramella. For three days he stubbornly reiterated it was Scaramella and only on the fourth day did he admit he met Lugovoy and other Russians.
“I stopped communicating with Litvinenko when it was diagnosed he had been poisoned. But I spoke to his wife and she told me Litvinenko shared my opinion,” Shvets told the BBC.
The BBC said senior Scotland Yard officers had interviewed Shvets.