So, the breaking news is that British police have completed their investigation into the death of Alexander Litvinenko.
The key quote from the police:
“(The Metropolitan Police) has this morning handed a file to the Crown Prosecution Service regarding the investigation into the death of Alexander Litvinenko,” a statement from London’s Metropolitan Police Scotland Yard headquarters said. “We are not prepared to discuss the contents of the file.”
And from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS):
“We’ll go through absolutely everything that we’ve received in depth to see whether any offence has been committed or if anybody should be charged,” a CPS spokesman said.
He added: “It will be dealt with expeditiously”, but said it was likely to take some time to process the information and decide what action to take. “This is quite a unique case so it really is impossible to say how long it will take us.”
I’m not an expert in criminal law, but I assume that the decision to hand the file over to the CPS means that the police both believe that Litvinenko’s death was a murder, and that they have identified a suspect that they’d like to charge. The questions now are:
- Do the CPS believe there is enough evidence to charge anyone?
- Do the CPS believe a prosecution would be in the (British) public interest (and will they interpret the British public interest narrowly or widely)?
- If a Russian citizen is prosecuted, is there any way in which he can be extradited, or in which he can be persuaded to voluntarily stand trial in a British court?
I don’t believe the current investigation will produce a credible suspect or a very good case on whatever scapegoat is put on the cadafalse (I’m 90% sure it will be Georgian or Tchechen) since the whole case is from the beggining just a way to appease foreign opinion. When the Polonium story came out Gazprom’s (Putin’s) NTV happily made fun of “British Panic” as if a terrorist nuclear attack, even individual, on one’s soil was something not worth thinking twice- since the Russian Media is completely reliable source of governement policy and not information I think it translated very well Putin’s regime view on the whole subject. Former KGB Kalugin also said that killing someone in a way that could only be done by russians (polonium is almost only made in one russian town) was too obvious.
Well, I think obvious but not traceable is exactly the effect that was intended.Anyone who has seen the Godfather trilogy knows what “sending a message” means.
#3 “If a Russian citizen is prosecuted, is there any way in which he can be extradited, or in which he can be persuaded to voluntarily stand trial in a British court?”
Russian law does not permit to extradite a Russian national abroad to stand trial in a foreign country. But things would probably look different if Britain would consider to ‘trade in’ Berezovsky for the person she is interested in.
Maybe I’ve seen too many Bond movies but I believe Berezovsky and also Zakayev (who lived across the street from Litivenko in London!?) are the real objectives of this “message” since Litivenko was intimate with them but with a much lower public profile.
I agree that there is virtually no chance that a Russian citizen will be extradited to stand trial for this in a British court.
However, I think there is plenty of opportunity for a creative solution to be found to the problem, if there is willing on the part of both the British and Russian governments.
I think that, if a trial does take place, it is most likely to happen because the suspect – whoever he or she is – agrees to be tried ‘voluntarily’. This would quite neatly circumvent any need for extradition laws to be brought into play.
As you say, things would look very different if Berezovsky was ‘traded’, although I think the chances of that are extremely slim.
You mean Russia would simply disregard the law, even the Constitution, if it felt it was in its interests to do so? How shocking! I thought Russia was a country governed by a “dictatorship of law,” as “President” Putin has said. Guess not.
Are you seriously saying that the Kremlin would allow the trial of a person in Britain which would lead to the revelation that the Kremlin ordered a hit on a Kremlin critic in Britain, thereby exposing thousands of Britons to radiation poisoning, just so it can get its hands on Berezovsky? In other words, that Russia is willing to destroy itself, just so long as it can destroy Berezovsky in the process? My goodness, that seems rather extreme.
Given the precedent the Kremlin has established with Litvinenko, I would think the answer is obvious. Once we’ve conclusively identified the killers, we just liquidate them no matter where they are. Preferably, by means of Polonium.
ABC News has reported confirmation from a high-ranking British official that Scotland Yard has proof the Kremlin ordered Litvinenko killed in a KGB hit.
So these questions are now no longer hypothetical.