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Monday, December 25, 2006

Italian in spy case is arrested

ROME, Italy (CNN) -- An Italian man who met with former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko the day Litvinenko was poisoned was arrested Sunday on other charges, police said.

Mario Scaramella was arrested at Naples airport as he arrived on a flight from London, where he was hospitalized earlier this month and treated for suspected radiation poisoning, police said.

Scaramella was arrested in connection with an investigation by a Rome prosecutor looking into allegations Scaramella was involved in arms trafficking and violating secrets from an investigative file, the police spokesman said. (Watch CNN's Matthew Chance describe Scaramella's involvement in shady dealings )

Scaramella was one of the last people to meet with Litvinenko, who died last month of radiation poisoning.

In an interview with CNN's Matthew Chance in London earlier this month, Scaramella talked about his November 1 meeting with Litvinenko.

"We met in Piccadilly Circus, and I followed him up to a restaurant... and we discussed about some papers," Scaramella said.

Scaramella said he told Litvinenko that both of their names were on a "hit list" Scaramella had discovered. Speaking with Chance from his hospital bed, Scaramella said neither he nor Litvinenko gave the list much credence at the time. Litvinenko died November 23 of radiation poisoning, London police said.

Scaramella has a history of involvement with spy operations, including having worked for Italian intelligence during an investigation of Russian spy operations in Europe.

On his deathbed, Litvinenko blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for involvement in his poisoning -- an allegation that the Kremlin denied.

Scaramella also was hospitalized for several days in Britain for exposure to polonium-210.

The same day that Litvinenko met with Scaramella, the Russian met with Andrei Lugovoi, also an ex-Soviet agent; Dmitry Kovtun, a Russian businessman; and Vyacheslav Sokolenko, head of a private Russian security firm, in the bar at London's Millennium Hotel.

All three men have denied involvement in the ex-spy's death.

Scaramella has been gathering information for Italian Sen. Paolo Guzzanti -- the former chair of a parliamentary commission that examined cases of past KGB infiltration in Italy, The Associated Press reported.

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