Prosecutorial Indiscretion In Litvinenko Case – OpEd


Suspicious connections in the Alexander Litvinenko death case prosecution have received little media attention. They reach deep into British official circles. Litvinenko was a reputed former Russian spy who died mysteriously in London in 2006. News reports claimed he was murdered with radioactive polonium on orders of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

But a careful analysis now shows a murky web of affiliations and intersections that call into question the whole media story. It also casts serious suspicion upon the integrity of the British investigation and prosecution.

Here’s what analysis shows: There are connections between the man who was the British Crown Prosecutor at the time of Litvinenko’s death, and the attorney who has been representing the widow Litvinenko, and with the attorney representing the Russian accused by the prosecutor of murder.

Curiously, when prosecutor Ken MacDonald had announced intentions to charge that Russian, Andrew Lugovoi, with the murder of Litvinenko, the London corner had never concluded that Litvinenko was indeed murdered. MacDonald’s action was widely regarded as affirming the allegation that Vladimir Putin was somehow behind Litvinenko’s death. That accusation was made by Boris Berezovsky, a wealthy arch-enemy of Putin’s who resides in London, hiding from criminal convictions back in Russia. MacDonald’s siding with Berezovsky led to the serious and yet unresolved rift between the United Kingdom and Russia.

But MacDonald’s history and connections are enough to raise suspicions. He served as head of the Crown Prosecution Service from 2003 to 2008. He came to that office from Matrix Chambers, a law firm he helped found in 2000. Following his government service, he returned to his law firm in 2008.

Ben Emerson is an attorney representing widow Marina Litvinenko. He too is employed at Matrix Chambers, and with MacDonald was one of its founders.

The man MacDonald accused of murdering Litvinenko, Andrei Lugovoi, is reportedly represented by Jessica Simor, an attorney also at Matrix chambers. Media reports say she works at Matrix with Cherie Booth, another founder of the firm. At the time when MacDonald’s charges caused the rift between the UK and Russia, Booth’s husband, Tony Blair, was prime minister of the UK. Before leaving the government, MacDonald was knighted for his service, and now enjoys the title “Lord Ken MacDonald.”

I’m not sure what all that adds up to, but I do believe that it should be disclosed.

Clearly, the media that has covered the Litvinenko case has neglected to focus attention on this suspicious web of interconnections. What’s more, former prosecutor MacDonald seems to have been less than transparent himself. Just last year the New York Times quoted him as saying he has the “gravest suspicions” of Moscow’s involvement in the Litvinenko case. But the report doesn’t mention all his entanglements with players on various sides of this mystery.

In the Litvinenko case, the Matrix Chamber appears to be not a “matrix” at all, but instead a “locus” of activity.

This week there will be another pre-inquest hearing on the Litvinenko death. There was a dramatic turn of events at the previous hearing. Originally, focus had been on the Berezovsky implication of Putin. But suddenly a new coroner, Sir Robert Owen, has thrown things wide open. Now even British culpability in the death is said to be considered. Some say that move is just a ruse in response to accusations that the inquest is rigged in favor of Berezovsky’s version. The results of the hearing may shed light on that.

In the meantime, the widow Litvinenko has plaintively implored, “It’s important we know the truth.” She’s previously revealed a belief that her husband was the victim of a Kremlinplot. Now she hopes the inquest will “discredit competing theories.” That doesn’t sound like an open quest for the truth to me. But she’s requesting financial donations to support that quest. She says that Berezovsky has stopped paying Matrix Chambers for work on the case because he is now broke. Her plea for money, however, has been spectacularly publicized, and smacks of the Berezovsky PR machine still at work.

[Readers can find greater further explanation of the complex issues described in this article in the author’s book, The Phony Litvinenko Murder,]

William Dunkerley

William Dunkerley is a media business analyst, international development and change strategist, and author of numerous books, monographs, and articles. He has been editor and publisher of media industry information, and has additional expertise in post-communist media business and content.

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