top of page


A FORMER KGB "double agent" who publicly linked Russia to the deaths of Alexander Litvinenko and "Spy in the Bag" Gareth Williams and the Skripal Novichok attack will likely meet a "violent death" if he is extradited to the former Soviet country, a court was warned. Westminster Magistrates' Court heard that Boris Karpichkov, 61, also outed one of Latvia's top judges and a former Prime Minister as ex KGB agents.

The court heard "dark forces" within the Kremlin are likely to be behind the extradition request to the UK from Latvia for Boris Karpichkov to face multi-million pound banking fraud and forgery charges and one count of illegal possession of a firearm.

The court heard that it is alleged the former KGB and FSB spy was involved in a conspiracy with others to defraud the Olimpija Bank in Latvia out of a total of more than 3million US dollars (£2.3m) in 1992 and 1993 by setting up bogus companies under false names.

Mr Karpichkov's defence team told the court they were politically motivated charges designed as a punishment because he had refused to handover to the Latvian authorities tape recordings he had obtained covertly as an FSB spy while infiltrating the country's banking sector for the Kremlin.

WANTED: Mr Karpichkov during a London interview with Essex News and Investigations owner Jon Austin

The court heard he fled to Russia, to escape the fraud charges, but then allegedly secretly worked for the Latvian security services while in Russia, on the false promise the charges would be dropped, leaving him also at risk from Moscow.

Since being in the UK from June 1998, he has further angered Latvia and Moscow by outing some of around 8,000 former KGB collaborators in Latvia.

These included Ivars Bičkovičs, 58, who Mark Summers QC, representing Mr Karpichkov, told the court was the current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Latvia and its twice former Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis.

However, the Latvian Supreme Court website, says Mr Bičkovičs, who held the position from 2008, was superseded by Aigars Strupiss in June.

Mark Summers QC, representing Mr Karpichkov, said his life would be in danger from top-level organised criminals with Government and Russian connections in Latvia and it would be easier for the Kremlin to take action if he were languishing in a Latvian prison cell.

Yuri Shvets, another former KGB agent who gave evidence at the 2015 independent inquiry into the death of former FSB agent Litvinenko, appeared in court via video link from the US to give evidence on behalf of Mr Karpichkov.

VIOLENT DEATH: Yuri Shvets warned Karpichkov's life is in danger in Latvia (YouTube)

Mr Shvets was in the KGB from 1980 to 1990 in its foreign intelligence service, which is its equivalent to MI6, carrying out undercover work in Washington DC and finishing in the department's HQ in Moscow. After retiring he fled to the US and claimed political asylum. He now runs a security consultancy business, has carried out investigations into money laundering by Russians and has been an expert witness on Russian activities in over 300 cases. Between 2007 to 2015 he helped the Met Police with its investigation into the murder of Mr Litvinenko and gave evidence at the 2015 independent inquiry into the death.

Asked by Mr Summers what would happen if Mr Karpichov was extradited to Latvia and who would be behind it, Mr Shvets said: "I believe it is much more likely than not that he will meet a violent death. "It would be the Russian intelligence community working through agents in Latvia using professional criminals to execute the operation."

SPY: Mr Karpichkov's KGB ID card from 1990 (B Karpichkov)

He said Russian influence remains high in Latvia, even after its EU membership since 2004, with ongoing corruption problems.

He said: "It cannot be remedied overnight, it takes time. In the national report on Latvia I saw conditions have not been changed substantially.

"(Mr Bičkovičs) is still the supreme judge of Latvia - he was recruited by the KGB."

Mr Karpichkov's FSB cover was as head of security at the bank at the time of the alleged fraud.

Two people co-accused with Mr Karpichov in the alleged 1992/3 banking fraud, who were senior bank staff, have already been assassinated in Latvia, the court heard. The case against Lev Kremer, who was president of the Olimpija Bank at the time of the alleged fraud, was dropped on grounds of insufficient evidence in early 2000, but shortly after this in February that year he was shot dead in his car in an underworld assassination.

The court heard Vyacheslav Goylo, who was alleged to have received some of the funds from the fraud, also had his case dismissed, but was shot dead on his doorstep aged 45 in March 2005.

Target: Latvian newspaper report from early 1990s saying Karpichov was at risk of assassination

Vladimir Leskov, an FSB agent, who owned company Kompinija Alda, which is implicated in the alleged fraud, was secretly given refuge in Russia after Mr Karpichkov said he had compromising information on him, the court heard.Leskov, who the court heard was said to have been a major criminal, died in Russia in 2015. Mr Summers said both the Latvian and Russian secret services had wanted Mr Karpichkov dead since he arrived in the UK seeking asylum in June 1998.He was said to have further angered both nations by his double agent activities and then later publicly discussing his role as a secret agent.He has allegedly named people who secretly cooperated with the KGB in Latvia and discussed in British media Russia's role in the infamous November 2006 polonium poisoning murder of Litvinenko and the 2018 Novichok attacks on former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and daughter Yulia in March 2018.

MURDERED: Alexander Litvinenko dying in hospital after being poisoned with polonium

Mr Summers said he had also proposed theories in British newspapers that Gareth Williams, the GCHQ spy found dead inside a bag in his security services safe house in Pimlico, London, in August 2010, was murdered by the Russian state.

John Lough, an expert on Russian foreign policy, told the court that corruption remains a big problem in Latvia, where he said the Kremlin still holds much influence.

He suggested Russia could be using the historic charges against Mr Karpichkov to get its hands on him through the Latvia's judicial system.

He said: "This would be a high level of irritation for Moscow, which might think how to deal with it - well the authorities in Latvia might be able to help because they have also got a grudge, so maybe they would do a deal."

HISTORY: Boris Karpichkov in KGB uniform in 1980s (B Karpichkov)

In a report prepared for the court, he wrote: "There can be little doubt, therefore, that (his) life would be at far greater risk if he were extradited to Latvia where the Russian intelligence services have far greater capabilities than in the UK.

"In investigative custody he would also be at risk of revenge by Latvian and Russian organised crime for his previous activities.

"Finally, it is safe to assume that some members of the Latvian establishment would like to see him silenced for a long period to prevent any further allegations of their collaboration with the KGB."

Latvian-born Mr Karpichkov joined the KGB in 1984 and rose to the rank of Major. He was spying on criminal syndicates in Riga for the Soviet Union. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, he remained in Latvia as an FSB agent, spying for Russia against Latvian state interests, after infiltrating the banking sector. The court heard In 1995 he tried to leave the FSB, but this was not accepted by the Kremlin.

Mr Summers said on April 20 1995 he was arrested by Latvian Police, who were FSB agents, for possessing an illegal firearm, which was actually his Russian issued semi-automatic 9mm calibre pistol.

COVER: A Russian-issued fake passport used by Karpichkov under false name Aivars Ceraps (B Karpichkov)

During a search of his home they found transcripts of covert audio recordings Mr Karpichkov had made during his spying of conversations between Alexander Lavent, the owner of Latvia's biggest financial company, the Baltija Bank, which collapsed in 1995 triggering a massive fraud probe, and others.

Mr Karpichkov was asked to handover the original tapes to the authorities, but he refused, claiming this would put his family at risk, Mr Summers said.

He was placed in jail with a "hardened criminal" who was informed he was Russian security services and who attacked him with a blad, the court heard. Mr Summers said the subsequent Olimpija Bank charges were then brought by Latvia as a tool to try to force him to hand over the tapes in return for his charges being dropped.

Under the current extradition request Latvia alleges that between May 4 and 8 1992 Mr Karpichkov committed fraud by registering a false company called KS SIA under the bogus name Vitilijs Kisilevs and then used the fake identity, acting with four others, including the late Mr Kremer and Mr Goylo, to receive a 552,704 US dollars (£424K) loan from the Olimpija Bank for a farming business into the company bank account.

MOCK UP: A Latvian newspaper article about the 1999 UK arrest of Karpichkov with edited image

A second larger fraud was said to have involved Mr Karpichkov using the same fake identity in September 1993 in connection with Kompinija Alda, which is said to have fraudulently obtained a 2.5million US dollars (£1.9m) loan from the bank. The illegal firearms possession charge remains. Mr Karpichkov faces two years in prison for the forgery charge and 15 years each for both frauds.

Mr Summers said between 1996 and 1997 a number of offers were made to Mr Karpichkov of payments, protection, and charges being dropped if he gave them recordings about the Olimpija Bank case.

However, he was told by police he had been "deceived" and all they wanted was the "Lavant tapes" for the case to be dropped, the court was told. Mr Summers said he again refused on safety grounds, and, instead, while under house arrest in Latvia in 1997, he used bed sheets to escape from the property and fled to Russia via Germany and Cyprus.

MURDERED: Boris Karpichkov says he was tortured in jail where Sergei Magnitsky was beaten to death

Latvia made an extradition request to Russia for Mr Karpichkov and he was jailed in the same FSB prison in Moscow where Russian money laundering whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky was beaten to death in November 2009.

Mr Karpichkov was kept in a cell 23 hours a day, beaten by guards and injected with an unknown drug while incarcerated, Mr Summers said.

Russia refused the extradition, released him from prison and gave him asylum, but while trying to negotiate the dropping of the charges, Mr Karpichkov had provided information to Latvia's security services on Russia, the court was told.

When he still refused to give up the "Levant tapes," he felt his double dealings could be exposed and fled with his wife and children to the UK in June 1998, making an asylum claim.

Latvia made a bid to extradite him from the UK and he was arrested in September 1999, but it never made court after the Home Secretary allowed him exceptional leave to remain in the UK, under a new assumed identity, concluding he was at risk from "underworld/rogue government elements" in Latvia.

After Latvia joined the EU in 2004, it meant it could make a new extradition request under the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) system.

FORGED: A fake passport used by Karpichkov to travel to New Zealand (B Karpichkov)

But it took no immediate action.

Mr Summers said Mr Karpichkov was advised by MI5 in 2005 to leave for New Zealand under another fake name, Abramov, for his own safety, due to a threat to him linked to the threat to Mr Litvinenko who was murdered in London the following year.

The court heard Mr Karpichkov went there on a false Lithuanian passport and he believes he was poisoned while out there after someone dressed as a homeless person threw powder at him.

Mr Summers said: "While in New Zealand, an unsuccessful attempt was made to steal his laptop.

"In the process, he was sprayed with powder.

"He lost 30kg body weight and all bodily hair. Doctors have never been able to explain what happened." Doctors found no trace of any poison.

After Mr Karpichkov's return to the UK in 2007, he made claims in the British press about Russian involvement in Mr Litvinenko's November 2006 assassination.

ILL: Boris Karpichkov pictured after losing more than four stone after New Zealand powder attack

Mr Summers said it was only after this, in October 2007, that Latvia made a new extradition request for Mr Karpichkov to answer the old fraud and firearm charges.

He said the EAW "contained reference to the Abramov name under which he had been travelling in New Zealand."

Despite this the British police never executed his arrest, despite knowing where he was, the court was told.

Instead, his exceptional leave to remain was elevated to Indefinite leave to remain in 2008. He was later naturalised as a British citizen in 2010, with the applications including full disclosure of the Latvian prosecution and his alternative identities, Mr Summers said.

Mr Karpichkov spent the next 12 years involved in investigations into Russian organised crime, corruption and activities in the UK, featuring in many newspaper articles, which would have angered the Kremlin, the court was told. In 2013 he claimed in the British press that Gareth Williams had been assassinated by the Russian security services to protect the identity of a Russian mole who had tried to "turn" the GCHQ worker.

NOVICHOK: The Skripals before the March 2018 attack

After the Skripal attack in March 2018, Mr Karpichkov claimed in the media that a month earlier a Russian security service source had warned him "something bad" was about to happen and that his name appeared on a Kremlin death list alongside Mr Skripal and another of other Kremlin targets in the UK, including Bill Browder who had helped to expose Russian money laundering with Mr Magnitsky.

He also revealed details in the press of possible suspects for the Skripal attack.

Mr Karpichkov told his lawyers he maintained a press profile in the hope it would limit, rather than increase his risk of attack.

Mr Summers said: "The press attention appears, however, to have aroused the interest of Latvia again.

"The 2007 EAW was finally executed in October 2018, having lain inexplicably dormant for over a decade."

Mr Karpichkov was brought before Westminster Magistrates' Court that month, but due to a technicality concerning a delay in bringing him to court it was thrown out.

In December 2018 Mr Karpichkov said in an online article that Mr the current chief justice of Latvia, was one of around 8,000 KGB collaborators.

MURDERED: Gareth Williams was found dead in a bag but the case was never solved

He confirmed in the report that his name featured on a KGB card among 8,000 left in a sack left behind in Latvia when the KGB left after the Soviet Union crumbled in 1991.

The court heard he also outed the name of another judge who he had recruited as a KGB informer himself.

The cards just included their names, linking them to the KGB, but no further details.

Some of the people whose names were on the KGB cards had allegedly collaborated with the KGB since the 1970s, the court heard.

Mr Karpichkov also exposed that the then chief of the Latvian secret police in the 1990s, Janis Apelis, had been working for the KGB. Mr Summers said: "The 8,000 catalogue forms the KGB left behind, made public in part in December 2018, contained names of KGB collaborators, but not descriptions of what they had done.

"The names included the chief justice of Latvia and judges of the lower courts including some recruited by Mr Karpichkov himself."

Following the disclosures, in 2019 Mr Karpichkov said his home was often put under surveillance by mystery men and there was an attempted break in.

WARNING: A Russian death threat allegedly received by Boris Karpichkov (B Karpichkov)

He produced letters to the court written in Russian, that contained death threats which referred to his previous spy pseudonyms and had a return address of a cemetery, and were sent to his current and a former London address.

In April 2019, Latvia came back with a new EAW request, leading to his further arrest, and the current hearing.

Mr Summers argued that it was clear that steps to extradite him had followed major disclosures in the press that angered Russia or Latvia and the charges were clearly politically motivated, with his life at serious risk if he were returned, so the request should be refused.

TRUTH: There is no dispute over Karpichkov being in the KGB (B Karpichkov)

He said: "This evidence is entirely compelling and reminds us of the enduring truth, which is recognised by every chief magistrates in this court over the past 30 years.

"They have all come to understand that in cases where Russian state interests are involved that nothing is normal.

"The truth is stranger than fiction and the far-fetched turns out to be true.

"This is a reality where police and prosecutors don't peddle true facts but do the bidding of the state and through them crime syndicates.

"Corruption and bribery are part of the machine in the state in question, which is not something we normally come across.

"Judges are brought up not to think that the courts are there to protect the interest of justice, but that they serve the state, KGB and crime, not citizens - the very place that the show trial emanates from."

SOLITARY: Riga Central Prison where Karpichkov would be held in Latvia

On Tuesday George Tughushi, an expert on prison conditions across Europe, said Latvia had some of the worst on the Continent.

He said: "Mr Karpichkov will most likely be detained in Riga Central Prison. There are still concerns about inter prisoner violence at that prison. "There is a severe shortage of prison staff, not much improvements despite some sporadic renovation and there is a lack of doctors." He said many prisoners were confined to their cells for 23 hours a day and Mr Karpichkov was likely to be placed into solitary confinement for his own protection. He said: "Mr Karpichkov is a challenge given his background and history. "There is an internal hierarchy in prisons. They don't address this and eradicate it, they just isolate someone as an issue. "Isolation is usually separating a prisoner from a potential perpetrator. "Mr Karpichkov is not an ordinary case considering his background and issues to his criminal case. It will involve solitary confinement which can lead to sensory deprivation.

CLAIMS: Peter Cauldwell said Karpichkov had made up much of events described since 1995 (B Karpichkov)

"Even if there is no threat, considering his status he would be kept isolated anyway knowing the situation. "It is not only used as a punishment they put some problematic prisoners in and they stay there quite a long time." He said there was a shortage of doctors and nurses across the Latvian prison system and no psychiatrist at Riga with access to medication sometimes a problem. On Wednesday, the court heard from Dr Bernard Chin, a consultant forensic psychiatrist, who has assessed Mr Karpichkov's mental state. He said he was suffering from PTSD with flashbacks about his time in prison in Russia and Latvia and to be returned to the situation that triggered it could lead to complex PTSD that cannot currently be treated.

He said while the extradition case continues he has no chance of recovery.

Paul Caldwell, representing Latvia, said there was no dispute Mr Karpichkov had been a KGB and FSB agent.

ARCHIVE: Boris Karpichkov (far right) in KGB training in 1985 (B Karpichkov)

However, he argued the truth of the case ended with his 1995 arrest.

Mr Karpichkov provided three lengthy statements to the court, but refused to give live evidence or be cross examined, claiming the experience would worsen his PTSD.

He suggested Mr Karpichkov had then used the media over the next 25 years to fabricate a story that he was a person of significant interest to the Russian state, whose life was in danger, to create false reasons for not facing justice in Latvia.

He said: "Mr Karpichkov is an astute person who is trained in deception and trained in KGB techniques.

"He would have been familiar with misrepresenting facts but in a cogent and persuasive way, because that's what spies do.

"His starting point is I am that person and if you accept he is that person you must take what he says with a pinch of salt. "He has made misrepresentations to his lawyers and to his doctors including one strand of mistreatment by the Russian Federation and his KGB activities at that time." Mr Cauldwell's skeleton argument for the hearing said: "The requested person’s case appears to have morphed from concerns about “underworld/rogue government elements” in 1996, to a new suggestion that he is at risk from emanations of the Russian State. "While the seriousness of the circumstances surrounding the poisoning of the Skripals and Alexander Litvinenko are not to be understated, the requested person’s tireless efforts through his online articles to maintain a profile of a “person at risk” appear contrived.

PAST: Former chief justice Ivars Bičkovičs was outed by Karpichkov as KGB collaborator, court was told

"His various accounts of encountering suspicious strangers or being stalked online appear to be cultivated to support a narrative that he is a target. This is a false premise. "Even assuming that there had been “underworld/rogue government elements” who may have wished him ill in 1996, there is no evidence that such elements retain any interest in the requested person now.

"Revenge is posited as a motive, but by whom? And why, if there is such an enduring grievance, has it not been exacted in the last 20 years?"

Mr Cauldwell told the court doctors found no evidence of poisoning in New Zealand and that much of Mr Karpichkov's disclosures were made after the event and using information already in the public domain.

He said the list of 8,000 names in Latvia had emerged online, before he began his disclosures on individuals among them on websites.

He also said Mr Bičkovičs was among more than 374 people, whose names were on the cards, who had since been cleared in court in Latvia of any wrongdoing because there had been no further corroborating information.

He argued the fact someone had once cooperated with the KGB did not mean they were now not fit for office and Mr Karpichkov could still get a fair trial.

SUSPECT: Boris Berezovsky was found hanged but the case was treated as suicide

He said the "death threat" letters produced by Mr Karpichkov contained exact copied chucks from similar letters sent to the late Russian exile Boris Berezovsky, before he was found hanged in his Ascot home in March 2013, which are available online.

Mr Summers countered that it was the result of Mr Karpichkov's work with the website that had led to the release of those names.

Mr Cauldwell said the extradition should be allowed so Mr Karpichkov can face trial over the charges.

But, Mr Summers argued he has no chance of a fair trial there given that he exposed the country's current chief justice as a former KGB agent and remained one of the only people who could provide corroborating evidence about names on the cards.

Judge Vanessa Baraitser adjourned the case, which ran from Monday to Wednesday, for her judgement.

bottom of page