Rocco Martino

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Italian middleman involved in the distribution of forged documents purporting to show that Iraq had negotiated the sale of Yellowcake uranium from Niger.[1] He has been the subject of competing allegations about which western intelligence agencies distributed the forgeries.

A number of press reports refer to Martino, suing his pseudonym, 'Giacomo'.[2]

1999 Intelligence operation

The DGSE began an intelligence operation to block Saddam from obtaining uranium, urging its agents to find out all they could about his efforts. One of those who got involved was Rocco Martino, a former police officer who had worked for the Italian intelligence service between 1976 and 1985, when he was sacked for being a “chancer”. He tapped up contacts at the Niger embassy in Rome.[3]

Alain Chouet of the DGSE denied the agency had any contact with Martino before 2002.[4]

Forged documents

The story of the fake deal had begun with a meeting in a Rome bar in February 2000 set up by Antonio Nucera, an officer in the Sismi, the Italian intelligence agency, between two of his former agents, Rocco Martino and Laura Montini.

“I received a call from a former colleague in Sismi,” Giacomo said. “I was told a woman in the Niger embassy in Rome had a gift for me. I met her and she gave me documents. Sismi wanted me to pass on the documents but they didn’t want anyone to know they had been involved.”[5]
However, unknown to the Sismi, Martino, a former policeman turned spy, had been working for the French intelligence service, the DGSE, since 1996. He was controlled by the DGSE head of station in Brussels, who paid him a retainer of between £1,050 and £1,400 a month.
“Nucera asked if I was interested in meeting a person who worked in an African embassy and who had been able to supply [Nucera with] documents and information, including the embassy’s cipher,” Martino told an investigating magistrate during an Italian inquiry.[6]

In the spring of 2000, Montini reportedly handed Martino a document related to a visit to Niger by the Iraqi ambassador to the Vatican, Wissam al-Zahawie. Martino passed the document to the DGSE. After the French asked for more information, Martino asked Montini if she could get a copy of a contract for Niger to supply Iraq with uranium. According to Michael Smith, NATO sources allege that Montini forged the contract with the consul at the Niger embassy,Adam Maiga Zakariaou.

Martino then re-entered the picture. In October 2002 he presented the DGSE with documents which appeared to show that Niger had signed a deal in July 2000 to supply Iraq with yellowcake — similar to the story Italian intelligence had told the CIA. The DGSE rejected the documents as fake.
Martino offered them for €15,000 to a journalist working on Panorama, the Italian magazine, who took them to the US embassy in Rome for authentication. Copies were sent to Washington. yellowcake.[7]

Affiliations

External Resources

References

  1. Foreign Office and MI6 face new Iraq inquiry, by Nicholas Rufford and Nick Fielding, The Sunday Times, 15 August 2004.
  2. War They Wanted, The Lies They Needed, by Craig Unger, Vanity Fair, July 2006.
  3. Spy story that has enmeshed Bush, by Michael Smith, Sunday Times, 6 November 2005.
  4. Nigergate, lo 007 francese che smonta la tesi del Sismi, by Carlo Bonini and Guiseppe D'Avanzo, La Repubblica, 1 December 2005.
  5. Italian spies ‘faked documents’ on Saddam nuclear purchase, by Nicholas Rufford, Sunday Times, 1 August 2004.
  6. Forgers' of key Iraq war contract named, by Michael Smith, Sunday Times, 9 April 2006.
  7. Spy story that has enmeshed Bush, by Michael Smith, Sunday Times, 6 November 2005.