Armenian jailed for London KGB killings: Arms deal led to deaths of brothers from rebel Russian republic in luxury flat

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The Independent Online
A FORMER swimming-pool attendant from south London was yesterday convicted for his part in an Armenian KGB plot to execute a senior figure in the government of the breakaway Russian republic of Chechen because of his refusal to halt an arms deal.

Gagic Ter-Ogannisyan, 33, an Armenian, was given two life sentences at the Old Bailey for the murder in February of brothers Ruslan and Nazarbek Outsiev at their London penthouse. The judge, Mr Justice Garland, said Ter-Ogannisyan's hand had not been on the trigger and the murders were 'professional assassinations'.

The jury was told that Ruslan Outsiev died because his presence in London threatened to alter the balance in the five-year conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. He was negotiating a deal to purchase 2,000 Stinger surface-to-air missiles. The Armenians believed the Chechen republic would pass many of the weapons to their fellow Muslims in Azerbaijan, giving the Azeris a tactical advantage.

Although Outsiev called himself 'prime minister' of the lawless Chechen republic, he was more properly known as the deputy chairman of the ruling council.

In autumn 1992, Outsiev, 38, and his younger brother, Nazarbek, 20, arrived in London to buy currency and passports for the Chechen government and to sell the republic's oil to German companies.

Some time previously, Outsiev had been interviewed in Chechen by Alison Ponting, a reporter for the BBC's East European service. She was married to Ter-Ogannisyan, who had lived in London since 1988 and had been a swimming-pool attendant at Wandsworth baths.

Ter-Ogannisyan was hired by Outsiev for his London trip as a translator, guide and adviser. Outsiev, who controlled oil contracts, was determined to enjoy the Western good life. He spent liberally in casinos and on luxury goods, lavish restaurant meals - tipping waiters pounds 2,000 on one night alone - prostitutes and escort girls, usually three or four a night. Initially, the Outsiev brothers lived in hotel suites. Later they bought a penthouse in Baker Street for pounds 700,000 cash. Ter-Ogannisyan was introduced to a luxurious lifestyle. 'He rode the gravy train,' a detective said.

But police believe that when the darker purpose behind Outsiev's mission became known to the Armenian, his nationalist sympathies awakened and he contacted two other Armenians: Nkrtitch Martirossian, who told police he was a member of the Armenian KGB, and Ashot Sarkyssian, who claimed to be the chairman of the Armenian Chamber of Commerce, but is believed by British police to be a KGB general. At a meeting at the Langham Hotel, the Armenians failed to persuade the Chechens to end the arms deal.

Outsiev's refusal to end the arms deal was his death warrant. An assassin was hired in Los Angeles, named in court as Ashot Detmendzian, a member of the local Armenian community.

On 20 February, Martirossian returned to London and waited for Detmendzian. A house was rented by the two Armenians in Pinner, north-west London; Ms Ponting provided a reference using a BBC fax machine, the prosecution


On 26 February, Nazarbek Outsiev went into hospital for a sinus operation, providing the perfect opportunity for his older brother's murder. But, Martirossian told police, Detmendzian was held up by visa problems.

Detectives were never able to establish who fired the three shots to the head at point-blank range that killed Outsiev, but it seems unlikely to have been Ter-Ogannisyan, who had taken a German translator on a diversionary shopping trip. In his first interviews with police, Martirossian almost admitted the crime. Later, he retracted, saying: 'The KGB will not forgive anyone.'

The following evening, after purchasing a fridge-freezer with a cardboard box to hold Outsiev's decomposing body, the Armenians paid two delivery men pounds 450 to take it to Pinner. Unfortunately, it split and the smell alarmed the men. By the time they contacted police, Nazarbek was also dead, killed by another three bullets.

Martirossian was destined never to face trial. In prison - and after a visit by Sarkyssian - a small phial of snake venom was discovered under a bandage on his wrist, apparently intended for his suicide. Shortly afterwards, customs officers intercepted another phial of snake venom sent by an Armenian in the United States to Ter-Ogannisyan's home. In the end, exotic methods were not needed - Martirossian hung himself, leaving his luckless fellow Armenian to take the rap.

(Photograph omitted)