Revelations that Mario Scaramella, a shadowy nuclear security expert and well-known information peddler, tested positive Friday for the same radioactive toxin that killed former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko gives the evolving spy mystery yet another weird twist: The Italian Connection.

Scaramella, described in media reports as an academic who has long maneuvered in and out of the European clandestine information community, is also linked to an investigation of Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, long thought to have had ties to the former Soviet espionage apparatus.

Prodi, an arch rival of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, once was the target of an investigation into KGB infiltration of the Italian government, an inquiry sparked by information found on scraps of paper supplied by the KGB's archivist when he defected to the British.

That information revealed how the KGB had successfully recruited 261 leading Italian politicians and journalists.

Curiously, Scaramella reportedly was meeting with Litvinenko at a London sushi restaurant to tell the former KGB agent that his name was on an assassination list that he'd uncovered.

Prodi's political opponents, meanwhile, have launched several investigations into his financial and political dealings.

One investigation probed the former economics professor's research company, which accepted millions of dollars worth of government contracts, and shared a Moscow office with the KGB.

Suspicions about Prodi date back to 1978, when tipped off police to the exact whereabouts of kidnapped Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro. Police eventually bungled the rescue operation, and Moro was murdered by his Red Brigade kidnappers.

Prodi later offered remarkable testimony to investigators, claiming he learned of the location during a Ouija Board seance.