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Russian Businessman Perepilichny Likely Died Of Natural Causes, U.K. Inquest Finds

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Aleksandr Perepilichny collapsed while out jogging near his home south of London in November 2012. (file photo)

A Russian businessman who was found dead in southern England six years ago likely died of natural causes, a British inquest has found.

Aleksandr Perepilichny collapsed while out jogging near his home south of London in November 2012, and there have been suspicions that he might have been murdered by poisoning.

"I am satisfied on the evidence I have heard I can properly and safely conclude that it was more likely than not that he died of natural causes, namely sudden arrhythmic death syndrome," Nicholas Hilliard, who led the inquest into Perepilichny’s death, said on December 19.

"There really is no direct evidence that he was unlawfully killed," Hilliard added.

Perepilichny, a Russian tycoon and Kremlin critic who sought refuge in Britain in 2009, had been helping a Swiss investigation into a massive Russian money-laundering scheme. He also provided evidence against Russian officials linked to the 2009 death of anticorruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow jail.

While police said at the time that there was nothing to suggest foul play, suspicions were fueled when an expert told a hearing that traces of a rare, deadly poison from the gelsemium plant had been found in his stomach.

His stomach contents were flushed away during the first post-mortem investigation, making further testing difficult, but scientists concluded the unidentified compound had no link to the gelsemium plant species and was found in cheese and meat.

Perepilichny had eaten soup containing sorrel for lunch the day he died, a fact that stoked speculation it had been replaced with gelsemium. But his wife Tatyana also ate the soup, and told the inquest she did not believe her husband was murdered.

Hilliard said that he could not totally rule out the use of poison, but that none of the evidence pointed to it.

Hilliard said that London police contacted him this month to confirm they were not conducting an investigation into Perepilichny's death and that there was no evidence of "any hostile state actor" being involved.

He also said that he had considered the case in the context of the killing of Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko who was poisoned in London in 2006 with radioactive polonium-210.

A 2016 inquiry concluded Litvinenko's murder was carried out by two Russians and was probably ordered by President Vladimir Putin.

In September, Hilliard ruled that material about possible links between Perepilichny and British spy agencies would remain secret.

He said the material was "marginal" to resolving the question of how the businessman died and that releasing documents from British spy agencies MI5 and MI6 relating to Perepilichny could harm national security.

The British government earlier said police had completed a review of the Perepilichny case and 13 other deaths linked to Russia following the poisoning of Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury in March.

It concluded there was no need to reopen any investigation.

Britain blames the Russian government for the poisoning of the Skripals with the nerve agent Novichok. Moscow denies any involvement.

With reporting by Reuters
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