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Scientist Finds No Toxins In Remains Of Russian Tycoon Who Died In Britain

The St. George's Hill estate where Russian tycoon Aleksandr Perepilichny collapsed in November 2012

A scientist has said she found no plant toxins in the stomach of a Russian mafia whistle-blower who died suddenly in Britain in 2012, challenging earlier evidence that he may have been poisoned by a deadly plant that can cause cardiac arrest.

At an April 10 inquest in London looking into the death of former Russian tycoon Aleksandr Perepilichny, Monique Simmonds, a scientist from the botanical Kew Gardens, said no plant toxins were found, but she said some material was found in Perepilichny's stomach that has not been identified.

Two years after his death, Perepilichny's life insurance company ordered tests that detected a toxin in his stomach from a Chinese plant called gelsemium, which can trigger cardiac arrest.

Perepilichny, 44, died from what appeared to be cardiac arrest after he had been out jogging in November 2012. He was found outside his luxury home in an exclusive gated community southwest of London.

The sudden nature of his death and his role in helping a Swiss investigation into a money-laundering scheme allegedly involving the Russian mafia led investigators to believe he might have been murdered.

His case has come under increasing scrutiny following last month's nerve-agent poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English city of Salisbury, which Britain has blamed on Russia.

Following the Skripal poisonings, British lawmakers called on the government to reexamine 14 unexplained deaths on British soil in recent years, including that of Perepilichny, a Russian oligarch who sought refuge in Britain in 2009.

Perepilichny's lawyer in Russia, Dmitry Lipkin, told the British court via video link from Moscow on April 10 that his client "was fearful for his life."

"He was threatened. He left Russia, but who he was threatened by, I don't know," Lipkin said.

Perepilichny's widow has said she does not believe her husband was murdered, however, and on April 10, the court received written testimony from other family members who said that he had not expressed fear for his life.

British police at the time of his death said they found no evidence of foul play.

But on April 10, an attorney for Perepilichny's life insurance company told the court that the tycoon had been involved in litigation with a company called Dzhirsa, which was set up by Dmitry Kovtun.

Kovtun is one of two men who Britain says was responsible for killing former Russian security agent and Kremlin critic Aleksandr Litvinenko through radioactive-isotope poisoning in 2006. Kovtun has repeatedly denied any involvement in Litvinenko's murder.

Dzhirsa was suing Perepilichny over a $3 million loan, the life insurance attorney told the inquest, and a verdict finding in Perepilichny's favor was given by a Russian court a month before he was found dead.

With reporting by AFP and Reuters
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