Russia to pursue Berezovsky’s assets
Prosecutors say oligarch’s death will not stop them trying to reclaim property
Boris Berezovsky stands at the Highgate Cemetery graveside in London of Alexander Litvinenko, accompanied by the former security service agent’s widow Marina, who has cast doubt on rumours of suicide related to the Russian oligarch’s death. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Berezovsky was found dead in the bathroom of a mansion in Ascot, near London, on Saturday afternoon. British authorities are conducting a postmortem and have not yet revealed how he died, but police say they do not suspect anyone else was involved.
“Berezovsky was accused of committing a series of major economic crimes, as part of a transnational criminal group,” said Russia’s deputy prosecutor general Alexander Zvyagintsev.
Russia would “continue to seek the return to our country of assets that were criminally acquired by Berezovsky and his accomplices and legalised by them abroad”, he added.
Threat of prosecution
After becoming one of Russia’s richest and most politically influential men during the chaotic 1990s of president Boris Yeltsin, he fell foul of his successor Vladimir Putin and fled to Britain in 2000 under threat of prosecution.
In London he became one of Putin’s fiercest critics and played a leading role in a circle of eclectic opposition figures that included former Chechen actor and pro-independence leader Akhmed Zakayev and former security service agent Alexander Litvinenko.
He helped Litvinenko and his family establish themselves in London when he fled Russia, claiming he and other agents had received orders to assassinate Berezovsky. Both Litvinenko and Berezovsky blamed Putin for the radioactive poison attack that killed the former agent in 2006.
Litvinenko’s widow, Marina, was one of several friends and acquaintances of Berezovsky who cast doubt on rumours that the oligarch may have killed himself.
Like several others, she said Berezovsky had been depressed in recent months after losing costly court cases, but she insisted he seemed to be in a better mental state when they last met.
The Russian media is seething with conspiracy theories about his death, speculation about the possible involvement of the Russian or British security services and suggestions that he may have faked his death.
The Kremlin was even forced to deny that Putin discussed Berezovsky’s demise with UK prime minister David Cameron the day before the oligarch was found dead.
“The last official contact was on Friday – a telephone conversation between Putin and Cameron – but then his death was not known. After that I don't know of any official contacts,” said Yuri Ushakov, a senior aide to Putin.