'No evidence' of third-party involvement in Berezovsky death
Specialist officers examine Ascot property where Russian oligarch found dead
There is currently no evidence to suggest anyone else was involved in the death of Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, police said today.
The 67-year-old businessman was found dead at his Berkshire home yesterday by a bodyguard, and specialist officers in chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear substances examined the property today before giving the all clear.
Detective Chief Inspector Kevin Brown, of Thames Valley Police, said: “It would be wrong to speculate on the cause of death until the post mortem has been carried out. We do not have any evidence at this stage to suggest third party involvement.”
The exiled businessman, who last year lost a multi-billion pound High Court fight with Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich, was found dead at his home in Berkshire yesterday.
On leaving the property, the paramedic who declared him dead at the scene had their radiation detector triggered, prompting the CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear) experts to examine Mr Berezovsky’s country home, police said.
But this morning they confirmed the home at Titness Park, Mill Lane, Ascot, was safe to work in. The paramedic’s detector, a personal electronic dosimeter (PED), is a health and safety device used routinely by emergency services.
“An employee” of Mr Berezovsky, believed to be the bodyguard, had called for the ambulance shortly after 3pm yesterday after forcing open a bathroom door and finding the oligarch dead on the floor.
The employee had not not seen Mr Berezovsky since 10.30pm on Friday night and had become concerned for his welfare, according to police. Scenes of crime officers are currently carrying out a full forensic examination of the scene and earlier today a forensic investigation unit vehicle could be seen passing through police cordons around the estate.
A Home Office postmortem will be carried out but police said it was unlikely to be today.
Det Ch Insp Brown continued to describe the death as “unexplained”. “We are at the early stages of the investigation and we are retaining an open mind as we progress,” he said. “The investigation team are building a picture of the last days of Mr Berezovsky’s life, speaking to close friends and family to gain a better understanding of his state of mind.
“We are acutely aware of the level of interest into his death and are focused on conducting a thorough investigation as we would with any unexplained death.”
It is thought that Mr Berezovsky was having serious financial difficulties after paying out astronomical sums in legal fees over the last few years, and wanted to return to Russia. The oligarch could have run up over £100 million in legal bills since 2011.
In July of that year, he paid out Britain’s biggest ever divorce settlement to ex-wife Galina Besharova. Reports suggested the deal was worth more than £100 million. He also ran up tens of millions of pounds in legal costs during his High Court battle with Mr Abramovich.
And he built up fees totalling more than £250,000 just two months after becoming embroiled in a case at the same court with his former partner, Elena Gorbunova, who sat at his side throughout much of his battle with Mr Abramovich.
Earlier this week, the Daily Telegraph reported that the Russian oligarch would attempt to sell Red Lenin, an Andy Warhol screen print valued at between £30,000 and £50,000 by Christie’s. The artwork sold on Wednesday for £133,875 including the buyer’s premium, according to the auction house’s website.
In an interview with Forbes Russia magazine on the eve of his death, Mr Berezovsky said he had lost “meaning” from his life and wanted to return to Russia. He said he had “underestimated how important” Russia was to him, and he felt uncomfortable as an immigrant in Britain. He admitted he had been “idealistic” about the prospects of creating democracy in Russia, and about the type of democracy that existed in the West, and his views had changed.
Mr Berezovsky is believed to have written to President Vladimir Putin recently to float the idea of going back to his homeland. If he did, he said he had no interest in engaging in politics and would focus on science.
The former mathematics professor was part of Boris Yeltsin’s inner circle in the latter years of his presidency, and became deputy secretary of Russia’s security council. He acquired his fortune in the 1990s after the privatisation of state assets following the collapse of Soviet Communism.
Mr Berezovsky emigrated to the UK in 2000 after falling out with Mr Putin. In fear of his life, he sought political asylum and moved to the South East of England, buying upmarket properties in Knightsbridge, London, and Berkshire. The businessman survived a number of assassination attempts, including a bomb in his car that decapitated his chauffeur.
He became a vocal and strong critic of Mr Putin’s rule in Russia, where he had become a wanted man
. In 2006 the Kremlin accused foreign-based opponents of poisoning to death former KGB spy-turned-dissident Alexander Litvinenko. It was thought that Russia was in part referring to Mr Berezovsky, who denied the allegation and accused Mr Putin of personally being behind Litvinenko’s death from radioactive polonium-210 poisoning.