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Published in Stream:
Russia Update: May 18, 2015
Press by
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
New Evidence Suggests Russian Millionaire Was Murdered To Silence Him
7 years
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Russian millionaire Alexander Perepilichnyy was found dead in his home in the UK in 2012. He fled Russia in 2009 and became a whistleblower, revealing information about how a company called Hermitage Capital Management was used by members of the Russian police and various tax officials to steal $220 million in Russian tax money. 

Hermitage's CEO William Browder was expelled from Russia. Hermitage's accountant, Sergei Magnitsky, was thrown in prison after he was accused of the fraud he himself helped exposed. Magnitsky complained of severe stomach pains while in prison but was not given medical attention. He died, and his family says he was beaten -- and effectively murdered -- by his captors.

Perepilichnyy's death has always remained suspicious, but new evidence suggests that he may have been poisoned.  The Independent reports:

At a pre-inquest hearing it emerged that fresh testing by a leading poisons expert has revealed the presence of a chemical in a sample of the stomach contents of Mr Perepilichnyy which is strongly associated with a lethal plant toxin known to be used by Russian contract killers.

Lawyers for police acknowledged in a hearing at Surrey Coroner's Court in Woking that the presence of the chemical "ion" was a "cause for very serious concern".

Further tests are now being urgently carried out to establish whether the chemical "calling card" in the stomach contents can be used to show that Mr Perepilichnyy must have swallowed a deadly plant poison shortly before his death.

The court heard that the substance was extremely rare in nature and could only be derived naturally from five sources - all of them forms of the poisonous plant Gelsemium,  otherwise known as "heartbreak grass" and a known tool of assassins from Russia and China, where the most toxic version of the shrub - Gelsemium elegans - grows on remote hillsides.

Hermitage CEO William Browder previously described the importance of documents provided to him by Perepilichny . BBC reports:

There has also been no action taken against the main group of people accused of carrying out the fraud itself, which is why Mr Browder claims the documents provided by Alexander Perepilichny were so important in pushing forward his investigation.

He says the documents allegedly show how some of those he has accused of the fraud transferred around €7 million (£6.2m) to bank accounts in Switzerland and used part of the money to buy luxury properties.
"We [already] had all the evidence to probably indict and convict 60 people inside Russia," says Mr Browder.

"But the Russian police and Russian authorities covered up the entire system. So we were looking for evidence to do something outside of Russia.

"What Perepilichny provided us with was absolutely lock-tight documentary evidence which allowed for assets to be frozen and a major international money-laundering investigation to be launched by the Swiss police and the Swiss prosecutor."

-- James Miller