An oligarch who was helping to investigate corruption in Moscow was poisoned by a substance favoured by Russian assassins, evidence has revealed.
Alexander Perepilichny died suddenly outside his mansion in Surrey, UK in November 2012. He had sought refuge in Britain in 2010 after helping Swiss authorities investigate an alleged $230m money laundering scheme involving Russia tax officials.
He died near his rented mansion in the town of Weybridge just weeks after taking out a multi-million pound life assurance policy. Initial tests showed him to be fit and healthy before his death, but although police treated his death as suspicious, they concluded there was not enough evidence to suggest third party involvement.
The Times reports, however, that at yesterday’s pre-inquest hearing, counsel for one of the life assurers said that the chemical Gelsemium had been found in his body.
Bob Moxon Browne QC told the hearing: “Once you have knocked out man-made analogues then you are bound to conclude Mr Perepilichny ingested Gelsemium on the day of his death. Then, given that it only grows in China and is a known weapon of assassination by Chinese and Russian contract killers, why was it in his stomach?”
The substance was also used in 2011 for the murder of Chinese billionaire Long Liyuan, who is thought to have ingested it while eating cat stew.
Further tests will now be carried out to determine whether the substance is definitely from the plant.
The revelation comes after the poisoning in 2006 of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, who had received asylum in Britain. His death cause a huge diplomatic row, with the UK demanding the extradition of two Russian agents – Moscow has refused the request.