UK & World News

  • 30 November 2012, 18:35

Russian 'Supergrass' Death: Toxicology Tests

Police are carrying out toxicology tests on the body of a Russian businessman, who was providing evidence about alleged money laundering, after he was found dead outside his home in Surrey.

Alexander Perepilichny, 44, was helping Swiss authorities investigate a $230m (144m) money laundering scheme in Russia when he suddenly collapsed in Weybridge, on November 10.

More than two weeks later, the cause of his death has still not been established and it is still being treated as "unexplained".

A post-mortem was carried out on November 14, but it proved inconclusive, leading investigators to order further test on Mr Perepilichny's body.

"Toxicology tests are being carried out as part of the investigation," a Surrey police spokeswoman said.

She said it could take months to get the results.

Toxicology tests are often standard practice in the case of inconclusive post-mortem examinations.

But the case evoked memories of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian spy who died in London in 2006 after drinking tea poisoned with radioactive polonium-210.

Mr Perepilichny's was apparently a key witness against the Klyuev Group, a network of Russian officials and criminals allegedly implicated in a series of tax frauds and the death of Moscow lawer Sergei Magnitsky.

Mr Magnitsky was hired by Hermitage Capital, once one of the largest foreign investors in Russia, after it fell victim to an apparent conspiracy by Russian interior ministry officials and tax officers to defraud the Russian tax system.

Corporate seals were taken from Hermitage Capital following a police raid and used to apply for a series of tax rebates.

The rebates were signed off by courts and tax offices and the money was transferred into a bank which was liquidated shortly afterwards.

Mr Magnitsky died aged 37 in November 2009 from acute heart failure in a Russian pre-trial detention facility after being accused of committing the tax fraud himself.

Mr Perepilichny reportedly came forward in 2010 with information linking Russian government officials to a tax fraud scheme involving a Swiss bank. The move helped Swiss prosecutors open a far-reaching criminal investigation in 2011.

He apparently sought sanctuary in Britain three years ago and lived in a luxury development in Weybridge.