Chemical hazard police investigators have been sent to search the property where exiled Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky was found dead on Saturday.
The investigators have expertise in environments contaminated with chemical, biological and nuclear material and are searching for biological, radiological, or chemical evidence, Thames Valley police said in a Sunday statement.
Police added that the search is a precaution and local people are not at risk.
Berezovsky, 67, was found dead in his Ascot, Berkshire home in England today by his bodyguard. He was reportedly found in a bath.
Police have cordoned off the property for the investigation, which has led to some closures for roads surrounding the estate. The Russian’s body remains at the house while the search takes place.
“His death is currently being treated as unexplained and a full inquiry is under way,” local police said in a statement.
An ambulance service was called to Berezovsky’s house at 15:18 pm (UK time) on Saturday.
While the circumstances of Berezovsky’s death are not yet known, and suicide has not yet been ruled out, speculation has naturally centered on the Russian’s dramatic, political and business history.
Formerly a Kremlin politico and one of Russia’s most influential oligarchs, he fell out of favor under President Vladimir Putin within months of his election in 2000. After the new government began trying to collect on tax claims against the oligarchs, including Berezovsky, he emigrated to the UK that same year.
His vocal opposition to Putin made him a wanted man in his homeland and he actively called for a coup to oust the Russian president. He survived numerous assassination attempts, notably a bomb that decapitated his chauffeur.
In 2003, when Russia sought his return, Berezovsky was granted political asylum by the UK after it was determined he was wanted on political grounds, not criminal.
Berezovsky was convicted of fraud and tax evasion in absentia by a Russian court in 2007.
Berezovsky was a close friend of the murdered former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko, who died in 2006 after he was poisoned with radioactive material — polonium-210 — while drinking tea at a London meeting.
While Berezovsky had accused Putin of being behind Litvinenko’s death, the Kremlin has laid the blame at the foot of foreign opponents. For many years, Berezovsky bankrolled Litvinenko’s widow to support her efforts for an inquest into her husband’s death.
Berezovsky later sued a Russian broadcaster for libel after it reported that he was behind Litvinenko’s death. He won the claim against the All-Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company and the High Court in London awarded him $223,400 (£150,000) in damages.
Despite this, in a Forbes interview given on Friday — the eve of his death — Berezovsky reportedly said he’d had a change of heart about many issues, that his life no longer made sense and that he wished to return to Russia.
This appears to have confirmed by Russian state television spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who last night said the exile had written to Putin.
“He admitted that he had made a lot of mistakes, asked forgiveness for the mistakes and asked Putin to let him return home,” Peskov said.
It is not known whether Putin responded to the letter.
Other factors likely to have weighed on Berezovsky’s mind were his debts.
In recent weeks, reports have emerged that he was trying to sell pieces of his estate, including an Andy Warhol painting “Red Lenin” to pay debts.
His vast wealth was also greatly diminished in 2012 after he lost a high stakes damages claim against Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich.
His liability amounted to $ 56.7 million. Analysts put the price tag on legal fees alone at more than $250 million spent between the two men.
Berezovsky began life as math professor, later becoming a systems analyst. But in post-Soviet Russia, he made a fortune from investments in luxury car sales, and Russian media. He also invested in the Moscow Independent Broadcasting Corporation which later founded Moscow’s first independent television station, TV-6.
State spokesman Peskov said Putin had been told of Berezovsky’s death.
The British police investigation continues.