Boris Berezovsky Death Remains A Puzzle As Police Experts Find ‘Nothing Of Concern’
Police hazard specialists investigating the death of exiled Russian oligarch and Kremlin critic Boris Berezovsky said on Sunday that a search of his house had found “nothing of concern.”
The 67-year-old was found dead at his Ascot home in Berkshire, England on Saturday.
He was reportedly found in a bath by his bodyguard.
In the absence of an explanation for Berezovsky’s death, police officers with expertise in detecting chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear material inspected the house as a precautionary measure, but have given it the all clear.
A spokesman for local Thames Valley Police said the tycoon’s death remained “unexplained.”
While the circumstances of Berezovsky’s death are not yet known and suicide has not yet been ruled out, speculation has focused on the Russian’s dramatic, political and business past.
Once a Kremlin politico who prospered under former Russian president Boris Yeltsin and became a billionaire after the privatization of Russian state assets in the 1990’s, once Yeltsin’s successor Putin took power in 2000 Berezovsky’s fortunes reversed.
Although he managed to flee Russia just before he was arrested on fraud and tax evasion charges, following his arrival he continued to agitate for Putin’s removal from office.
Berezovsky became one of the Kremlin’s most vocal critics and helped support an elite club of exiled Russian critics that included Alexander Litvinenko — and latterly Litvinenko’s widow.
Litvinenko died from radioactive poisoning — in 2006 he was given polonium-210 while drinking tea at a London meeting — and his widow maintains he was assassinated by Russian agents at Putin’s behest.
For his part, Berezovsky himself survived one assassination attempt in 1995 in which a bomb decapitated his chauffeur.
Other factors possibly weighing on the exile’s mind were a diminishing fortune and debts. Last year he lost a costly multi-million pound damages claim against fellow Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea Football Club.
Berezovsky had asked for than $4.75 billion (3.8 billion euros) in damages in a case where he accused Abramovich of blackmail, breach of trust and breach of contract in an oil deal.
Following his defeat in a London High Court court he had to pay Abramovich $56 million in legal costs, although some speculate that the final bill could even be higher. Further humiliation heaped when the judge in the case called Berezovsky “an unimpressive, and inherently unreliable, witness.”
Given his stance on his homeland, on the eve of his death Berezovksy gave a startling interview to Forbes Magazine journalist Ilya Zhegulev. In it, he said his “life no longer makes sense” and that he wanted to return to Russia.
Friends of the tycoon, such as Demyan Kudryavtsev, dismiss speculation that Berezovsky committed suicide.
“There are no external signs of a suicide,” he told Russia’s Prime news agency. “There are no signs that he injected himself or swallowed any pills. No one knows why his heart stopped.”
On a personal level Berezovsky was twice divorced.
After an early career as a maths professor, later becoming a systems analyst. In post-Soviet Russia he made a fortune from investments in luxury car sales, and Russian media, notably Moscow Independent Broadcasting Corporation which later founded Moscow’s first independent television station, TV-6.
Following Russian authorities request that he stand trial for tax evasion and fraud charges, he was granted political asylum by Britain in 2003.
After the news of Berezovsky’s death, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the oligarch had written to Putin a couple of months ago saying he wanted to return home.
“He asked Putin for forgiveness for his mistakes and asked him to obtain the opportunity to return to the motherland,” Peskov told Russian state television.
It is not known if Putin responded to that letter.
Meanwhile, back in Russia tributes to the dead tycoon are thin on the ground.
Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov told RIA Novosti news agency that he had “no good words or high praise” for Berezovsky, adding that he had “himself admitted at the end of his life that he had lived for nothing, ending up without family, motherland, money, or friends — and the finale was fully consistent with that.”
The British police investigation continues.