Exam shows tycoon died from hanging

INVESTIGATION::Thames Valley Police said toxicology and other tests still have to be carried out and a forensic examination of Boris Berezovsky’s home will continue


Wed, Mar 27, 2013 - Page 7

A post-mortem examination found that self-exiled Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky died by hanging, and there was nothing pointing to a violent struggle, British police said.

Thames Valley Police said on Monday that further tests, including toxicology examinations, will be carried out.

The force did not specify whether the 67-year-old businessman hanged himself, but they have said there was no evidence to suggest anyone else was involved in the death.

Once one of Russia’s richest men and a Kremlin powerbroker, Berezovsky fled to Britain in 2001 and claimed political asylum after a bitter falling out with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He became a vocal critic of the Kremlin.

Berezovsky had survived several assassination attempts in Britain and Russia, including a car bomb in 1994 that killed his driver. His body was found by an employee on the bathroom floor at his upscale home in Ascot on Saturday. The employee called an ambulance after he forced open the bathroom door, which was locked from the inside. Police said the employee was the only person in the house when Berezovsky’s body was discovered.

A forensic examination of Berezovsky’s home will continue for several days, police said.

A mathematician-turned-Mercedes dealer, Berezovsky built up his wealth during Russia’s chaotic privatization of state assets in the 1990s following the breakup of the Soviet Union. In return for backing then-Russian president Boris Yeltsin, he gained political clout and opportunities to buy state assets like oil and gas at knockdown prices.

Berezovsky helped build Putin’s power base, but fell out of favor when the new president moved to curb the ambitions of the oligarchs. The tycoon was charged in Russia with fraud and embezzlement.

Berezovsky later associated with ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, another Kremlin critic. Litvinenko died after ingesting polonium in his tea at a London hotel in 2006. In recent years, Berezovsky’s fortunes declined as a result of numerous expensive court cases.

Last year, Berezovsky lost a huge legal battle against former business partner and fellow Russian tycoon Roman Abramovich, which left him with legal bills of at least £35 million (US$53.3 million.)

Berezovsky had said that Abramovich, the billionaire owner of Chelsea Football Club, cheated him out of his stakes in the oil group Sibneft, arguing that he blackmailed him into selling the stakes vastly beneath their true worth after he fell out of Putin’s favor.

However, a judge threw out the case in August last year, ruling that Berezovsky was a dishonest and unreliable witness, and rejected Berezovsky’s claims that he was threatened by Putin and Alexander Voloshin, a Putin ally, to coerce him to sell his Sibneft stake.

In 2010, Berezovsky also took a hit with his divorce from Galina Besharova, paying a settlement estimated to be as high as £100 million.

Additional reporting by Reuters