As rumors of oligarch's assassination swirl, initial investigation suggests no one else involved

Berezovsky death stays unexplained

AFP-JIJI

British police said Sunday they had found no evidence so far that anyone else was involved in the death of exiled oligarch and Kremlin critic Boris Berezovsky at his mansion outside London.

Police said Berezovsky, 67, was found by one of his employees on the floor of his bathroom at the house in the upmarket town of Ascot on Saturday.

A paramedic went to the house but Berezovsky was dead when the medical worker arrived.

Officers trained in detecting chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear material inspected the property after a device carried by the paramedic suggested the presence of a possibly hazardous substance, but they gave it the all clear.

Police said the death remained “unexplained” but their initial investigation suggested that no one else was involved.

“It would be wrong to speculate on the cause of death until the postmortem has been carried out. We do not have any evidence at this stage to suggest third-party involvement,” Detective Chief Inspector Kevin Brown of Thames Valley Police said.

Police said an employee of Berezovsky had called the ambulance service on Saturday after he forced open a door of a bathroom that was locked from the inside and discovered the tycoon’s body on the floor.

The employee was the only other person in the house at the time that the body was found, police said.

Berezovsky emigrated to Britain in 2000 after falling out with President Vladimir Putin. He was granted political asylum in 2003 and used Britain as a springboard for attacks on Putin.

But friends of the tycoon said he had become depressed and possibly suicidal recently as his wealth diminished and he had become embroiled in a tussle with his girlfriend.

The suddenness of his death will inevitably lead to speculation. Berezovsky survived one assassination attempt in Russia in 1995 in which a bomb decapitated his chauffeur, and openly expressed fears that his life was in danger.

His friend and fellow Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko died an agonizing death from radioactive poisoning in London in 2006, in what Litvinenko’s widow has said was an assassination by Russian agents.

Last year, Berezovsky lost a bitter multimillion-dollar legal battle in a London court with fellow British-based oligarch Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea Football Club.

Berezovsky had sought more than $4.75 billion in damages and accused Abramovich of blackmail, breach of trust and breach of contract in an oil deal.

Following his defeat, he was forced to agree to pay Abramovich £35 million ($56 million) in legal costs, although there is speculation that the final bill will be far greater.

The judge in the case described Berezovsky as “an unimpressive, and inherently unreliable, witness.”

Berezovsky said he had the impression “that Putin himself wrote this judgment.”

Russian media said Berezovsky’s death marked “the end of an era.”

Pro-Kremlin paper Komsomolskaya Pravda called Berezovsky “clever, cunning, resourceful . . . a master of chaos” while the more Kremlin-critical Novaya Gazeta described him as someone who “viewed Russia as a chessboard” on which “only he would be allowed to move the pieces.”