LONDON: A Russian businessman helping Swiss prosecutors uncover a powerful fraud syndicate has died in mysterious circumstances outside his mansion in Britain, in a chilling twist to a Russian mafia scandal that has strained Moscow’s ties with the West.
Alexander Perepilichny, 44, sought refuge in Britain three years ago and had been helping a Swiss investigation into a Russian money-laundering scheme by providing evidence against corrupt officials, his colleagues and media reports said.
He has also provided evidence against those linked to the 2009 death of anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, a case that caused an international outcry and prompted the United States to push for a bill cracking down on Russian corruption.
Perepilichny, a Russian citizen, collapsed and died abruptly outside his home on an upmarket estate in the English county of Surrey on November 10, police said yesterday, the first time the case has come to light. Perepilichny is the fourth person linked to the Magnitsky case to have died in strange circumstances.
“It is being treated as unexplained,” a police spokeswoman said. “A post-mortem examination was carried out which was inconclusive. So further tests are now being carried out.”
British media reports said Perepilichny appeared to be in good health when he collapsed in the evening outside St George’s Hill, one of Britain’s most exclusive estates, where he was renting a house for £12,500 ($20,000) a month.
Dubbed as Britain’s Beverly Hills and surrounded by neatly trimmed golf courses, the sprawling leafy estate is home to many prominent magnates and celebrities, its list of one-time tenants boasting stars such as Elton John and Ringo Starr. Far beyond Russia’s borders, Magnitsky’s death has become a symbol of corruption in Russia and the abuse of those who challenge the authorities there.
This month the US House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to “name and shame” Russian rights violators as part of a broader trade bill, brushing off warnings from Moscow that the move would damage relations.