22:21 GMT03 March 2021
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    A judge heading the inquest into the death of a Russian businessman says whether he had dealings with British spies must remain secret. Sputnik reporter was in court as counsel for Alexander Perepilichnyy's widow Tatiana tore into those who he claimed had besmirched his "good character."

    John Beggs QC, representing his widow, Tatiana Perepilichnaya, criticized the dead man’s life insurance company, Legal & General, and his former employer, Hermitage Capital Management.

    "Legal & General and Hermitage have prolonged the progression of this case to the point where we are approaching the sixth anniversary of Alexander's death and it must be obvious to them that their conduct has increased the distress of the widow and her two young children, who were aged five and three at the time," Mr. Beggs told the inquest, sitting at the Central Criminal Court in London on Friday, September 21.

    "They have floated florid theories about poisoning, assassination and organized crime but neither of them are able to provide sufficient evidence to justify the unlawful killing outcome. Legal & General have a commercial motive for certain outcomes and Hermitage have a political motive for certain outcomes," Mr. Beggs told Mr. Justice Hilliard.

    Wealthy Businessman Dropped Dead After Jogging

    Mr. Perepilichnyy died in November 2012 after going for a jog near his mansion in a gated community at St. George's Hill in Weybridge, Surrey, an affluent area just outside London.

    ​Surrey Police originally assumed he had died of natural causes but then came under pressure to dig deeper after it emerged Mr. Perepilichnyy had worked for Hermitage Capital Management, a company headed by US businessman Bill Browder, who had allegedly fallen foul of a massive fraud in Russia.

    It was claimed Mr. Perepilichnyy was a "whistleblower" and certain officials in Russia who were behind the fraud may have had a motive for killing him.

    A pre-inquest hearing in 2015 heard Mr. Perepilichnyy may have had traces of gelsemium elegans, a Chinese plant toxin sometimes known as "heartbreak grass" in his stomach, although it later emerged that his stomach contents had been thrown out and the gelsemium theory had been posited by a single scientist and there was no evidence to support it.

    Secret Tryst With Lover in Paris 

    In April this year a new witness came forward — Mr. Perepilichnyy's secret Ukrainian lover Elmira Medynska, who was 23 at the time, said she had been on a tryst with the 44-year-old in Paris only hours before he died.

    ​Miss Medynska said he had vomited violently on the eve of his death after eating at an Asian restaurant in Paris.

    The Hotel Bristol in Paris, where Alexander Perepilichnyy stayed the night before he died
    © AFP 2021
    The Hotel Bristol in Paris, where Alexander Perepilichnyy stayed the night before he died

    On September 5 Mr. Justice Hilliard refused a request by Legal & General and Hermitage for information to be disclosed about whether Mr. Perepilichnyy had any links with MI5 or MI6.

    Bob Moxon Browne QC, representing Legal & General, had claimed the recent case of Sergei and Yulia Skripal had shown "the lengths to which the Russian state are prepared to go to make an example or punish people perceived as enemies, traitors or turncoats."

    But Judge Hilliard, who has security clearance and was privy to documents from the secret services, said the material he had seen was "marginal" in resolving the question of how Mr. Perepilichnyy died and he did not believe it should be published because of the national security implications.

    On Friday, Mr. Moxon Browne said the case was "riddled with unknowns."

    "We don't know what was in his stomach, we don't know who he met at the St. George's Club (on the morning of his death), the CCTV was never interrogated," Mr. Moxon Browne said.

    No History of Cardiac Problems

    He said the cause of death was still "unascertained" and Mr. Perepilichnyy had not suffered from heart disease or had any genetic predisposition to cardiac failure.

    Mr Moxon Browne quoted from a statement by pharmacologist Professor Robin Ferner.

    "The answer to this puzzle, if there is an answer, is going to lie in Mr. Perepilichnyy's life and not in the evidence about his death," said Prof. Ferner.

    Mr. Moxon Browne drew Judge Hilliard's attention to what he claimed was a legal precedent — the case of the Popi M, a "Greek rustbucket" which sank in mysterious circumstances in the Mediterranean in the 1980s.

    The ship's insurers claimed it sank because it was not seaworthy and therefore refused to pay out while the Popi M's owners said it was probably sunk after colliding with a submarine.

    Ruling out the ship's seaworthiness, Mr. Justice Bingham ruled in favor of the owners and referred to the dictum of Sherlock Holmes, "when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

    Surrey Police Detective Work Criticized

    Henrietta Hill, QC, counsel for Hermitage, said "many forensic and evidential opportunities were lost" and she urged Mr. Justice Hilliard to return an open verdict and also to give recommendations to police forces to prevent a repetition of what she claimed were the mistakes made by Surrey Police.

    "There is a risk that if the police do not investigation murders by organized crime properly that people will think they can act with impunity here," said Ms. Hill.

    Fiona Barton QC, for Surrey Police, denied there had been "myriad failings" by the detectives and said the force ordered "the most extensive toxicology tests ever conducted".

    "There was a thorough investigation and it brought up no evidence that Mr. Perepilichnyy had in fact been killed…It's nonsense to suggest that people might be encourages to come to the UK and think they can get away with murder," said Ms. Barton.

    Widow's Lawyer Stands Up For Dead Man's 'Good Character'

    Mr. Beggs said there was no evidence his client's husband had been murdered and he said Tatiana's children want to tell their friends that their father was not murdered.

    "All these florid theories put forward by commercial and political motives can be put aside. The likely explanation is that his death was due to natural causes," said Mr. Beggs.

    "Throughout this case there has been hit and run sniping at the good character of Alexander Perepilichnyy…and I wish to place on record to the court that neither he nor my client's brother Rishad Ismagilov have ever been found guilty of any criminality in any court in this or any other jurisdiction. Mr. Perepilichyy was a man of the utmost good character," Mr. Beggs told the inquest.

    Mr. Browder sat quietly at the back of the court as Mr. Justice Hilliard said he would consider counsel's submissions and deliver his verdict later in the year.


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    Bungling UK Police Have Lost All the Evidence From Perepilichnyy's Computer
    Rare Form of Food Poisoning 'Number One Suspect' for Perepilichnyy's Death
    Perepilichnyy's Secret Ukrainian Lover Says He Vomited Night Before He Died
    lover, coroner, Heart Disease, judge, poisoning, MI6, MI5, Hermitage Capital Management, Sergei Skripal, Bill Browder, Alexander Perepilichnyy, Russia, Surrey, United Kingdom
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