Death of a Russian supergrass: is it too late for new tests to establish truth of Alexander Perepilichnyy's death?

Home Secretary urged to investigate 'foul play' in death of Alexander Perepilichnyy

Toxicology tests have been ordered by police investigating the sudden death of the Russian supergrass Alexander Perepilichnyy, a wealthy businessman who collapsed outside his luxury Surrey mansion two weeks ago.

The revelation came as the Conservative MP who campaigned for sanctions against Russian officials implicated in the death of Sergei Magnitsky – another whistleblower linked to Mr Perepilichnyy – called on the Home Secretary to ensure that every step was taken to uncover whether "foul play" might have been involved.

Mr Perepilichnyy, a seemingly healthy 44-year-old man, was pronounced dead on 10 November outside his home in St George's Hill, a private estate on the outskirts of Weybridge which is home to dozens of celebrities, footballers, City financiers and Russian tycoons.

The Independent revealed yesterday that the Russian businessman was helping Swiss investigators uncover a series of accounts used by Moscow tax officials who became exceedingly wealthy following a massive tax fraud. Alongside Mr Magnitsky, who originally exposed the fraud in 2008, Mr Perepilichnyy is the fourth person linked to the case to have died in mysterious circumstances.

Although it is possible that the wealthy businessman might have died from natural causes, there is pressure on Surrey Police and local Coroners to ensure a full investigation is carried out, given the role Mr Perepilichnyy played in helping Swiss prosecutors and the growing concern over the murder of Russians on British soil.

This month is the sixth anniversary of the death of Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB spy turned political dissident who was poisoned by tea laced with radioactive polonium. Russian banker German Gorbuntsov narrowly avoided death earlier this year when he was shot by a hitman outside his home in London's Isle of Dogs.

Investigators will hope that further testing on Mr Perepilichnyy's body will help them understand exactly how he died after the first post-mortem proved inconclusive. Surrey Police are also believed to have sought advice from counter-terrorism officials.

Dominic Raab, a Tory MP who has campaigned for stricter sanctions against any Russian officials or nationals implicated in the Magnitsky case, called on Theresa May yesterday to provide "every technical support and all the national-level resources required to conduct the most accurate and effective toxicology assessments possible".

"Mr Perepilichnyy is the fourth unexplained or suspicious death in the Magnitsky case," he wrote in a letter seen by The Independent. "It is vital to ensure that all the local and national authorities make every effort to find out whether there is any evidence of foul play in Mr Perepilichnyy's death."

A delay in the toxicology tests means they may not establish whether or not he was poisoned due to the way chemicals break down in the body over time.

The Independent understands that Hermitage Capital Management, the British investment fund which hired Mr Magnitsky to uncover the $233m fraud carried out against them by a network of corrupt Russian Interior Ministry officials and underworld figures, wrote to Surrey police on 17 November informing them of Mr Perepilichnyy's significance as a witness. But toxicology tests were not ordered until the last few days.

Hermitage last night would not comment on the reports. But William Browder, CEO of the investment fund, confirmed they had worked with Mr Perepilichnyy to send a dossier of evidence to Swiss prosecutors.

"Alexander Perepilichnyy approached us in 2010 as a whistleblower with evidence about the complicity of a number of Russian government officials in the theft of $230m which Sergei Magnitsky had uncovered," he said.

"He provided us with copies of many of the original bank documents. In January 2011, Hermitage filed an application to the Swiss authorities seeking an investigation. It was announced in March that the Swiss prosecutor's office opened an investigation and froze the assets in a number of accounts."

Russian officials yesterday played down Mr Perepilichnyy's significance as a whistleblower. One unnamed Interior Ministry official told the Interfax news agency: "Alexander Perepilichnyy does not have any relation to the so-called Magnitsky tax affair." A 'high ranking law enforcement official' told RIA Novosti: "He did not have any status whatsoever in the Magnitsky case. Some time ago there was a theory that he was involved in expropriation, and this was investigated, but it was not confirmed."

The Magnitsky scandal has become an international embarrassment for Russia – the US is to name a law after Magnitsky banning those implicated in his death holding assets in the US.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us