Georgian billionaire declared 'enemy of the state' is found dead in Surrey exile

Badri Patarkatsishvili, an exiled billionaire considered an "enemy of the state" in his native Georgia, has died in his Surrey mansion of a suspected heart attack, two months after accusing Georgian authorities of plotting his murder.

Surrey police said they were treating the death as "suspicious" and ordered a post-mortem examination. Mr Patarkatsishvili, who challenged the Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili in last month's presidential election, was based in Britain after having his assets frozen in Georgia, where he faced charges of attempting to mount a coup against the president.

It is the second time in just over a year that British police have been brought in to investigate the death of a man with links to leading Russian dissidents in London, following the murder of the former KGB security agent Alexander Litvinenko, who died of radiation poisoning in a London hospital. Mr Patarkatsishvili, a 52-year old television mogul who owned the independent station Imedi TV in Georgia, was a long-time associate of Boris Berezovsky, the former employer of Mr Litvinenko. In another quirk of tangled destinies, Mr Patarkatsishvili once employed Andrei Lugovoi, the former KGB operative wanted by Britain over Mr Litvinenko's murder.

Mr Berezovsky said that the Georgian tycoon – said to be worth £6bn – had complained about his heart when the two men met on Tuesday. Police said he fell ill on Tuesday evening while entertaining family and friends at his mansion in Leatherhead. Mr Berezovsky said yesterday: "The death of Badri Patarkatsishvili is a terrible tragedy. I have lost my closest friend. This is a huge loss for all of his family and friends. I shall make no further comment on the circumstances of Badri's death. I shall wait for the authorities to complete their investigation."

The tycoon's death prompted Georgia's prosecutor general's office to announce that the legal proceedings against him would be "automatically lifted". Mr Patarkatsishvili, who was Jewish, had divided his time between Britain and Israel after Georgian authorities issued an arrest warrant against him last December.

On 24 and 25 December, the prosecutor general's office released audio and video recordings in which he could be heard offering a $100m (£50m) bribe to a Georgian police chief to stage mass opposition demonstrations and to "neutralise" the Interior minister, in what the authorities described as an attempted coup to be staged on 6 January, the day after presidential elections. Mr Patarkatsishvili confirmed that he had met in London with the police official Erekle Kodua, but said that he had intended to uncover what he said were official plans to rig the election.

Georgia's president called a snap election last November after the brutal suppression of opposition protests in Tbilisi which tarnished his reputation in the West. Mr Patarkatsishvili's television station was among the media outlets shut down by a two-week state of emergency, imposed as the president accused Russia of attempting to stage a secret coup to topple him.

However Mr Patarkatsishvili was no friend of the Kremlin, having fallen out with Vladimir Putin when the Russian leader turned on Russia's oligarchs and pursued them for fraud and embezzlement. He funded the "rose" revolution that brought Mr Saakashvili to power, but since 2006 he has accused him of having dictatorial tendencies, and was a driving force behind the November protests.

The president won re-election in the first round of the election on 5 January and Mr Patarkatsishvili came third with seven percent of the vote. Mr Saakashvili is due to hold Kremlin talks next week, but the political situation in Georgia has remained turbulent ahead of parliamentary elections due in May.

Western analysts in Tbilisi said that Mr Patarkatsishvili's death will have a serious impact on the political situation in Georgia, although he was not a serious rival of the president. He died the day after four computers were stolen from his party's offices in Tbilisi. Following the election, the tycoon had lost his immunity and the Georgian government had recently sought British help in pursuing legal action against him, according to diplomats.

Rati Shartava, one of Mr Patarkatsishvili's employees in Tbilisi, said: "The state machine fought him and his heart gave in."

Mr Patarkatsishvili's family wants his body returned to Georgia, local media reported. The tycoon, who was married with two daughters, has two sisters in Georgia who said he had no history of heart problems. The Georgian government made no comment on his death.

Mr Patarkatsishvili was not the only rival of the Georgian president forced into exile. A former defence minister, Irakli Okruashvili, fled to Germany after accusing the president last September of planning to assassinate Mr Patarkatsishvili. He is in France seeking asylum.

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 special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
This weekend's 'Big Hero 6' by Disney Animation Studios
arts + ents
News
i100
News
Budapest, 1989. Sleepware and panties.
newsDavid Hlynsky's images of Soviet Union shop windows shine a light on our consumerist culture
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
News
In humans, the ability to regulate the expression of genes through thoughts alone could open up an entirely new avenue for medicine.
science
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

Recruitment Genius: Transport Administrator / Planner

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Associate - London

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL FIRM - A...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Law Costs - London City

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - EXCELLENT FIRM - We have an outstandin...

Austen Lloyd: In-House Solicitor / Company Secretary - London

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: IN-HOUSE - NATIONAL CHARITY - An exciting and...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee