Alexander Perepilichnyy: British authorities accused of covering-up 'Putin-ordered assassination'

'There’s no way it wasn’t a hit. It’s ridiculous'

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The Independent Online

The British government has been accused of turning a blind eye to evidence that a Russian whistleblower was assassinated in the UK on Vladimir Putin’s direct order. 

Financier Alexander Perepilichnyy uncovered a $230 million (£150 million) Russian money-laundering operation before he collapsed near his home in Weybridge, Surrey, in 2012.

Surrey Police told an inquest into the cause of his death there was no evidence of "third party involvement or foul play", but a report published by BuzzFeed News revealed US, French and UK officials were increasingly concerned his death had not been properly investigated. 

"We strongly believe that Perepilichnyy was assassinated on direct orders from Putin or people close to him," a senior US intelligence official told the site. 

Former head of Britain’s National Counter Terrorism Security Office Chris Phillips said he believed Mr Perepilichnyy had been assassinated. “There’s no way it wasn’t a hit. It’s ridiculous,” he said. 

British intelligence agencies were reportedly handed information that connected Mr Perepilichnyy’s death to the Kremlin, but MI6 officers who corroborated that view were reportedly silenced to avoid jeopardising diplomatic relations with the country. 

One US intelligence official said: “Their efforts to publicly declare that Perepilichnyy was assassinated on British soil had deeper political implications.”

News of Mr Perepilichnyy's death was first reported by The Independent in 2012, sparking interest in the mysterious case from around the world.

Mr Perepilichnyy had reportedly been consistently threatened since he revealed the scandal in 2010. The 44-year-old had taken out £3.5 million worth of life insurance and applied for another £5 million worth of policies before his death, the inquest heard.

The married father-of-two travelled to Paris days before his death to meet 22-year-old Ukrainian Elmira Medynska.

However authorities never interviewed her, and her testimony of his last two days will not be heard at the inquest. 

Speaking of his death, Ms Medynska told BuzzFeed: "It happens to Russian people in London. He gave Russian information to Swiss and you can be killed for that."

French police identified Ms Medynska, who posts to Instagram under the handle @elmiramedins, as a 'very important' person in their inquiries

 

Mr Perepilichnyy's life insurance company Legal and General ordered a new toxicology report after Surrey Police announced a “full and detailed range of toxicology tests” had found nothing suspicious. The fresh testing found traces of a deadly plant poison in his stomach called gelsemium, as reported by The Independent in 2015. The discovery pushed French authorities to open a case into his suspected organised assassination. They have claimed British authorities have repeatedly stonewalled their investigative efforts. 

 

However, Mr Perepilichnyy’s wife Tatiana Perepilichnyy maintains that her husband died of natural causes and denied claims he had ever received threats during their 20-year marriage. 

Her lawyer said she believed "the tragic death of her husband has been overshadowed by stereotypes towards successful Russian businesspeople.”

The inquest is not expected to hear evidence from French officials and a series of documents have been sealed by the UK Government on national security grounds after home secretary Amber Rudd argued “there would be real and significant damage to national security from disclosure” and obtained a High Court secrecy order last November. 

The inquest, which began last week headed by an independent coroner, will examine whether he was poisoned or died of natural causes.

The Home Office told The Independent it does not comment on ongoing legal proceedings. 

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