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Murder 'was rooted in political intrigue': Adviser accused of killing politician from breakaway Russian oil state of Chechenia and his brother

THE self-styled 'prime minister' of the breakaway Russian state of Chechenia was murdered in a London penthouse in a dispute rooted in 'political intrigue', an Old Bailey jury was told yesterday.

Ruslan Outsiev, 38, and his brother Nazarbek, 20, were both shot three times in the head in their apartment in Baker Street in February this year. The older man's body was hidden in a cardboard box and taken to a house in Harrow, north- west London, where, the prosecution suggested, both corpses were due to be cut up and disposed of.

John Hilton QC, for the prosecution, said Gagik Ter-Ogrannsyan, 33, had committed the murder with another man, Mkrtitch Martirossian, 30, but it was impossible to say who fired the bullets.

Mr Ter-Ogrannsyan, a Russian who has lived in London for some years and is married to an Englishwomen, denies murdering the brothers. Mr Martirossian committed suicide in prison awaiting trial.

Mr Hilton said: 'The reason for the murders is difficult to fathom. In relation to the elder brother . . . the reason for his death must be partly greed, but mainly its origins possibly lie in the murky waters of Eastern European political intrigue.'

The jury was told the elder brother described himself as the prime minister of Chechenia, but was really the deputy chairman of the presidents' council. The country was rich in oil reserves, but not recognised by either Moscow or Britain. He had been on an extended trip to London, buying currency, passports and identity cards, with his brother as companion.

They stayed in hotel suites, including the Dorchester, and bought the pounds 750,000 flat in Baker Street, together with pounds 10,000 of furniture. The elder brother bought jewellery, tipped waiters extravagantly - a total of pounds 2,000 at one restaurant - and hired three or more prostitutes a night. The money, Mr Hilton suggested, came from Outsiev's control of oil contracts.

Relations between the elder Outsiev and Mr Ter-Ogrannsyan deteriorated, it was claimed, possibly because his services as an 'adviser, guide and translator' were needed less. There were rows about money and the housekeeper heard Mr Ter-Ogrannsyan being accused of stealing pounds 20,000.

The Crown claimed Ruslan Outsiev was killed while his younger brother was in hospital for a minor operation and that his body lay in the bedroom for two days. During this time, Mr Ter-Ogrannsyan and Mr Martirossian bought a replacement bed and a new fridge simply to provide a large cardboard box. Two men who delivered the bed were paid to take the cardboard box to a rented house in Harrow.

Nazarbek Outsiev, Mr Hilton said, was killed simply because he was the brother of the dead man. 'If the first murder was ruthless, you may think the second was committed without a vestige of human feeling,' he told the jury.

The delivery men, concerned about the smell from the box, contacted police, who discovered the body. At the Baker Street flat, they found the second corpse.

Mr Ter-Ogrannsyan and Mr Martirossian were arrested as they arrived back at the flat from a DIY store carrying purchases including plastic sheeting, luggage straps, bin liners and an electric saw, which Mr Hilton said were for probably for cutting up the bodies.

The trial continues today.