Georgia billionaire 'died of natural causes'

By Nathan Rees,Pa
Thursday 14 February 2008 10:17

Initial post mortem tests on the body of an exiled Georgian billionaire who recently spoke of his assassination fears have revealed he died from natural causes, police said today.

Badri Patarkatsishvili, 52, collapsed at his country mansion outside Leatherhead, Surrey, on Tuesday night and his family reported that he suffered a heart attack.

A Surrey Police spokeswoman said the interim results of a post-mortem examination carried out last night showed he died of natural causes.

The spokeswoman said: "Following initial inquiries and the post mortem carried out last night, Surrey Police can confirm that at this stage there is no indication that the sudden death of Badri Patarkatsishvili was from anything other than natural causes.

"However extensive toxicology testing is yet to be carried out. This will take a number of weeks.

"The Surrey coroner will formally open the inquest tomorrow morning at Woking Coroners Court at 9.30am."

Detectives initially treated Mr Patarkatsishvili's death as "suspicious" after being called to his huge mansion late on Tuesday night when he collapsed.

The body was kept in situ for most of yesterday to allow officers to examine forensic evidence around it. Police sources said officers found no trace of radioactive materials at the scene.

Mr Patarkatsishvili - Georgia's richest man, with an estimated £6 billion fortune - spoke recently of his fears for his life after an alleged plot to murder him in London was uncovered.

One reported assassination plan bore similarities to the killing of ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in November 2006.

Mr Patarkatsishvili amassed his wealth during the privatisation of state industries in Russia during the 1990s.

He helped to finance the "rose revolution" that swept President Mikhail Saakashvili to power in Georgia in 2003, but the two men subsequently fell out.

The businessman-turned-politician was wanted in his home country on charges of plotting a coup d'etat, which he denied.

Mr Patarkatsishvili was a long-time business partner of Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky, an outspoken Kremlin critic who now lives in exile in London.

Mr Patarkatsishvili spent Tuesday in meetings in London, and one person who saw him said there was "no evidence" he was unwell.

The Georgian businessman left London at 7pm and returned to his home on the outskirts of the capital.

He was with close family members and other unidentified people when he collapsed and died at about 11pm.

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