Alexander Perepilichnyy was being sued in Moscow by firm linked to Litvinenko killer
A Russian man who died while jogging had “feared for his life” and was being sued in Moscow by a company associated with one of the killers of Alexander Litvinenko, an inquest has heard.
Alexander Perepilichnyy, 44, was found dead outside his home in Weybridge, Surrey, in November 2012. He had fled to the UK in 2010 after falling out with a series of powerful clients in Russia, the inquest heard on Tuesday.
Traces of a rare and deadly plant poison, Gelsemium elegans, were discovered in his stomach, the inquest has heard. However, Surrey police and Perepilichnyy’s widow have disputed that he was murdered and said the scientific evidence was inconclusive.
Giving evidence by video link from Moscow, Perepilichnyy’s lawyer, Dmitry Lipkin, said he met Perepilichnyy in December 2010 in London. They had had ameal at Gaucho, a restaurant in Regent Street, with Lipkin’s colleague Oleg Ruchkar.
Lipkin said Perepilichnyy was facing multiple legal actions in Russia. He told the Old Bailey hearing: “Alexander asked us to deal with a few matters. Mostly those matters were concerning his debts, and he approached us … privately.”
The lawyer said the meeting took place in the UK because Perepilichnyy was afraid of returning to Moscow, although he could not remember details of the conversation from seven years ago.
The inquest heard that Perpilichnyy was being sued by Dzhirsa, a Moscow-based business consultancy whose general director is Dmitry Kovtun. A public inquiry concluded that Kovtun poisoned Litvinenko, a critic of Vladimir Putin, with a radioactive cup of tea in 2006. He and his fellow killer, Andrei Lugovoi, had been working for the Russian FSB spy agency, the inquiry ruled.
In a Daily Telegraph article read out at the hearing Kovtun said he did not know Perepilichnyy personally and he had little practical involvement in Dzhirsa.
“I set up Dzhirsa on behalf of some friends who asked me to be the general director because I enjoy a certain reputation. They are former officers who help resolve business disputes – people call them ‘the military men’,” he told the paper.
From exile, Perepilichnyy defended himself against legal actions in Moscow and Smolensk. One was for $3m (£2.12m) and another for £3m ($4.25m), the Old Bailey heard. Both featured bond deals that Perepilichnyy, an investment fund manager, allegedly guaranteed. Dzhirsa’s legal action failed amid allegations that Perepilichnyy’s signature had been forged, the inquest was told.
Lipkin said he did not know if Perepilichnyy was receiving threats from Moscow. In the last months of his life, he took out insurance policies worth £3.5m, and applied for another, worth £5m, days before he collapsed.
Previously, the inquest heard that Perepilichnyy was threatened after revealing details of a $230m fraud carried out by a Russian gang with alleged links to the Kremlin.
The money was stolen from taxes paid by the investment company Hermitage Capital to the Russian treasury. A lawyer who investigated the case, Sergei Magnitsky, was arrested and died in prison in 2009.
Lipkin said he had only found out about Perepilichnyy’s alleged connection to the Hermitage fraud through “open sources” before his death. He said that he represented Hermitage between 2008 and 2012, and had met its CEO, Bill Browder, several times in London.
Peter Skelton QC, counsel to the inquest, said: “Were you aware that Mr Perepilichnyy had spoken to Swiss authorities about a money-laundering operation in respect of the fraud?”
Lipkin said: “We did not act in this matter.”
He told the court he had continued to act for Perepilichnyy’s relatives from his death until 2016.
Skelton said: “So, even though there has been speculation … that Mr Perepilichnyy may have been murdered, none of his relatives or associates have ever expressed a view as to whether that is or is not true?”
Lipikin said: “No. We were not his strategic lawyers, we were just dealing with episodes that concern his debts.”
The inquest continues.
Article originally posted by theguardian.