Saturday, May 23, 2015

Russian supergrass 'poisoned after being tricked into visiting Paris’

By Robert Mendick, Chief Reporter - A Russian supergrass was lured to his death by an assassin who tricked him into leaving his English home for Paris where he was poisoned, it was claimed last night.

Alexander Perepilichnyy collapsed and died outside his home on the high security St George’s Hill estate in Weybridge, Surrey, hours after returning from Paris.

According to the latest theory, Mr Perepilichnyy was enticed to the French capital by an associate of a Russian crime gang, who slipped a poison derived from a rare and deadly plant into his food or drink.

During the four-day trip, Mr Perepilichnyy apparently booked two hotel rooms – one at a luxury, landmark hotel and the other at an ordinary three-star hotel. He also spent more than £800 in a Prada designer fashion store, although – adding to the mystery – whatever he bought there he never took home.

A French magistrate is understood to have begun an investigation into his possible murder, raising the prospect that Mr Perepilichnyy was poisoned at one of the hotels, in a chilling echo of the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB agent, in a London hotel.

The senior judge is understood to be working on the premise that the Russian businessman had been lured to Paris by an intermediary acting for the crime syndicate.
“This is all a big set-up to get Perepilichnyy to Paris and assassinate him,” said a source.

The onset of the French inquiry will put pressure on Surrey police to reopen its own investigation into Mr Perepilichnyy’s death. British police ruled out foul play in June 2013, a little over six months after his death.

But last week an inquest heard how a specialist toxicology test, commissioned by Mr Perepilichnyy’s life insurance company, uncovered traces of Gelsemium elegans, a poisonous plant said to be favoured by Russian and Chinese assassins, in his stomach.

Gelsemium elegans
The sensational discovery by Prof Monique Simmonds, a plant expert at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew in London, has kickstarted calls for the fresh investigation. The inquest was immediately adjourned for further tests.

Any fresh inquiry will want to examine how the gelsemium, known commonly as heartbreak grass, got into the dead man’s system. Critical to the process will be working out Mr Perepilichnyy’s precise movements in Paris, combined with a forensic understanding of how the plant attacks the nervous and respiratory systems.

Toxicologists might want to look at a study undertaken by Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, who experimented with small amounts of gelsemium in 1879 and submitted his research to the British Medical Journal. Conan Doyle ingested the plant in increasing doses for seven days before giving up the experiment after suffering “great depression and a severe frontal headache” among other symptoms.

Letters passed to The Telegraph show how grave concerns surrounding Mr Perepeilichnyy’s death were raised with Surrey police in the days after his death, including a demand for a “detailed toxicology report”.

Olga Stepanova
Another letter highlighted Mr Perepilichnyy’s trip to Paris and his sudden death the day he returned.

The concerns were highlighted by Bill Browder, an Anglo-American financier, who ran a hedge fund in Moscow which was plundered by the Russian crime gang.

Hermitage Capital, which Mr Browder founded and which now operates from a London headquarters, was raided by police in Moscow and $230 million worth (£148 million) of assets stolen from the fund. Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer working for Mr Browder who exposed corruption at senior levels, was subsequently arrested in Moscow and died in a prison cell in November 2009 after being beaten to death.

Eight months later, Mr Perepilichnyy approached Mr Browder’s lawyers. What he had in his possession was dynamite – a tranche of documents indicating tax officials in Moscow had gone on a multi-million-pound spending spree on kickbacks earned from the Hermitage fraud.

One of the villas in Dubai purchased by Olga Stepanova
Olga Stepanova, dubbed the Tax Princess and the most senior of the tax officials, had built a £3 million house outside Moscow and bought two villas in Dubai, according to the documents passed on by Mr Perepilichnyy. The documents showed how millions of dollars had passed through secret Swiss bank accounts.

Mr Browder used the information to devastating effect. The documents formed the basis of a criminal investigation by Swiss prosecutors into the alleged crime syndicate, while in the US, President Barack Obama pushed through a law – the Magnitsky Act – leading to the freezing of assets of 18 individuals linked to the fraud and connected to Mr Magnitsky’s death.

Mr Perepilichnyy was, as a consequence, a marked man. He had been one of the criminal gang’s financial advisers but had lost them a fortune in the 2008 crash. By seeking out Mr Browder in 2010, he had further put his life in jeopardy.
One theory is that Mr Perepilichnyy was tricked into the Paris visit by a Russian official, who had promised to broker a peace deal between Mr Perepilichnyy and the criminals.

The Bristol Hotel
On Nov 6 2010, Mr Perepilichnyy left for Paris, returning home on Nov 10, the day he died. A source close to the investigation said: “Perepilichnyy had just come back from Paris on the day he died. He had arrived in the morning on the Eurostar [train] and gone home but begun to feel unwell. He went for a jog to shake it off and collapsed and died.

“In Paris he had reserved two hotel rooms. One was in a very expensive five-star hotel, the other in a three-star hotel which was the kind of place he would regularly stay. He also spent 1,200 euros on a purchase in a Prada store but never came home with what he had bought.

“Why does he go to Paris? Nobody knows for sure. Why does Mr Perepilichnyy pick a five-star hotel if he doesn’t normally stay in one?”

It is understood Mr Perepilichnyy booked hotel rooms at the Bristol Hotel or the George V Hotel, two of the best hotels in Paris. It is not clear if he stayed at either.
On Wednesday, Mr Browder, fed up with the British response, took a dossier to a senior French investigating judge. “We think the crime has been committed in Paris,” said Mr Browder, “The French judge is interested in investigating this.”

In a letter to Surrey police, dated Nov 14 2013, lawyers for Mr Browder outlined why he believed Mr Perepilichnyy was murdered, questioning the force’s insistence that “there is no evidence to suggest that there was any third party involvement in Mr Perepilichnyy’s death”.

The George V Hotel
Intriguingly, the letter also details a link between Mr Perepilichnyy and Dmitry Kovtun, one of two men accused of poisoning Mr Litvinenko, the former KGB agent, using polonium, a radioactive substance that was slipped into his tea.

Among the lawsuits in which Mr Perepilichnyy was caught up was a legal action brought by a company of which Mr Kovtun was a director.

In its response, sent two days later, Surrey police told Mr Browder’s lawyers: “It is unfortunate that your client questions the accuracy of the statement … released in June 2013, however, that is the position and no evidence has been uncovered to indicate any third party involvement in the death of Alexander Perepilichnyy”.

Wind the clock forward 18 months and the situation appears altogether different. Shortly before his death, Mr Perepilichnyy had taken out a life insurance policy. He had undergone medical tests before they were approved. He was 44 and seemingly in good health.

The evidence of the poisonous plant in his body comes from investigations carried out by the life insurance company which had requested its own toxicology tests. For Bill Browder, it was confirmation of what they had always suspected – that Mr Perepilichnyy had been assassinated.

“The British police really have been completely useless. I would say aggressively useless,” said Mr Browder. “For me the most shocking part of this whole story is that somebody got away with murder, in my opinion, because of police incompetence. There is not going to be any consequence for the killers.

“The immediate question now is, will the British police reopen the investigation?”
Tatyana Perepilichnyya, the dead man’s widow and mother of their two children, is understood to dispute Mr Browder’s version of events, insisting the family came to the UK – like many wealthy Russians – to benefit from the good public schools. His life, she has told friends, was never in danger.

She agrees with the Surrey police version of events that her husband died of natural causes – and probably of sudden adult death syndrome.

Surrey police confirmed it had ordered two post mortem examinations “and a full and detailed range of toxicology tests”. A spokesman added: “As the death is currently going through the inquest procedure, it is currently sitting with the Surrey Coroner’s Office and we can’t go into the details of the investigation as that could form part of the coronial process”.

For the moment the British police investigation into Mr Perepilichnyy’s death remains on hold. That will frustrate and anger Bill Browder. Mr Perepilichnyy’s alleged killers will be delighted.

The Telegraph
May 23rd, 2015

The main thing that agitates me are people who praise Putin and the Russian government. It's a mafia state that has tortured and murdered countless people. There's no excuse for pretending this kind of evil is not part of Russia's government structure. How do you think a low level intelligence agent like Putin becomes a billionaire and one of the world's richest men? How can you turn your cheek at all the people murdered for criticizing Putin or the government? They are not the will of Russia they are the will of making money and destroying anyone who resists.

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