UK police: Russian tycoon Berezovsky found dead


A Wednesday, July 18, 2007 photo from files showing Russian exile Boris Berezovsky, a close friend of former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko who was poisoned by Polonium 2-10, speaking to the media in a news conference in London. United Kingdom police have said that Berezovsky has been found dead Saturday March 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Sang Tan, File)

LONDON — Boris Berezovsky, a self-exiled and outspoken Russian tycoon who had a bitter falling out with Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been found dead in southeast England. He was 67.

In recent years, the one-time Kremlin powerbroker-turned-thorn in Putin’s side fended off attacks on his character and on his fortune — sometimes successfully, sometimes not — in cases that often bore political undertones.

Thames Valley police said Berezovsky’s death was being treated as unexplained. They would not directly identify him, but when asked about him by name they read a statement saying they were investigating the death of a 67-year-old man at a property in Ascot, a town 40 kilometers (25 miles) west of London.

A mathematician-turned-Mercedes dealer, Berezovsky amassed his wealth during Russia’s chaotic privatization of state assets in the early 1990s. In return for backing former Russian President Boris Yeltsin, he gained political clout and opportunities to buy state assets at knockdown prices, making a fortune in oil and automobiles.

He also played a key role in the rise of Yeltsin’s successor, Vladimir Putin, but later fell out of favor with the new leader and fled to Britain to seek political asylum in the early 2000s.

Berezovsky was one of several so-called Russian “oligarchs” to butt heads with Putin.

After coming into power, the Russian president effectively made a pact: the oligarchs could keep their money if they didn’t challenge him politically. Those who refused found themselves in dire circumstances. Some were imprisoned — like the former Yukos Oil chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky — while others, like Berezovsky, fled.

Assets of these pariah businessmen, meanwhile, were acquired by state corporations or cooperative tycoons, often at bargain prices.

In the U.K., Berezovsky allied himself with an array of prominent Kremlin critics. Among them was ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, who fled Russia with Berezovsky’s help after accusing officials there of plotting to assassinate political opponents.

Litvinenko died on Nov. 26, 2006, after drinking tea laced with a lethal dose of the rare radioactive isotope polonium-210 in a London hotel. From his deathbed, Litvinenko accused the Kremlin of orchestrating his poisoning, and British police named former KGB agent Andrei Lugovoi as the prime suspect.

Both Lugovoi and the Kremlin denied the accusations, with the former instead claiming that Berezovsky — whom Russia consistently sought to extradite on a wide variety of criminal charges — engineered his friend’s death as a way of embarrassing the Kremlin and buttressing his refugee status.

Berezovsky, who considered Litvinenko a close friend, consistently denied the allegations. In 2010, he won a libel case against Kremlin-owned broadcaster All-Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting, which aired a show in which it was suggested he was behind the former agent’s poisoning.

Berezovsky recently has made headlines for costly legal battles, which have dealt serious blows to his finances.

Last year, the Russian business magnate was ordered to pay 35 million pounds ($53.3 million) in legal costs to fellow Russian Roman Abramovich, the billionaire owner of Chelsea Football Club, after losing a multimillion-dollar legal battle against him.

Berezovsky had claimed that Abramovich cheated him out of his stakes in the oil group Sibneft, arguing that he blackmailed him into selling the stakes vastly beneath their true worth after he lost Putin’s good graces. But a judge threw out the case in August, ruling that Berezovsky was a dishonest and unreliable witness.

It also recently emerged that Berezosky ran up legal bills totaling more than 250,000 pounds in a case against his former partner, Elena Gorbunova, with whom he had two children and who claimed the businessman owed her millions.

Earlier this week, The Times of London newspaper reported that Berezovsky was selling property — including an Andy Warhol portrait of the former Soviet Union leader Vladimir Lenin — to settle his debts and pay expenses owed to lawyers.

The Russian president’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said in a telephone interview on state television that Berezovsky had sent a letter to Putin about two months ago asking to be allowed to return to Russia. In the letter, Berezovsky acknowledged having made many mistakes, Peskov said.

Peskov said he did not know how Putin reacted to news of the death.

“But you can say that information about the death of someone, no matter who he was, cannot elicit positive emotions,” the spokesman said.

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  • ang_dagat

    Putin is 21st century Stalin

  • Noel

    Obviously, a Russia Mafia hit.

    • AlexanderAmproz

      KGB hit will be more correct, but very similar than mafia.
      Same in the Philippines with Shabu and Juteng lords mix up with government, army, police and politics.
      All of them under “Dynasty” and high officials control…

      NB: Berezovsky used to have excellent contacts with the Mafia’s

      • Noel

        I think KGB has been dissolved.

      • AlexanderAmproz

        Only the name was changed,
        still same peoples, organization and actions…

  • Fulpol

    i love Putin… if Pilipino leaders could imitate his style..

    kill the “oligarchs”..

  • Horst Manure

    That’s the way you do it..steal the public’s assets and then get in the Forbes rich list so we can all look up to them.

  • AlexanderAmproz

    Berezovsky is the guy who choose Yeltsin, and later on, Putin as a replacement when Yeltsin was showing sign of senile debility.

    At the election time Putin was “only” prime minister without any chances to become President.

    That why Berezovsky ask his friend Dudayev, Chechnya President and well known mafia leader, to send few rebels to Dagestan for $25 millions on purpose to light up a war(its smell Kiram III) to prop up Putin who was chosen while considered as a pale KGB simpleton.
    The consequences, Chechnya was erased by the Russian Army and Putin became President.
    Putin President first action was to be liberated from his puppet master…

    Berezovsky and his wife where charming and polite, hiding very well monstrous tempers…

    There are many similarities in-between Philippines and Russian politics,
    a big mafia, government and business mix up with similar consequences and results,
    poverty, killings and country assets stollen by the “happy few”,
    a disastrous fascist ultra rightist system very same as the communist fascists system,
    masses are considered and butchered carelessly like cattle.
    Russian and Philippines Clergy have the same duty, masses control by the faith.…

    Philippines is “owned” by 40 Dynasties raping the country wealth,
    Russia is “owned” by 40 Oligarchs raping the country wealth.

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