Voices from Russia

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Controversial Russian Oligarch Berezovsky Dead at 67

00 Boris Berezovsky. Russia. 23.03.13


Click here for an image gallery of Berezovsky

On Saturday, self-exiled Russian businessman and Kremlin critic Boris Berezovsky died in his Surrey home at the age of 67, his son-in-law, Yegor Shuppe, posted on his Facebook page, “Boris Berezovsky is dead”. Demyan Kudryavtsev, a long-time family friend, confirmed Berezovsky’s death, telling rbc.ru that Berezovsky died at 11.00 UTC (04.00 PDT. 07.00 EDT. 15.00 MSK. 22.00 AEST). At present, no one knows the precise cause of his death. His close associates quickly quashed initial suggestions that Berezovsky might have committed suicide. Kudryavtsev told Prime Group that Berezovsky suffered a heart attack. A source in Berezovsky’s inner circle also cited the same cause of death, adding that Berezovsky recently received treatment in Israel. Meanwhile, British media said that one of his bodyguards found Berezovsky’s body, and the South Central Ambulance Service received an emergency call from a property in Ascot, Berkshire, at 15.18 UTC (08.18 PDT. 12.18 EDT. 19.18 MSK. 02.18 24 March AEST). British police opened an investigation; for now, they’re treating Berezovsky’s death as “unexplained”.

Under President Boris Yeltsin, Berezovsky became known as Russia’s “kingmaker.” He was a trusted figure at the very heart of the Kremlin, and he was central to Vladimir Putin’s rise to power in the late 90s. However, after Putin took office, Berezovsky’s relationship with the Kremlin quickly soured. In 2001, he fled to France, and, then, to the UK. The Russian authorities issued an arrest warrant for him the following year on charges of money-laundering and illegal business activity. In January 2004, British media reported UK Home Office confirmation that the UK granted him political asylum and had issued him with a UK passport in the name of Platon Elenin.

Russian courts twice sentenced Berezovsky in absentia since he fled the country. Firstly, in 2007, on fraud charges relating to his time at Aeroflot in the 1990s, and, later, in 2009, on embezzlement charges relating to his time at carmaker AvtoVAZ, also in the 1990s. Berezovsky denied these charges. Throughout his time in the UK, Berezovsky remained fiercely critical of Putin’s government. Late last May, the RF SKP initiated two criminal cases against Berezovsky over his public calls for riots to prevent President Vladimir Putin’s inauguration and entry to the Kremlin on 7 May. Berezovsky warned, “Protest rallies may turn into the thunder of a cannonade”.

The Times reported that an Andy Warhol print sold by Christie’s auction house on Wednesday had previously been owned by Boris Berezovsky. Citing “sources familiar with the oligarch’s affairs”, the paper reported that he’d auctioned off the artwork “to pay off creditors and legal bills”. The limited edition print fetched over 202,000 USD (6.25 million Roubles. 156,000 Euros. 133,000 UK Pounds) at auction in London.

Boris Berezovsky suffered heavy financial blows in 2011 and 2012. In August 2012, he lost a legal battle over a 4.6 billion USD (141.3 billion Roubles. 3.5 billion Euros. 3 billion UK Pounds) damages claim against former business partner and Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich. The Honourable Mrs Justice Elizabeth Gloster, who presided over the case, described Berezovsky as “an unimpressive and inherently unreliable witness”. Berezovky responded by expressing his surprise that the ruling went against him, accusing Mrs Justice Gloster of “rewriting Russian history”, adding, “Sometimes, I have the impression that Putin himself wrote this judgement”.

In July 2011 Berezovsky’s ex-wife, 53-year-old Galina Besharova, won a divorce settlement that British media dubbed the English legal system’s largest ever divorce payout, rumoured to be worth up to 220 million UK Pounds (10.36 billion Roubles. 335 million USD. 258 million Euros). In January, the judge presiding over another case involving Berezovsky issued a ruling describing the businessman as “a man under financial pressure”. Presidential spokesman Dmitri Peskov told Rossiya 24 that President Putin was informed of Berezovsky’s death. Peskov also said that Berezovsky write to Putin “perhaps, a couple of months ago”, asking forgiveness for the mistakes he’d made and “requesting permission to return to the motherland”. Berezovsky survived several assassination attempts, including one in 1994 that killed his driver.

23 March 2013





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