Date: 10 Nov 2012
Alexander Perepilichnyy died in uncertain circumstances.
He died whilst out running and was said to have had traces of a poisonous plant in his stomach. He was found face down on the verge outside his home in his jogging suit. He had lived in a gated community.
He had been living in the United Kingdom in exile from Russia and was a currency trader and a billionaire.
At the time Alexander Perepilichnyy had been working with Hermitage Capital Management with their investigation into a money-laundering scheme worth £150m.
An employee at Hermitage Capital Management said that they thought that Alexander Perepilichnyy had been assassinated.
An inquest held at the Old Bailey in London that was concluded on 5 March 2020 concluded that he died from natural causes.
An expert from the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew said that a substance found in Alexander Perepilichnyy's system could have been a plant toxin, Gelsemium elegans. However, it was heard that subsequent tests showed that there was no evidence of plant toxins or other poisons in his system, although it was noted that other poisons such as cyanide and nerve agents could no longer be tested for and as such could not be ruled out. However, it was also noted it was first thought that his death had been due to natural causes and that key evidence regarding his last meal had been flushed away some hours after he died, and as such there was no bag of stomach contents held for medical experts to later examine as would normally be the case.
The Gelsemium elegans was said to have been found in his stomach lining after a small amount of matter had been subsequently found in his stomach cavity, which when tested matched the atomic weight of a vegetable poison.
It was also noted that Gelsemium elegans was commonly used by Russian contract killers. Gelsemium elegans is also known as heartbreak grass and is used commonly by both Russian and Chinese assassins and grows mainly in the remote hillsides of those areas.
It had been suggested that a bowl of sorrel soup that he was said to have had at lunchtime might have been poisoned.
The police said that they found no evidence to suggest that Alexander Perepilichnyy had been murdered or poisoned.
A legal person said, 'If Mr Perepilichnyy was not murdered, then it must have been one of these very rare genetic heart problems'.
However, a legal representative for Surrey Police said that, 'Two autopsies have been carried out, the second specifically referred to whether he had been killed and, if so, the method of administration. Following those autopsies, numerous samples were taken and subjected to analysis by experts of many disciplines. No identifiable toxin was found and that remains the case. Even now, not one expert is able to say on the balance of probability, that a toxin is in fact present in Mr Perepilichnyy's body at the time of his death, what that toxin is, how it was administered, what the quantity required would be and how quickly it would take effect'.
However, the police did admit that the presence of the chemical Ion, was a cause for very serious concern. It was heard that whilst the Ion itself was not poisonous, it was a known calling card or indicator of poison.
The other legal expert said, 'This is a case where Mr Perepilichnyy died of natural causes or he was murdered, and if he was murdered it does seem very likely he was poisoned as opposed to any other method of bringing about his death. What we are talking about is a vegetable poison as opposed to being irradiated, or heavy metal or something'. He went on to say that the examination of his body and stomach was 'not fit for purpose' and that there was a 'possibility somebody had substituted another vegetable matter for sorrel'.
The police admitted making several mistakes, including loosing a copy of Alexander Perepilichnyy's laptop and asking a civilian to look through Alexander Perepilichnyy's laptop to advise them on what to look at.
It was also heard that Alexander Perepilichnyy had been threatened over the phone by members of an organised crime group and had as a result taken out multiple life insurance policies. Lawyers for the insurance agents said that it was vital for them to have the issue of his potential poisoning resolved.
Alexander Perepilichnyy, who was married, had spent the previous night in Paris, France, with a lover.
It was also heard at the inquest that the Special Branch police force had been keeping tabs on Alexander Perepilichnyy's movements as he frequently travelled by train but that whilst Special Branch knew exactly what Alexander Perepilichnyy was doing, the Surrey police had been unable to identify him until three to four weeks after his death.
Alexander Perepilichnyy had come to the United Kingdom in 2010 and had acted as a whistle-blower in the Sergei Magnitsky affair. Sergei Magnitsky had himself exposed a major fraud worth millions of dollars that involved corrupt officials and a mafia money laundering network but died in custody.
Alexander Perepilichnyy was also due to give evidence in Switzerland regarding another fraud concerning a Moscow tax official and her husband who were said to have been hiding money from the fraud in Swiss bank accounts.