A Russian whistleblower who had been helping authorities in Western Europe investigate a gigantic money-laundering scheme involving Russian government officials, has been found dead in the United Kingdom. Alexander Perepilichnyy, who had been named by Swiss authorities as an indispensible informant in the so-called Hermitage Capital scandal, was found dead outside his home in Weybridge, Surrey, on November 10. The 44-year-old former businessman, who sought refuge in England in 2009, and had been living there ever since, is the fourth person linked to the money-laundering scandal to have died in suspicious circumstances. The company, Hermitage Capital Management, is a UK-based investment fund and asset-management company, which Western prosecutors believe fell victim to a massive $250 million fraud conspiracy perpetrated by Russian Interior Ministry officials who were aided by organized crime gangs. In 2006, the company’s British founders were denied entry to Russia, in what was seen by some as an attempt by the administration of Vladimir Putin to protect its officials involved in the money-laundering scheme. The scandal widened in late 2009, when Hermitage Capital lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who had been arrested in connection with the case, died while in police custody. According to the coroner’s report, Magnitsky, who was 37 and in good physical health, died suddenly from acute heart failure at a Moscow detention facility. Some observers speculate that the lawyer was killed before he could turn into a whistleblower against some of the perpetrators of the fraud scheme. Following Magnitsky’s death, Alexander Perepilichnyy was elevated as a key witness in the case, after providing Swiss prosecutors with detailed intelligence naming several Russian government officials involved in the money-laundering scheme, as well as their criminal contacts outside Russia. This led to the freezing of numerous assets and bank accounts in several European countries. There is no word yet as to the cause of Perepilichnyy’s death. British investigators said yesterday that the first post-mortem examination had proved inconclusive and that a toxicological examination had been ordered for next week.
November 30, 2012 by Joseph Fitsanakis 3 Comments
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |