Unknown chemical compound caused Russian’s death

Dhaka,  Thu,  21 September 2017
Published : 20 Jun 2017, 14:30:44

Unknown chemical compound caused Russian’s death

Botanists at Kew Gardens identified the presence of an unknown chemical compound with a potential link to a toxic plant in the stomach of dead Russian whistleblower Alexander Perepilichny, reports a global media Tuesday.

The evidence has come in the closing week of the inquest into the death of the 44-year-old Russian businessman, who collapsed while jogging near his home in Surrey in 2012.

The inquest heard that tests on the body of Perepilichny found an unknown chemical compound that had the same molecular weight as five variants of Gelsemium, a plant that contains toxic alkaloid compounds.

It also had the same molecular weight as Scopolia, part of the deadly nightshade plant family used by Dr Hawley Crippen, the notorious murderer, the inquest heard. However, further tests of the compound found in Perepilichny could not definitively identify it as Gelsemium. The identity of the material remains unknown, the court heard.

An earlier pre-trial inquest had heard that Perepilichny had been poisoned using Gelsemium elegans - a variety of Gelsemium - with claims that the plant may have been slipped into his sorrel soup shortly before he died. Known as heartbreak grass, the plant, which grows in Southeast Asia and China, causes muscular paralysis and death.

Perepilichny’s widow Tatiana and Surrey police do not think he was murdered. Mrs Perepilichnaya’s barrister John Beggs QC has attacked the “florid theories” circulating around the death.

However, the inquest has heard claims from one witness that Perepilichny may have been killed due to his work as a whistleblower helping to unravel a Russian fraud case.

He was working with Bill Browder, the fund manager who has been a relentless critic of Vladimir Putin. Mr Browder was forced out of Russia, his firm Hermitage Capital seized and his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, died in prison in 2009.

Mr Browder told the inquest this month that Perepilichny had been working with him to expose an alleged $230 million tax fraud at Hermitage that he claims was carried out by Russian officials in league with a criminal gang.

Perepilichny was an “extremely valuable whistleblower” who had “explosive” and “valuable” information and provided bank statements from Credit Suisse in connection with the case, Mr Browder told the inquest.

The inquest has also heard that Perepilichny’s name was found on a list at the home of a Chechen hitman in Moscow, and that he had applied for £8.5m of life insurance policies shortly before his death.

- SZ
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