Huffpost UK uk

Nuclear Police Search Berkshire Home Of Dead Russian Tycoon Boris Berezovsky

Posted: Updated:
Print Article
BORIS BEREZOVSKY
Berezovsky was an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin | PA

Radiation experts investigating the death of the Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky have given his mansion the all clear.

The businessman was found dead at his Berkshire home yesterday by a bodyguard, and specialist officers in chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear substances were examining the property.

Thames Valley Police said it was continuing to investigate the unexplained death of the 67-year-old.

Police said they had relaxed the cordon around the property in Mill Lane in Ascot.

Superintendent Simon Bowden said: "In light of the findings of the specially trained officers who carried out the CBRN examination as a precaution, the majority of the cordon which was put around the perimeter of the property has now been lifted.

"One small road block remains in Mill Lane outside the entrance to the property's grounds. The roads in the area are open and traffic is flowing freely.

"I would like to take this opportunity to thank the residents in the area for their patience in the initial stages of the investigation and apologise for any inconvenience which may have been caused by the cordon.

"However we needed to ensure that all precautions were taken prior to entering the property. I am pleased to say the CBRN officers found nothing of concern in the property and we are now progressing the investigation as normal."

Lord Tim Bell, the advertising and PR executive, confirmed the death of the oligarch.

A spokesman for his company, Bell Pottinger, said Berezovsky was found at his home in Ascot, Berkshire.

"His body was found by his bodyguard," he said.

It was widely reported the former mathematics professor had taken his own life, but that was not officially confirmed.

Berezovsky was part of Boris Yeltsin's inner circle in the latter years of his presidency, and became deputy secretary of Russia's security council.

He acquired his fortune in the 1990s after the privatisation of state assets following the collapse of Soviet Communism.

Berezovsky emigrated to the UK in 2000 after falling out with President Vladimir Putin.

In fear of his life, he sought political asylum and moved to the South East of England, buying upmarket properties in Knightsbridge, London, and Berkshire.

The businessman survived a number of assassination attempts, including a bomb in his car that decapitated his chauffeur.

He became vocal and strong critic of Putin's rule in Russia, where had become a wanted man.

In 2006 the Kremlin accused foreign-based opponents of poisoning to death former KGB spy-turned-dissident Alexander Litvinenko.

It was thought that Russia was in part referring to Berezovsky, who denied the allegation and accused Putin of personally being behind Litvinenko's death from radioactive polonium-210 poisoning.

A South Central Ambulance Service spokeswoman said: "We were called at 3.18pm by a caller who was concerned about the welfare of a gentleman at an address in Ascot.

"We sent a number of ambulance officers and an ambulance to the address. The 67-year-old male was confirmed deceased at the scene."

A friend of Berezovsky said that his family was "devastated", adding that she did not believe his death to be suspicious.

Sasha Nerozina told Sky News: "It is shocking, terrible news. It is not something you expect. He was full of life and love."

The businessman had been left "demoralised" by losing his high-profile legal battle with Abramovich, as he had expected to win, she added.

However, Berezovsky was "looking forward to adventures to come" and was so busy with work that he hardly slept, according to Nerozina.

"Boris cannot be dead - it is almost incredible to put those words together," she said. "We expected him to outlive us all."

While he had feared for his life in the past, he had no such worries in his final months, said Ms Nerozina.

"There is nothing to be suspicious about, as far as I understand", she told Sky News.

Berezovsky ran up more than tens of millions of pounds in legal bills in less than two years after the court battle with Abramovich.

He also built up legal costs totalling more than £250,000 just two months after becoming embroiled in a case at the same court with his former partner, Elena Gorbunova, who sat at Berezovsky's side throughout much of his battle with Abramovich.

Earlier this week, the Daily Telegraph reported that the Russian oligarch would attempt to sell Red Lenin, an Andy Warhol screen print valued at between £30,000 and £50,000 by Christie's.

The artwork sold on Wednesday for £133,875 including the buyer's premium, according to the auction house's website.

Last year, Mrs Justice Gloster dismissed a series of claims by Berezovsky - who wanted more than £3 billion damages - relating to deals done in Russia with Abramovich.

In October, the judge was told by lawyers that Berezovsky had agreed to pay £35 million towards Abramovich's legal costs in the wake of her ruling.

She was given no detail of the amount of costs run up by Berezovsky.

But legal magazine The Lawyer said the case was thought to have generated "total fees" of more than £100 million.

Berezovsky had sued and accused Abramovich of blackmail, breach of trust and breach of contract.

He said the billionaire Russian businessman had "intimidated" him into selling shares in a Russian oil company at a fraction of their value and broken a promise made during a deal relating to a Russian aluminium company.

Abramovich said the claims had "no merit".

Mrs Justice Gloster ruled in Abramovich's favour in August following a trial - staged in London between October 2011 and January - at which both men gave evidence.

The judge described Berezovsky as an "unimpressive, and inherently unreliable, witness" but said she found Abramovich to be a "truthful, and on the whole reliable, witness".

Last month, the High Court heard that Berezovsky had run up over £250,000 in costs in his legal battle with Gorbunova, which started in December.

Mr Justice Mann was given detail of the scale of lawyers' fees during a preliminary hearing and described the costs of the case as "lavish".

The judge said Gorbunova, who had two children with Berezovsky, was complaining that she had not been given millions promised by him.

He said it was anticipated that Berezovsky would "vigorously contest" Ms Gorbunova's claims.

Mr Justice Mann said she had been Berezovsky's "long-time partner" until last year.