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Berezovsky Died of Hanging Without Struggle, Police Say

Russian Billionaire Boris Berezovsky
Russian billionaire Boris Berezovsky poses at the Bloomberg offices in London on Nov. 5, 2003. Berezovsky was found dead at his U.K. home on March 23, 2013. Photographer: Des Jenson/Bloomberg

Boris Berezovsky, the Russian oligarch who was found dead at his U.K. home on March 23, died from hanging with no evidence of a violent struggle, U.K. police said.

Berezovsky’s cause of death “is consistent with hanging,” Thames Valley Police said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. “The pathologist has found nothing to indicate a violent struggle.” A full inquest into his death will start March 28 in Windsor, near London, police said.

The results of additional tests, including toxicology and histology examinations, won’t be known for several weeks, according to the statement. The forensic examination of Berezovsky’s home in Ascot will continue for several days.

Once a multibillionaire, Berezovsky, 67, faced mounting debt and last year lost one of the largest U.K. civil lawsuits ever filed against Roman Abramovich, the Russian owner of the Chelsea Football Club. Berezovsky, the judge said in his ruling in August, was “unimpressive and inherently unreliable.”

Georgia Gibbs, a spokeswoman for Berezovsky, declined to comment yesterday on the police statement.

Berezovsky was found by an employee on March 23 in a bathroom in his home.

Bathroom Door

The employee said he called the ambulance service after becoming concerned for Berezovsky’s welfare, having not seen him since about 10:30 p.m. the previous night, police said in a statement on March 24. The employee said he forced open the bathroom door, which was locked from the inside, and discovered Berezovsky’s body on the floor.

There is no evidence “at this stage to suggest any third-party involvement” in the death, which remains “unexplained,” police said March 24 statement.

Inquests in England and Wales are held to examine sudden or unexplained deaths. Coroner’s inquests can come to a limited number of verdicts including death by accident, suicide, or unlawful killing. If there is insufficient evidence for any of those, they record an “open verdict.”

Berezovsky lived in self-imposed exile in the U.K. to avoid potential prosecution in Russia. Once a close patron of Russian power as a friend of Boris Yeltsin, he sparred publicly in recent years with President Vladimir Putin.

Fled Russia

Berezovsky fled Russia for the U.K. in 2000 after backing Putin in his first presidential campaign. He was given political asylum three years later. Berezovsky said in a 2007 interview that he was worth $4 billion and that he was using a part of his fortune to finance “a revolution in Russia without blood.” Forbes magazine dropped the tycoon from its rich list in 2010, after estimating his wealth at $1 billion the previous year.

Berezovsky had sent Putin a personally written letter a “couple” of months ago, Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press secretary, said in an interview with Rossiya 24 TV channel on March 23.

In the letter Berezovsky “confessed that he had made many mistakes, asked Putin for forgiveness for these mistakes, and also asked Putin for a chance to return to his homeland,” Peskov said.

During the Yeltsin era, Berezovsky built his political influence, serving as Security Council deputy secretary in 1996 to 1997 and as a lawmaker in 1999 to 2000. He gained holdings of companies including OAO Aeroflot, Russia’s biggest airline, state-run television channel ORT and the Kommersant publishing house. He claimed stakes in OAO Sibneft, the oil producer now named OAO Gazprom Neft, and Russian Aluminum, now part of fellow billionaire Oleg Deripaska’s United Co. Rusal.

Seize Assets

The Russian government yesterday vowed to continue attempts to seize Berezovsky’s remaining foreign assets.

“Berezovsky was accused of committing a number of grave economic crimes,” Deputy Chief Prosecutor Alexander Zvyagintsev said in an e-mailed statement from the his office in Moscow. The office will continue its efforts to ensure that “Berezovsky and his accomplices’ criminal assets, legalized abroad,” are returned to Russia, according to the statement.

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