Russian whistleblower Alexander Perepilichny, who died while jogging near London aged 44 in 2012, was “fearful for his life”, his lawyer at the time told a court today.
The lawyer, Dmitry Lipkin, spoke via video-link from Moscow at the Old Bailey court in London where an inquest is examining whether Perepilichny died of natural causes or was poisoned.
“We had information… that he did not come to Russia because he was fearful for his life,” Lipkin told the court.
“He was threatened. He left Russia but who he was threatened by, I don’t know,” he said.
Perepilichny, a wealthy businessman, had been helping investment firm Hermitage Capital Management investigate a money-laundering operation when he was found dead near his home in Weybridge, outside London.
Two years after his death, his life insurance company ordered tests that detected a toxin from a Chinese plant called Gelsemium, which can trigger cardiac arrest, in his stomach.
The case has come under increased scrutiny following last month’s nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English city of Salisbury.
Britain has blamed Russia for the attack — a charge vehemently denied by Moscow.
Following the Skripal poisoning, MPs have called on the government to re-examine 14 unexplained deaths on British soil in recent years, including that of Perepilichny, a Russian oligarch and a British spy found in a bag.
Lipkin said he had been working with Perepilichny on some debts that he owed in Russia.
“Alexander asked us to deal with a few matters, mostly those matters were concerning his debts,” Lipkin said.
Asked if any of the debts were to organised crime figures, Lipkin replied: “I’m not aware of that”.
The inquest is expected to last four days, with a verdict not expected immediately.