Police appeared to rule out any foul play in the death of controversial Russian tycoon and Kremlin-baiter Boris Berezovsky, whose body was found in a bath at his home in Berkshire on Saturday.
The news of Berezovsky’s death dominated the front pages of Sunday newspapers amid claims that he may have committed suicide. His friends were quoted as saying he was depressed after losing a string of costly court cases and had spoken of ending his life.
He was also reported to have written an emotional letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he had accused of plotting to kill him, “asking for forgiveness” and seeking his “help to return to the motherland.”
Berezovsky (67), who fled Russia in 2000 after falling out with Mr. Putin and was given asylum in Britain, was wanted by the Russian authorities on charges of fraud and money-laundering. Britain refused Moscow’s repeated requests for his extradition on grounds that he would not get a fair trial there.
An unnamed friend told The Observer Berezovsky was “very, very low” in recent months. “He would say to me: it’s all over, it’s all finished, there’s no point in anything — the best thing that could happen to me is that I have a heart attack.”
Police searched Berezovsky’s house for chemical, biological or nuclear material but found nothing. This was apparently done in the light of the case of Alexander Litivenko, a former KGB agent and Berezovsky’s close friend, who died in 2006 after being poisoned with radioactive material polonium-210, allegedly by Russian agents.
Berezovsky made his fortune in 1990s by buying up cheap state assets in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union. A protégé of Boris Yeltsin, he later became close to Mr. Putin but fell out with him over his own political ambitions. He fled to Britain following a money-laundering scandal.
In 1967, Forbes magazine estimated his wealth at $ 3 billion but in recent years it was thought to have been considerably reduced after he lost several costly court cases. In 2011, he reportedly lost an estimated £100 million in a divorce settlement. But apparently the last straw was losing a $ 4 billion damages claim against Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich last year.