A Russian whistleblower could have been the victim of a “reprisal killing” in the UK linked to the deaths of Alexander Litvinenko and lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, an inquest has heard.
Businessman Alexander Perepilichny, 44, died after collapsing while running near his mansion in Weybridge, Surrey in November 2012.
His death was originally attributed to natural causes but traces of a rare poison used by Russian and Chinese assassins were later found in his stomach.
A pre-inquest review was told that before his death he was helping a company called Hermitage Capital Management to uncover a £150m Russian money laundering operation.
Mr Magnitsky had also worked for the firm, whose lawyer claimed Mr Perepilichny had been on an underworld “hit list” and had received death threats.
Traces of a chemical that can be found in the poisonous plant gelsemium elegans were discovered in Mr Perepilichny’s body.
Henrietta Hill QC said there was a “clear parallel” between his death and that of Mr Magnitsky, who died in prison in 2009.
Ms Hill, making a successful application for Hermitage to receive “interested person” status in the inquest, said Mr Perepilichny had brought them “explosive” evidence.
She said: “There is an objective basis for ruling that the deceased lost his life by virtue of a reprisal killing for helping Hermitage uncover this fraud.”
Ms Hill said Mr Perepilichny was also the subject of lawsuits brought by a company owned by Dmitry Kovtun, a suspect in Mr Litvinenko’s murder in London in 2006.
However, the Perepilichny family’s lawyer said there was no evidence of foul play as further chemical tests had yet to confirm the presence of the poison.
Alexandra Tampakopoulos claimed Hermitage was “playing to the gallery” with an application based on “supposition”.
She said the firm was using “lazy stereotypes” and had no direct evidence that Mr Perepilichny was murdered or had been threatened.
Ms Tampakopoulos told the Surrey coroner: “There is no evidence of connection to Sergei Magnitsky’s death, a death that occurred in wildly different circumstances in Russia in custody.”
She added: “The suggestion of some link between Perepilichny and Dmitry Kovtun and the Litvinenko inquiry… I warn you not to fall into the trap that you are being invited to fall into.”
The full inquest is due to be held in September.