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Fri Oct 31 23:27:07 SAST 2014

Key mafia witness found dead

Reuters | 29 November, 2012 00:34
ranville Road on the St George's Hill private estate, where Russian businessman Alexander Perepilichnyy collapsed on November 10, is seen near Weybridge in Surrey November 28, 2012. REUTERS/Olivia Harris

A Russian businessman helping Swiss prosecutors uncover a powerful fraud syndicate has died in mysterious circumstances outside his mansion in Britain, in a chilling new twist to a Russian Mafia scandal that has strained ties between Moscow and the West.

According to his colleagues and media reports, Alexander Perepilichny, 44, sought refuge in Britain three years ago and had been helping with a Swiss investigation into a Russian money-laundering operation by providing evidence against corrupt officials.

He has also provided evidence against those linked to the 2009 death of anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, a case that caused an international outcry and prompted the US to push for a bill cracking down on Russian corruption.

Perepilichny, a Russian citizen, collapsed and died outside his home on an up-market estate in the English county of Surrey on November 10, police said yesterday. This was the first mention, yet, of the case.

Perepilichny is the fourth person with links to the Magnitsky case, to have died in strange circumstances.

"It [the death] is being treated as unexplained," said a police spokesman.

"A post-mortem examination was carried out, which was inconclusive. Further tests are now being carried out."

Reports say Perepilichny produced evidence about the complicity of a number of Russian government officials in the theft of $230-million which Magnitsky had uncovered.

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