A Russian whistleblower in Britain may have died after eating poisoned soup, a judge has heard.
Alexander Perepilichny, 44, was found dead near his luxury home on the exclusive gated St George’s Hill estate in Weybridge, Surrey, southwest of London, after he had been out jogging in November 2012.
Perepilichny had sought refuge in Britain in 2009 and had been providing evidence to the authorities about a Russian money-laundering scheme.
Lawyers at a pre-inquest hearing suggested that he died shortly after eating a sorrel soup which had been infused with a posion based on the gelsemium plant.
Samples from his stomach showed traces of a material likely to be the toxin, said Bob Moxon Browne, a lawyer for Legal & General, with whom Perepilichny had taken out a large life insurance policy.
A police investigation had ascribed the death to natural causes.
The case has drawn parallels with the murder of ex-KGB agent and Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko who died after his tea was poisoned with a rare radioactive isotope in London in 2006.
Perepilichny had been providing evidence against those linked to the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky while in custody in Moscow in 2009. Magnitsky had accused Russian government officials of stealing $230 million.
The case has been complicated because the British government has said it has secret information linked to the investigation that it cannot disclose in public. However, the judge overseeing the matter said he does not believe it is relevant to Perepilichny’s death.
The full inquest is due to start on June 5.