Britain opens a judicial inquiry into the death of Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky on Thursday to establish how he died in the locked bathroom of his vast mansion near London.
Berezovsky, who survived years of intrigue, power struggles and assassination attempts in Russia, was found dead on Saturday in his home in Ascot, a town close to Queen Elizabeth’s Windsor Castle.
Police said there was no sign of a struggle and the 67-year-old’s death was “consistent with hanging”, suggesting he might have killed himself.
Berezovsky was the king-maker behind Vladimir Putin’s ascent to power in Russia but later became his number-one enemy and fled to Britain in 2000.
Berezovsky’s associates have hinted he was depressed after losing a $6 billion court case against another tycoon, Roman Abramovich, last year, when a judge humiliated him publicly by saying he was an unimpressive and unreliable witness.
Other people close to him have said they were not convinced by the official account.
“If he really hanged himself why was that not known from the very beginning?” said Andrei Sidelnikov, an opposition figure who knew Berezovsky. “I don’t believe it was a suicide.”
In Russia, state media quoted Deputy Prosecutor General Alexander Zvyagintsev as saying the government would continue efforts to “bring back assets that Berezovsky and his accomplices acquired criminally and legalised abroad”.
Mass-circulation tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda, which supports the Kremlin, ran a front page headline on Wednesday that read: “Did Berezovsky hang himself or did he have help?”
The inquest will open in the town of Windsor on Thursday.