From Russia with hate – are Russian assassins on the loose in Britain? With the death of a businessman in Surrey now being treated as suspicious, we look at the spate of hits that have taken place in Britain

Daily Telegraph

Apparently healthy people do drop dead, so Surrey Police were not unduly exercised by the sudden demise of Alexander Perepilichny. The body of the Russian businessman was found near his home on the St George’s Hill estate in Weybridge on Saturday, November 10. A member of staff at his house, rented for £12,500 a month, happened upon the body as darkness fell. Perepilichny, aged 44, had been seen jogging earlier that day and was still in his running gear. There were no signs of violence, nothing to suggest foul play. The gated community, a collection of secluded detached houses selling for £3 million and above, is one of the most exclusive in Britain, favoured in the past by singers and soccer stars, and supposedly one of the most secure. For officers assigned to the case, Perepilichny’s death initially represented a personal tragedy, but nothing more.

Only later, when the alert was raised by his associates, did they begin to consider the possibility that something darker may have occurred. Following an inconclusive first autopsy, a second was ordered. A toxicology report is not expected for months.

Assassinations, successful or attempted, are rare things in Britain, but when they happen there is a reasonable chance that a Russian will be involved. Russia is a far less violent place than it was even five years ago, but for the many criminal entities in that vast country, some rooted deeply in government, there are still vendettas to be pursued and inconvenient people to be rubbed out. The fact that the target has sought shelter in the United Kingdom may serve as a deterrent to a would-be assassin, but it would not put them off completely.

Britain is home to 300,000 Russians, and London in particular has benefited from an influx of billionaires and millionaires grown fat on the privatisation of Russia’s state assets in the Nineties. Some 100 Russian millionaires accounted for a quarter of Tier 1 UK visas in the year to June. The privileged permits allow long-term, non-domicile residence here in return for a minimum investment in British property, shares and bonds of £1 million.

But these people also bring their histories, their fears and feuds. Little is done in the way of background checks on applicants for Tier 1 status, and so large has been the influx of rich Russians that there is concern about their increasing involvement in British institutions. The Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, is known to consider this a significant potential threat.

The Russian rich are drawn to London by its relative safety, lack of official corruption, fair courts, good schools, varied shopping and sophisticated financial services allowing access to offshore tax havens. Russian patronage of the British capital has boosted property values in fashionable parts of west London even in a period of austerity.

“The Russian buyer is still hugely important to the top of the London market,” says Liam Bailey, head of residential research at the estate agents Knight Frank. “In the £5 million to £10 million market Russians account for 10 per cent, and above £10 million their share rises to around 17 per cent. Some buy outside London but they tend to stay in the Surrey ‘estates’ – places like Wentworth and St George’s Hill.”

Disputes between Russian “businessmen” are nowadays more likely to be settled in the courts than at the point of a gun, but occasionally the old rules of the “Wild East” apply. In March this year, German Gorbuntsov, a Russian banker, was shot six times at close range as he approached his flat in London’s Canary Wharf. He survived the assassination attempt, later blaming it on former business associates in his home country.

Criminality and officialdom in Russia are intimately linked and it is difficult to separate the two when examining murders. The country’s bureaucracy is not one monolithic structure but a host of competing interests with ties to business and the underworld. Some killings, however, suggest higher direction.

In the eyes of Vladimir Putin, president of the Russian Federation, Britain’s willingness to provide sanctuary for that group of disaffected Russians known as the London Circle, headed by his friend-turned-mortal-enemy Boris Berezovsky, makes it a hostile power. Anglo-Russian diplomatic relations plunged into deep freeze in 2006 when Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB officer and fugitive from the Putin regime, was poisoned with the radioactive isotope polonium 210. Litvinenko, who is believed to have been paid a stipend by British intelligence during his exile, lived for three weeks after poison was slipped into his tea in a restaurant in the West End. Berezovsky, who has declared his intention to overthrow Putin, was the next target. A plot to kill him at the Hilton Hotel in London in June 2007 was foiled by the Security Service, MI5.

Suspicions linger about other deaths, such as that of Stephen Curtis, a wealthy British lawyer who tended to the affairs of some of Russia’s richest men. The sell-off of Russia’s state assets by Boris Yeltsin in the Nineties resulted in two dozen oligarchs owning 40 per cent of the economy. Curtis helped transfer fortunes into offshore accounts. He died in 2004 when the helicopter taking him to his home in Dorset crashed.

Perepilichny, who fled his homeland with his wife three years ago, was certainly inconvenient to a powerful group of Russian criminals. At the time of his death he was aiding a Swiss investigation into the laundering of the proceeds of a vast fraud perpetrated in Russia. Russian tax officials had conspired with a criminal syndicate to claim a bogus tax refund of a quarter of a billion dollars. To do so, they had to steal control of companies belonging to the western investment house Hermitage Capital Management.

Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer, paid with his life for acting on behalf of Hermitage in Russia, dying in a Moscow prison in 2009 following prolonged mistreatment. This week, the US Senate passed the Magnitsky Act, intended to name and shame corrupt Russian officials, as well freezing their assets and barring their entry to America. Former British foreign secretaries Sir Malcolm Rifkind and David Miliband have called for similar sanctions to be imposed by the UK.

None of this will prevent the growth and integration of the Russian community in London. A failing Russian economy is fuelling a brain drain in favour of the British capital, while the City of London’s reputation for light-touch regulation is proving another draw.

Robert Palmer of the campaign group Global Witness, which monitors corruption around the world, says British financiers are reluctant to delve too deeply into the origins of Russian money. “People in the banking industry say to me, ‘How far back can you go with these Russians? We can’t say this or that company was bought or gained legitimately in the fog of the Nineties.’ It is hard to work out what happened during that huge binge of privatisation following the fall of communism, so a line has been drawn under the past.”

Lax anti-laundering measures in the UK mean ill-gotten gains can be transferred to tax havens such as the British Virgin Islands via shell companies nominally based here. Last year, the Financial Services Authority said three quarters of British banks it examined had failed to install sufficient safeguards against laundering.

Meanwhile, the private security industry in the UK is doing well out of the fears of wealthy Russians more used to travelling in armed convoys at home. Former SAS and SBS men who populate the bodyguard “circuit” are in demand.

The relative ease of London life means that many Russian businessmen with interests in their home country prefer their families to live here while they make the four-hour commute to Moscow by executive jet. They are also keen to send their children to British schools such as Eton – half a dozen sons of oligarchs started there this year.

“The Russians come to London because it is pleasant and safe,” says Andrew Wordsworth, partner in the Mayfair-based private investigators GPW, whose clients include British-based Russians. “If there is a downside in terms of some criminality, it is hugely offset by the benefits of our playing host to a thriving Russian community that spends its money here.”

Russian-related killings in Britain will, Wordsworth believes, remain a rarity. “Russia is much safer than it was, but if people want to commit violence they are much more likely to do it there, when targets are visiting, than here, where they face an effective police force.”

That may be true of those who venture back to Mother Russia. But for the Russians living in self‑imposed exile in Belgravia and Surrey, who have crossed the wrong people, there is always the risk of an unwelcome visit from home. займ на карту срочно без отказа unshaven girls https://zp-pdl.com/get-a-next-business-day-payday-loan.php https://zp-pdl.com/get-a-next-business-day-payday-loan.php займ срочно без отказов и проверок

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