UK Government refuses to disclose evidence over Russian whistleblower’s death

The British Government is withholding critical evidence from MI5 and MI6 that may help shed light on the death of the Russian whistleblower Alexander Perepilichny. UK home secretary Amber Rudd is trying to keep the information secret by applying for a public interest immunity certificate since its disclosure may harm national security.

Perepilichny collapsed for no apparent reason outside his home in Weybridge, Surrey, in November 2012, during a jogging session. The 44-year-old man received several death threats after he blew the whistle on an alleged tax fraud in which about $230 million was stolen from the taxes paid by Hermitage Capital, a hedge fund run by a Vladimir’s Putin opponent of American origins. Although no toxicology test was carried out after his sudden and unexplained death, later on, an expert in herbalism at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew found traces of a rare and extremely toxic gelsemium plant. This same poison has already been used in the past by Chinese and Russian assassins.

In 2015, the coroner Richard Travers saw his request for additional information surrounding Perepilichny’s threats refused by the UK government. Almost 100 pages of evidence collected by Surrey police were withheld together with the details about an alleged contact between the whistleblower and some members of a Russian criminal gang headed by Dmitry Klyuev. Henrietta Hill QC, a lawyer who acts on behalf of the Hermitage Capital, claims that the man’s death was indeed a reprisal murdered and that the fact that the government keeps hiding the evidence makes everything appear like a “cover-up.” According to her accusations, the whole police investigation was flawed since no cause of death was ever found.

Hill asked the court overseen by judge Mr Justice Cranston to replace Travers with a different coroner or a high court judge who could have access to the intelligence secret files. The attorney representing the home secretary James Eadie QC, instead, keeps insisting on the importance of secrecy due to a risk of “creating national security damage.” Bill Browder, CEO of Hermitage, pointed out how inconsistent is the authorities’ position, however. If they keep claiming that Perepilichny’s death was not suspicious is, in fact, there’s no reason why they do not let anyone close to these documents since they may threat national security interests. A three-week inquest into the Russian informer’s alleged murder is due to be held in March.

Article written by: Dr. Claudio Butticè, Pharm.D.