British police accused of cover-up over Russian death
British police were on Wednesday accused of orchestrating a cover-up over their investigation into the death of Russian whistleblower Alexander Perepilichny, who it is claimed may have been poisoned.
Businessman Perepilichny, 44, died near his home in 2012 in the county of Surrey, southwest of London, while out running, with police ruling that he died of natural causes.
The cover-up allegations centre on Surrey Police's refusal to hand over documents on the case to legal representatives, claiming that dozens of them qualify for "public interest immunity (PII)".
PIIs are granted to documents that if disclosed could put national security at risk, meaning they could only be heard in a closed hearing.
Lawyer Geoffrey Robertson, representing Hermitage Capital -- the company that Perepilichny was helping to uncover a £150 million ($215 million, 200 million euro) Russian money laundering ring -- told a pre-inquest hearing into the death that Surrey Police had shown "years of disrespect" and were in contempt of court.
Surrey Police representative Charlotte Ventham told Woking Coroner's Court that the force "very firmly rebutted and refuted" claims of a cover-up and unlawful procedure.
Coroner Richard Travers has scheduled a full inquest for February 29, when he will decide whether to consider foul play as a possible cause of death.
In English law, inquests are held to examine suspected violent, unnatural or unexplained deaths. They aim to determine the place and time of death as well as how the deceased came by their death, but do not apportion blame.
Legal and General, the law firm with which Perepilichny had a life insurance policy, have claimed that chemicals found in his stomach suggest he may have ingested the poison gelsemium, and that this is sometimes used by Chinese and Russian assassins.
© 2016 AFP