Georgian tycoon and opposition politician Badri Patarkatsishvili died in London last night – rumours are swirling that he has been murdered, another Litvinenko.
Patarkatsishvili’s aides are reporting that he died of a heart attack, but Patarkatsishvili was an opponent of both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Georgian President Mihail Saakashvilli – and he is a close friend of exiled Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky. Patarkatsishvili was recently charged with plotting a coup in Georgia, and was reportedly in fear of his life so, as you can imagine, the British press (notably the Daily Mail) are having a field day with this story.
The police, as is common with any unexplained death, are currently treating the death as “suspicious”, which is feeding the fire at the moment. An autopsy is due later today, so hopefully we’ll have a clearer picture shortly.
Patarkatsishvili certainly had a lot of enemies, so I’m really not at all surprised that the police are treating his death as suspicious. He had massive business interests in Russia, and has at times been a vocal critic of Putin. But, much as the conspiracy theorists might like to link this death with Putin, Patarkatsishvili was on even worse terms with the current Georgian leader, and if one is going to investigate an assassination attempt, that would be the best place to start.
Patarkatsishvili was a fervent supporter of Saakashvilli during Georgia’s Rose Revolution of 2004, but had a severe falling out over recent years, and Patarkatsishvili recently did his utmost to bring down Saakashvilli’s Presidency. Taking advantage of strife within Georgia he self-financed his campaign in last month’s Georgian Presidential election. His money wasn’t enough to secure victory though, and he lost the election heavily.
Saakashvilli celebrated his victory with revenge – almost immediately after the election, Patarkatsishvili was charged with plotting a coup against the Georgian government. Patarkatsishvili was, until his death last night, a wanted man.
Patarkatsishvili had already expressed fears that he might be assassinated and, so far, press speculation is centering on an alleged conversation between a Georgian Interior Ministry official and Uvais Akhmadov, described as a Chechen warlord from last December, in which a plot to assassinate him was allegedly discussed:
“Its now a political issue . . . Well be able to deal with him thats not a problem. Even if he has 100 people guarding him, well thats not a problem. Our issue is such that well destroy these guards.
A plan could be constructed in such a way to do it professionally, leave as few traces as possible . . .
Whoever was to do this . . . we want to be able to explain to the people in Georgia that it was Russia.
(You can listen to the full tape – in Russian – on the Sunday Times website).
Of course, Patarkatsishvili could also have died of natural causes and, unless some direct evidence emerges, this is how the British Police will eventually look at his death – formally, at least. Certainly he was complaining the other day of feeling slightly unwell during a meeting – his spokesman Lord Bell reported:
“At one point, he complained he was a little overcome by the warmth of the room and left to get some fresh air.”
One to watch. I’ll try to keep this post updated as the story develops.