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Police plan poison tests on Georgian businessman

Latest update : 2008-02-15

British police will test for poison in the body of Georgian businessman Badri Patarkatsishvili, who died suddenly on Tuesday and had spoken frequently of fears that he may be assassinated.

LONDON, Feb 14 (Reuters) - British investigators will test
for poison in the body of Georgian businessman Badri
Patarkatsishvili, but have no reason yet to conclude he was
killed, police said on Thursday.

Patarkatsishvili, a 52-year-old billionaire, died suddenly
at his palatial mansion in southern England late on Tuesday. He
had been accused of plotting a coup in his homeland and had
spoken frequently of fears that he may be assassinated.

"A complaint of recent chest pains, together with the manner
of his collapse and death, are consistent with symptoms of a
death from coronary heart disease, as are the preliminary
post-mortem findings," a police spokeswoman said.

"However extensive toxicology tests are still being carried
out to establish whether there is any evidence of other factors
causing or contributing to his death," she said.

The full poison test results are next expected for at least
10 weeks, although some findings will come sooner, she said.

Patarkatsishvili had lived in Britain since late last year,
when Georgian authorities accused him of plotting a coup against
the president and issued a warrant for his arrest.

He earned his fortune in Russia as a business partner of
Russian businessman Boris Berezovsky in the 1990s, assembling a
business empire that ran from car dealerships to media to oil.

Berezovsky, a foe of President Vladimir Putin, also lives in
Britain. Another Berezovsky associate, Alexander Litvinenko, was
poisoned in London in 2006. It took several weeks for British
authorities to discover the radioactive agent that killed him.

British police said on Wednesday that checks had found no
radioactive traces on Patarkatsishvili's body or at his home.

Friends of Patarkatsishvili travelled to London, saying they
intended to bring the body back for burial in the Georgian
capital Tbilisi.

The police spokeswoman said his body was not being released
at this stage and it was too early to say when it would happen.

"I'm heading to London with a sad mission. We should bring
the body of Badri Patarkatsishvili to Georgia. His family made a
decision that he should be buried here," friend Vano
Chkhartishvili told reporters before leaving for London.

The police spokeswoman said a coroner would open an inquiry
into Patarkatsishvili's death on Friday.

Western powers watch developments in Georgia closely. It
lies on the route of an oil pipeline in a strategic region
bordering Turkey and Russia, and is at the heart of a tussle for
influence between Moscow and new allies in the West.

Patarkatsishvili ran as a candidate in Georgia's
presidential election on Jan. 5 and won about 7 percent of
votes, but did not campaign there for fear of detention.

Following Georgia's election, which the opposition said was
rigged and on which Western monitors gave a mixed verdict, a
Georgian court seized his television station and other assets.

Date created : 2008-02-15