Arthur Martin, Martin Robinson and Will Stewart – Daily Mail March 25, 2013
Fears in the West that the tycoon was planning to make peace with the president and end his 13-year UK exile may have led to him being assassinated, Kremlin insider Sergei Markov has said.
After falling out with Putin in 2000, the 67-year-old fled to Britain where he was later given political asylum.
But after losing a £3billion High Court battle with Roman Abramovich last year, Berezovsky is said to have ‘begged’ for Putin’s forgiveness in a letter and asked if could could return home.
‘It became clear that he was ready to give out all information to the Russian secret services on those Western secret services who are trying to work on throwing Putin down. So they got rid of him,’ Sergei Markov said today.
Berezovsky’s death is still ‘unexplained’ according to police after his body was discovered by a bodyguard on the bathroom floor of his mansion in Ascot, Berkshire, on Saturday.
He apparently left no note and sceptical friends are convinced he was murdered because ‘suicide was not in his DNA’
‘Unfortunately, the British secret services can be suspected in the death of Berezovsky. And may be not only the British,’ Markov said.
‘There is no trust for the British secret services. After their participation in the plot aimed at occupying Iraq, their role in the plot targeting the leader of Libya, then the plot aimed at knocking down the government in Syria, it is clear that their methods are highly dirty.
‘I think they may have guessed that Berezovsky would give away all information, and they decided to get rid of him,’ he said.
Sergei Markov was an elected MP but is now a member of a presidential advisory body, the Public Chamber, and the deputy rector of the highly respected Plekhanov University of Economics in Moscow.
He denied that a Russian hit squad could have been sent to murder Berezovsky.
Details of his alleged secret ‘begging letter’ was revealed for the first time today and in it he pleaded for ‘forgiveness’ from Putin before his death.
The 67-year-old is said to have written from London to Moscow saying: ‘I made a lot of mistakes. I understand it may be hard to forgive me, but I got tangled here and I am begging (you) to forgive me’.
Russian TV say a source knows this was read to the Russian president and added that Berezovsky had asked his ally Andrey Lugovoy for help, who was named in Britain as the main suspect in the Alexander Litvinenko poisoning in London in 2006.
Detective Chief Inspector Kevin Brown said forensic investigations at the multi-million pound house, the former home of TV and radio personality Chris Evans, were likely to continue for ‘several days’.
He said: ‘Scenes of crime officers are carrying out further forensic examinations at the property and these are expected to last several days.
‘A cordon will remain in place until this work has been completed, to protect the scene.
‘While this important investigative work continues, we are unable to comment on any items found within the property.
‘I would like to reiterate that we have no evidence of any third-party involvement at this stage and we will not speculate on the cause of death until the post-mortem examination has been carried out.’
Meanwhile, Boris Berezovsky regularly paid for teenage girls to fly from Eastern Europe or Russia to the UK for sex, the Mail has learned.
Police believe there was no ‘third party’ involvement in his death and a scarf was reportedly found next to Mr Berezovsky’s corpse.
During his 12-year political exile in Britain, he was known to have led a colourful and controversial existence, but for the first time a darker and more depraved side to the tycoon can be revealed.
He would order his drivers to reach speeds of 140mph on motorways in his £420,000 armoured Maybach limousine as girls as young as 16 performed sexual acts on him in the back seat.
Once, a 16-year-old wearing a pink tutu was ferried to see the oligarch at the five-star Lanesborough Hotel in London.
Close sources said it was an ‘open secret that he paid for sex with teenage girls at plush hotels and at his mansion’.
One, who had been flown from Riga in Latvia, asked to leave his home after one night because she did not like the way she had been treated.
He agreed but then told driver Mark Pendlebury, an ex-Paratrooper, to ‘ensure she missed her flight back to Riga’.
The chauffeur took her through notoriously congested routes in London to ensure she did not catch the plane.
When she realised she could not get home, the girl became tearful and was driven back to the mansion where she stayed for a further 24 hours.
‘Boris was very pleased and texted me a smiley face,’ the chauffeur said. ‘Such behaviour was accepted practice and not uncommon.
‘He seemed to have a steady supply of young girls from the same source. I felt very guilty about the way the girls were treated, particularly as most of them were the same age as my daughter.’
Mr Pendlebury, who was paid around £100,000-a-year, was often asked to take the female guests shopping.
‘Often I would have to meet a biker to collect envelopes of money for the girls,’ he said.
‘The patient and light-hearted way we handled his many guests made Boris’s life easier because the girls weren’t bored and complaining constantly.’
During the ‘white-knuckle rides’ on the motorway network, a security driver on a high-powered 800cc motorbike would drive ahead of the tycoon’s limousine to clear a path.
He would intimidate other motorists by driving close to their rear bumpers and keeping his full beam headlights on.
Mr Berezovsky was regularly driven from his home to his office in Mayfair or to meetings at hotels and restaurants.
Once in London, the convoy would allegedly drive at speeds of up to 70mph in 30mph zones, with a ‘no-holds bar attitude to law or safety’.
At one point Mr Pendlebury, 49, told his boss that ‘the greatest threat to Boris wasn’t the treat of assassination, but our driving’.
He said: ‘I admitted I enjoyed the breakneck speeds and the buzz of driving this way but said that “I’ve got children to worry about”.
‘The aggressive nature of driving like that all day and the long hours seriously affected our normal lives.
Mr Berezovsky was in a 15-year relationship with Elena Gorbunova, a Russian woman 21 years his junior, until last year.
It is unclear if she was aware of the tycoon’s penchant for teenage prostitutes. Sources said he took great efforts to keep the seedy side of his life a secret to those close to him.
Meanwhile friends who saw him just before he died said he had been in a Park Lane hotel drinking tea, dressed in black, struggling to control a shaking hand and looking ‘very depressed and lost’.
Witnesses described how he looked like a ‘mourner’ and had push his right hand against the table he sat at or against his body but continued to tremble.
Less than 24 hours later he was dead in his giant home, where he lived alone.
Lord Bell, Mr Berezovsky’s spokesman, said: ‘I saw him last two weeks ago and he was very depressed, very low.’
Firebrand ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky – founding leader of the hardline Liberal Democratic party – said he discussed a return to Russia with Berezovsky.
Zhirinovsky said Berezovskt ‘looked very, very low, depressed, his eyes were bleak.
‘Perhaps he felt that nothing was going right for him. He told me one thing that I was touched by, that he nearly cries when he watches Russian TV from Moscow.’
His ex-wife Galina arrived at the house when paramedics were there and has apparently told friends that he former husband was found with a scarf next to him, according to The Guardian.
Nikolai Glushkov, who had been one of his closest friends, said: ‘Boris was strangled. Either he did it himself or with the help of someone. [But] I don’t believe it was suicide. This was not just a normal death.’
His body could now be flown to Russia for burial after the Kremlin confirmed they would not oppose such a request by his family.
Police say they are trying to ‘gain a better understanding’ of what his life was like before he died.
Ascot neighbours today paint a picture of paranoia and secrecy behind the high fences surrounding his home.
One local man said that he was trimming his hedge when he was approached by bodyguards asking what he was doing in an area where a lot of exiled rich Russians live.
‘They won’t tell us the names of the Russians. They’re hardly ever here. One of them only travels in by helicopter. They’re all paranoid,’ he said.
Marina Litvinenko said: ‘From my point of view it is not likely that he committed suicide.
‘He had a lot of enemies. He was an outspoken person and never tried to hide what he thought.’
In an informal interview with a Russian journalist on the night before he died, Mr Berezovsky reportedly said: ‘My life no longer makes sense. I have no desire to take part in politics. I don’t know what I should do. I am 67 years old and I don’t know what I should do from now on.’
The journalist, Ilya Zhegulev, claims the tycoon was desperate to return to Russia and hated being in exile.
Meanwhile the mystery surrounding his death deepened last night after radiation experts spent hours combing the Berkshire mansion where his body was found.
A two-mile safety cordon was set up amid fears the exiled tycoon had been murdered with radioactive poisoning.
The alert had been raised when a paramedic’s radiation alarm was triggered as he left the £20million property after failing to revive Mr Berezovsky, whose body was discovered by a bodyguard on the bathroom floor.
There is currently no evidence to suggest anyone else was involved in the death of the 67-year-old businessman, police said.
Berezovsky last year lost a multibillion-pound High Court battle with Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich.
He was reportedly discovered in his bathroom after taking his own life.
Detective Chief Inspector Kevin Brown of Thames Valley Police said: ‘It would be wrong to speculate on the cause of death until the post mortem has been carried out. We do not have any evidence at this stage to suggest third party involvement.’
Some friends said they believed Mr Berezovsky may have been the victim of a professional hit for speaking out against Russian president Vladimir Putin’s regime.
Others thought he had killed himself after becoming depressed over the loss of his wealth and status.
The controversial tycoon, who was once worth £3billion, was to be a key witness at the inquest of murdered spy Alexander Litvinenko, who was assassinated with radioactive poisoning in London six years ago.
Historian Yuri Felshtinsky, who has known Mr Berezovsky since 1998, said: ‘We do not have facts yet but we must bear in mind that there have been several questionable deaths of Russian emigres in the UK.
‘It is more plausible to me that [Berezovsky] was killed as an act of revenge for speaking out against the Kremlin or perhaps as a warning to others not to cross them.’
The Kremlin admitted that earlier this year Putin received a begging letter from the tycoon, pleading for forgiveness.
‘I made a lot of mistakes. I understand it may be hard to forgive me, but I got tangled here and I am begging (you) to forgive me,’ it stated, according to a Russian TV programme.