Boris Berezovsky, a 67-year-old former Russian oligarch, was found dead in his home in Berkshire, England on Saturday. No one knows how or why he died and Berezovsky had a lot of powerful enemies, so the conspiracy theories are already flying.
Police have launched an investigation into Berezovsky's death, but they aren't saying much right now. They've cordoned off the area around the property where his body was found. For now, though, his death is being labeled unexplained. Berezovsky made his fortune primarily from selling Mercedes Benz cars during the 1990s, and then through owning oil and cable companies. He was instrumental in orchestrating the political rise of former President Boris Yeltsin and was a part of Yeltsin's inner circle while in power. He also supported Vladimir Putin's rise to power, but Putin turned on the oligarchs and tried to eliminate their political power. Berezovsky then exiled himself to England, where he's lived since the year 2000. He became a vocal critic of Putin during his time on British soil.
Since his relocation, he hasn't lived the happiest life. His fortunes have dwindled and he's struggled to pay off his debt. "Berezovsky has been in a terrible state as of late," his lawyer Alexander Dobrovinsky told Russian state television after news of his death broke. "He was in debt. He felt destroyed," the lawyer said.
Most notably, he was forced to pay over $100 million in legal fees after a judge threw out a lawsuit he filed accusing Russian business tycoon Roman Abramovich of blackmailing him into selling him shares in an oil company under market value. Abramovich is perhaps best known as the owner of the Chelsea football club in the English Premier League. The judge said Berezovsky was an "inherently unreliable witness," and it left his reputation -- whatever was left of it -- in pieces.
So, he had a lot of powerful enemies and he was mostly broke. It's not surprising, then, that these factors are leading some to suspect there were darker forces at work surrounding Berezovsky's death. The Guardian reports some posts on Russian social media are saying Berezovsky killed himself on Saturday. Additionally, Berezovsky allegedly said in 2007 he was told to leave England because authorities had discovered an assassination plot against him. Any assassination theories aren't as crazy as they may seem either. When Berezovsky lived in Russia, he "survived numerous assassination attempts, including a bomb that decapitated his chauffeur," BBC News reports. But business associates have told some Russian news outlets that his death wasn't as unseemly as any suicide or assassination theories would have you believe. According to them, it was a heart attack that killed Berezovsky.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.