Vital evidence disappeared from police custody during their investigation into the death of Russian whistleblower Alexander Perepilichnyy, a court has heard.
When Perepilichnyy died, authorities scoured his computer and discovered that he had been receiving threats. They also found a bank statement showing a mysterious payment worth half a billion dollars from an unknown company called “Precious Metal”. But that and much of the other evidence from a forensic imaging of his computer “went missing” from both police evidence disks and a server run by regional counterterrorism authorities, the head of Surrey police, Ian Pollard, testified at a coroner’s inquest on Friday.
The revelation raises further questions about how UK authorities have handled the 2012 death of Perepilichnyy, who collapsed while jogging near his home in Surrey. This is the second time that police have admitted to losing key evidence — a toxicologist also threw away most of Perepilichnyy’s stomach contents, limiting the ability of scientists to figure out whether or not he had been poisoned.
Police also failed to interview Perepilichnyy’s secret lover, who dined with him on his final night alive, until BuzzFeed News tracked her down last year, and repeatedly stonewalled French detectives as they investigated his mysterious trip to Paris right before he died.
Police have long insisted Perepilichnyy died of natural causes, and the Home Office has invoked national security powers to withhold evidence from the inquest. But last summer, BuzzFeed News revealed that the British government was suppressing explosive intelligence provided by US spy agencies indicating that Perepilichnyy was assassinated on the orders of Russian president Vladimir Putin. Coroner Nicholas Hilliard QC told today’s hearing that he had made “enquiries” about that intelligence, but did not give further details. [Continue reading…]
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