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TheStreet Open House

Police: No Sign of Third Party in Berezovsky Death (Update1)

He took a hit with his divorce from Galina Besharova in 2010, paying what was at the time Britain's largest divorce settlement. The figure beat a previous record of 48 million pounds ($73.1 million) and was estimated as high as 100 million pounds, though the exact figure was never confirmed.

Last year, Berezovsky lost a multibillion-pound High Court case against fellow Russian Roman Abramovich and was ordered to pay 35 million pounds ($53.3 million) in legal costs.

Berezovsky had claimed that Abramovich, the billionaire owner of Chelsea Football Club, cheated him out of his stakes in the oil group Sibneft, arguing that he blackmailed him into selling the stakes vastly beneath their true worth after he fell from Putin's good graces.

But a judge threw out the case in August, ruling that Berezovsky was a dishonest and unreliable witness, and rejected Berezovsky's claims that he was threatened by Putin and Alexander Voloshin, a Putin ally, to coerce him to sell his Sibneft stake.

It also recently emerged that Berezovsky ran up legal bills totaling more than 250,000 pounds in just two months of a case against his former partner, Elena Gorbunova, with whom he had two children and who claimed the businessman owed her millions.

Earlier this week, The Times of London newspaper reported that Berezovsky was selling property -- including an Andy Warhol portrait of the former Soviet Union leader Vladimir Lenin -- to settle his debts and pay expenses owed to lawyers.

News of Berezovsky's death has prompted conspiracy theories along with speculation as to his state of mind, given his recent financial setbacks.

Ilya Zhegulev, a journalist with the Russian edition of Forbes magazine, said he spoke with Berezovsky the day before he died and discussed the tycoon's decision to flee Russia in 2000.

The journalist quoted Berezovsky as saying that during his years in London life had lost meaning.

"I no longer want to be involved in politics," Zhegulev quoted Berezovsky as saying in a story published Saturday on the Forbes.ru Web site.

He said Berezovsky told him that he wanted nothing more than to return to Russia. The former oligarch said he had changed his views on Russia, saying he now understood that it should not look to Europe as a model.

"I had absolutely, idealistically imagined that it was possible to build a democratic Russia. And idealistically imagined what democracy was in the center of Europe. I underestimated the inertia of Russia and greatly overestimated the West. This took place gradually. I changed my understanding of Russia's path," he quoted Berezovsky as having said.

___

AP writer Lynn Berry in Moscow contributed to this report. Cassandra Vinograd can be reached at http://twitter.com/CassVinograd

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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