Inquest into Alexander Perepilichnyy’s death concludes

The long running inquest into the death of Alexander Perepilichnyy has now concluded.

Henrietta Hill QC and Adam Straw represented Hermitage Capital Management. Certain companies had been stolen from Hermitage and used to perpetrate a $230 million fraud on the Russian tax payer. Before he died Mr Perepilichnyy had worked with Hermitage to help expose those behind the fraud, said to be an organised criminal group with close links to the Russian state.  There was a concern that Mr Perepilichnyy had been poisoned as a reprisal killing for his role as whistleblower. Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer working in the same capacity with Hermitage, had also been murdered, and several other suspicious deaths were said to be linked to the fraud.

On that basis in 2015 Hermitage succeeded in its application to become an Interested Person in the inquest.

Throughout 2016 the case was delayed because HM Government and Surrey Police sought to withhold documents on public interest immunity grounds, including some relating to national security. This resulted in satellite High Court litigation in which Henrietta Hill QC and Adam Straw represented Hermitage and several other Doughty Street counsel represented INQUEST and the media.  These proceedings became a test case on the correct approach to be taken in inquests where sensitive information may be relevant: Secretary of State for the Home Department v. HM Senior Coroner for Surrey [2017] 4 WLR 191.

The inquest hearings took place in June 2017 and April 2018 and involved extensive criticism of the initial Surrey Police investigation, which had not classified the death as suspicious and meant some evidence was lost.

HHJ Hilliard QC, who had been appointed as Coroner to hear the case, delivered his conclusions on 19 December 2018. He held that there was no direct evidence that Mr Perepilichnyy was poisoned, but that the possibility of poisoning cannot be excluded. However, he held that it was more likely than not that he died from natural causes, namely Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome.  He noted that several areas of evidence were not available to him due to the initial classification of the death as not suspicious.

Henrietta Hill QC and Adam Straw represented Hermitage, instructed by Laura Lewis. Geoffrey Robertson QC also represented Hermitage during the initial stages of the inquest.

Read about this case in The Guardian and The Times.