‘Berezovsky was on the hook for hundreds of millions of pounds’

‘Berezovsky was on the hook for hundreds of millions of pounds’
While police remain silent on the cause of Boris Berezovsky’s death, media speculations about his recent problems are rife. There are indications that the late tycoon was strapped for cash and didn’t see a way out, author Daragh McDowell told RT.

RT: It all remains a bit much unclear at the moment. Police have ruled out third-party involvement, but then there was no suicide note either. Where do you stand on this? Do you believe Mr. Berezovsky could have taken his own life?

Daragh McDowell: Unfortunately, the only person who can answer that question definitively is Boris Berezovsky himself. But he is no longer in the position to do so. Certainly the indications coming from the British press say this does seem to have been a suicide. A number of his friends have come forward and said that he was very depressed and had lost meaning in the last a couple of days.

And, of course, these reports of his interview with the editor of Russian Forbes on the day before his body was found, where he admitted to not having meaning in his life and being highly depressed. We do have to remember, that he has just lost an extremely high-profile legal case, which, not only was there a financial cost, but a British judge called him a liar on record. I mean this was a broken and defeated man.

RT: It's a common thought that Berezovsky's court defeat against fellow tycoon Abramovich finally could have been what actually broke him - both financially and mentally. I even got reports that Berezovksy was going in to court with no paperwork at all. Some saying that perhaps he was just trying to do a final gamble.  Do you think the case with Abramovich was what ultimately brought him his demise?

DM: Absolutely! The British legal system is extremely expensive. Both Berezovsky and Abramovich had very expensive high-profile legal teams. The rule is generally here is that in these kinds of cases the loser pays the costs. So, indications are that Berezovsky was on the hook for hundreds of millions of pounds. He also recently had, I believe, a fairly messy divorce from his second wife and there are numerous stories that he was under increasing financial pressure. There was also his attempt to sell the Warhol-Lenin portrait, which all indicates that he was trapped for cash and didn’t see a way out.  

RT: The western media's been talking of Berezovsky as 'the man who brought President Putin into power'- some are calling that farfetched How do you assess his role in history?

DM: I think it’s very difficult to say that Berezovsky was not extremely influential in bringing Putin into power and that he was one of the members of the Yeltsin family, who believed that Putin would protect the assets that were gained in the loan-for-shares scandal and these sorts of things. Funnily enough there was in the British media there has actually been very little mention of this outside one or two outlets.

The idea of Berezovsky is kind of brave anti-Putin dissident has been played up a little bit more, particularly in the Guardian, but overall I don’t think that there’s much doubt that Berezovsky thought Putin was somebody that he could control, that he would let Berezovsky’s previous financial dealings be water under the bridge and, of course, President Putin said no. He stood up to the oligarchs when he was first elected and this was the reason when Berezovsky ultimately quit Russia.

RT: Berezovsky's been seen a quite the stumbling block in Moscow-London relations in the past decade, could there be a warming of the relationship now?   

DM: Quite possibly. The very fact that Berezovsky was in London, making periodic claims that he would fund a violent revolution against Putin. It’s not going to be helpful for diplomatic relations, to put that mildly, particularly when everything was suffering, if you’ll excuse the pun, the fallout of the Aleksandr Litvinenko affair.

So, I think it depends on how the British state reacts on this one, how the Russian state reacts on this one. If both of them say OK, now the issue of Berezovsky is moot, we can move on to other things. But that’s a decision that policy makers in both capitals will have to make for themselves over the coming days.