Tycoon tells of plot to kill him in London

Author : Laurentiu Nedianu | Monday, December 31, 2007
Posted in category Kavkaz, Kavkaz Press
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6_1.jpgA BILLIONAIRE businessman living in Britain fears he has been targeted in an assassination plot being planned in the former Soviet republic of Georgia.
Badri Patarkatsishvili, Georgia’s richest man who is running for the country’s presidency next month, was to be murdered in London, according to one option said to have been discussed with his would-be assassin.

The oligarch’s fears are supported by a covertly recorded audio-tape of a conversation said to have taken place between the intended hitman and an official from the Georgian interior ministry.

The plot is a chilling echo of the murder in London last year of the former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko. 

A second option was to kill Patarkatsishvili as he flew in his private plane to a castle he owns in southern Georgia.

The tycoon has retained the services of a London firm of lawyers that employs Lord Goldsmith, the former attorney-general. Police are to be informed of the alleged plot. Goldsmith, who has travelled several times to Georgia on behalf of the tycoon, said yesterday he was aware of the tape.

However, he emphasised he had not heard the tape and could not therefore vouch for its authenticity. “I know that this is a matter which Mr Patarkatsishvili takes very seriously. I do believe that he has given instructions for the police to be notified,” Goldsmith said.

Patarkatsishvili, who owns a £10m mansion in Leatherhead, Surrey, is said by friends to have a fortune of at least £6 billion.

Yesterday he said he was alerted to the plot against him 10 days ago. Asked whether he felt safe in Britain, he replied: “I know about this tape and I was told it was very serious. I have 120 bodyguards but I know that’s not enough. I don’t feel safe anywhere and that is why I’m particularly not going to Georgia.

“I was told that about six or eight weeks ago four people from Georgia came to London and stayed with [a Georgian individual] in London. I was told these people had been sent to do something against me.”

The tycoon is standing as the main opposition candidate to President Mikhail Saakashvili in January’s elections. He helped finance the so-called “rose revolution” that swept Saakashvili to power four years ago.

The two men have since fallen out. Their enmity was underlined last month when Georgian special forces stormed the studios of the Imedi TV station after it broadcast criticism of the president. The station was founded by Patarkatsishvili; News Corporation, which also owns The Sunday Times, manages it.

There were widespread protests against the government in which opposition members were arrested and more than 600 people taken to hospital in the ensuing violence. The government imposed a state of emergency, which has since been lifted.

Friends of the oligarch, who include his former business partner Boris Berezovsky, say the 14-minute tape reveals how a senior Georgian security official commissioned a Chechen warlord to carry out the plot.

According to well-informed sources, the warlord speaking on the tape is Uvais Akhmadov, a member of a notorious gang of Chechen brothers who specialised in kidnapping and murder.

The same gang was allegedly involved in the beheading of three British telecommunications engineers and a New Zealander in 1998. The victims’ severed heads were found by the roadside in Chechnya.

The Sunday Times has heard a copy of the tape which Akhmadov is said to have made covertly while being visited in June last year by a senior Georgian official from the interior ministry.

In it, the official refers to the Georgian tycoon by name and says he has created a power base in the republic and represents “a political problem”.

“It’s now a political issue . . . We’ll be able to deal with him – that’s not a problem. Even if he has 100 people guarding him, well that’s not a problem. Our issue is such that we’ll destroy these guards,” he said.

The official then explains that Georgia does not want to be seen to be involved in an assassination abroad. He adds: “And because of that I called you. This person is very frequently in London, constantly. In a month he’ll spend two weeks there, two weeks in Israel.”

“I’ve been given a clear order to check whether there is the possibility on your side to help us in this business . . . Money has been set aside for this – big money. Well, however much is needed . . . We want this person to disappear completely, with his escorts, with everything. So that everyone basically disappears.”

The official then outlines a second option of how Patarkatsishvili could be killed. “There are several variants. He’s got his own plane, and his own helicopter. When he moves from Tbilisi to Batumi, he usually uses his plane . . . A plan could be constructed in such a way to do it professionally, leave as few traces as possible . . .

“Whoever was to do this . . . we want to be able to explain to the people in Georgia that it was Russia.” The warlord then replies: “I understand.”

Despite his apparent willingness to go along with the plan, Akhmadov decided he wanted nothing to do with it. He is said to have tipped off the tycoon’s allies about the tape.

Patarkatsishvili was brought up by Jewish parents in Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, where he owns the Wedding Palace, a famous secular cathedral which is now one of his homes. He amassed his fortune during the privatisation of state industries in Russia during the 1990s.

Patarkatsishvili, who is married with children, said he would not be intimidated. “I will not stop opposition to this criminal regime. [They want to harm me] because they see me as a serious opponent and I used to be close to them and therefore know everything about their crimes. Everyone is telling me to be careful these days.”

The Georgian embassy said it was impossible to comment on the allegations without hearing the tape. But a spokesman said the alleged plot “sounded like a conspiracy theory which is most probably designed to boost a presidential candidate’s profile” .

Listen to the tape (in Russian only)

Additional reporting: Mark Franchetti in Moscow

A BILLIONAIRE businessman living in Britain fears he has been targeted in an assassination plot being planned in the former Soviet republic of Georgia.

Badri Patarkatsishvili, Georgia’s richest man who is running for the country’s presidency next month, was to be murdered in London, according to one option said to have been discussed with his would-be assassin.

The oligarch’s fears are supported by a covertly recorded audio-tape of a conversation said to have taken place between the intended hitman and an official from the Georgian interior ministry.

The plot is a chilling echo of the murder in London last year of the former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko.

A second option was to kill Patarkatsishvili as he flew in his private plane to a castle he owns in southern Georgia.

The tycoon has retained the services of a London firm of lawyers that employs Lord Goldsmith, the former attorney-general. Police are to be informed of the alleged plot. Goldsmith, who has travelled several times to Georgia on behalf of the tycoon, said yesterday he was aware of the tape.

However, he emphasised he had not heard the tape and could not therefore vouch for its authenticity. “I know that this is a matter which Mr Patarkatsishvili takes very seriously. I do believe that he has given instructions for the police to be notified,” Goldsmith said.
Patarkatsishvili, who owns a £10m mansion in Leatherhead, Surrey, is said by friends to have a fortune of at least £6 billion.

Yesterday he said he was alerted to the plot against him 10 days ago. Asked whether he felt safe in Britain, he replied: “I know about this tape and I was told it was very serious. I have 120 bodyguards but I know that’s not enough. I don’t feel safe anywhere and that is why I’m particularly not going to Georgia.

“I was told that about six or eight weeks ago four people from Georgia came to London and stayed with [a Georgian individual] in London. I was told these people had been sent to do something against me.”

The tycoon is standing as the main opposition candidate to President Mikhail Saakashvili in January’s elections. He helped finance the so-called “rose revolution” that swept Saakashvili to power four years ago.

The two men have since fallen out. Their enmity was underlined last month when Georgian special forces stormed the studios of the Imedi TV station after it broadcast criticism of the president. The station was founded by Patarkatsishvili; News Corporation, which also owns The Sunday Times, manages it.

There were widespread protests against the government in which opposition members were arrested and more than 600 people taken to hospital in the ensuing violence. The government imposed a state of emergency, which has since been lifted.

Friends of the oligarch, who include his former business partner Boris Berezovsky, say the 14-minute tape reveals how a senior Georgian security official commissioned a Chechen warlord to carry out the plot.

According to well-informed sources, the warlord speaking on the tape is Uvais Akhmadov, a member of a notorious gang of Chechen brothers who specialised in kidnapping and murder.

The same gang was allegedly involved in the beheading of three British telecommunications engineers and a New Zealander in 1998. The victims’ severed heads were found by the roadside in Chechnya.

The Sunday Times has heard a copy of the tape which Akhmadov is said to have made covertly while being visited in June last year by a senior Georgian official from the interior ministry.

In it, the official refers to the Georgian tycoon by name and says he has created a power base in the republic and represents “a political problem”.

“It’s now a political issue . . . We’ll be able to deal with him – that’s not a problem. Even if he has 100 people guarding him, well that’s not a problem. Our issue is such that we’ll destroy these guards,” he said.

The official then explains that Georgia does not want to be seen to be involved in an assassination abroad. He adds: “And because of that I called you. This person is very frequently in London, constantly. In a month he’ll spend two weeks there, two weeks in Israel.”

“I’ve been given a clear order to check whether there is the possibility on your side to help us in this business . . . Money has been set aside for this – big money. Well, however much is needed . . . We want this person to disappear completely, with his escorts, with everything. So that everyone basically disappears.”

The official then outlines a second option of how Patarkatsishvili could be killed. “There are several variants. He’s got his own plane, and his own helicopter. When he moves from Tbilisi to Batumi, he usually uses his plane . . . A plan could be constructed in such a way to do it professionally, leave as few traces as possible . . .

“Whoever was to do this . . . we want to be able to explain to the people in Georgia that it was Russia.” The warlord then replies: “I understand.”

Despite his apparent willingness to go along with the plan, Akhmadov decided he wanted nothing to do with it. He is said to have tipped off the tycoon’s allies about the tape.

Patarkatsishvili was brought up by Jewish parents in Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, where he owns the Wedding Palace, a famous secular cathedral which is now one of his homes. He amassed his fortune during the privatisation of state industries in Russia during the 1990s.

Patarkatsishvili, who is married with children, said he would not be intimidated. “I will not stop opposition to this criminal regime. [They want to harm me] because they see me as a serious opponent and I used to be close to them and therefore know everything about their crimes. Everyone is telling me to be careful these days.”

The Georgian embassy said it was impossible to comment on the allegations without hearing the tape. But a spokesman said the alleged plot “sounded like a conspiracy theory which is most probably designed to boost a presidential candidate’s profile” .

Source: The Sunday Times

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