Thousands pay respects at Georgian tycoon’s burial

r.jpgTBILISI – Several thousand Georgians paid their last respects on Thursday to the country’s richest man, Badri Patarkatsishvili, in a low key funeral ceremony which his most well-known business partner did not attend.

Patarkatsishvili’s widow Inna, his two daughters and his mother were joined by leading opposition figures for the service at his large home on the outskirts of Tbilisi.

Patarkatsishvili’s former business partner, Russian businessman and Kremlin critic Boris Berezovksy was absent. Berezovsky’s wife did attend.

Berezovsky, wanted in Russia on corruption charges that he says are politically motivated, had said he would attend if he received a visa despite fears that Georgia would act on the Russian-issued international arrest warrant for him.

Berezovsky lives in self-imposed exile in Britain.

Patarkatsishvili, a billionaire opponent of Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, died suddenly this month at his palatial estate near London. Police initially treated the death as suspicious, but have found no evidence of foul play.

Patarkatsishvili had lived in Britain since late last year. Georgian authorities issued an arrest warrant against him, accusing him of plotting a coup against the president.

He ran as a candidate in Georgia’s presidential election on January 5, winning about 7 percent of the vote, but did not campaign in his homeland for fear of detention.

There was no representation from the Georgian government at the funeral. Patarkatsishvili was a driving force behind a series of opposition protests late last year. He was wanted in Georgia on charges of plotting a coup.

Between two and three thousand Georgians also turned out to pay their respects, estimated a Reuters witness.

“Badri did a lot for our country. He was helping many people, it’s a very big loss for all of us,” Manana Chkuaseli, a local woman in her 50s said.

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