The prime suspect in the murder of Alexander Litvinenko once tried to frame the Russian exile who was found ‘strangled’ in his London home yesterday, it has emerged.
Ex-KGB man Andrey Lugovoy – widely suspected of killing Litvinenko – tried to bust Nikolai Glushkov out of prison in 2001. The plan, apparently hatched by Glushkov’s enemies, was that the businessman would be caught escaping and made to serve a longer jail sentence.
The plot failed and it was Lugovoy who was jailed for 14 months. The bizarre connection emerged as Glushkov was found dead with ‘strangulation marks’ around his neck at his house in New Malden yesterday.
Ex-KGB man Andrey Lugovoy, widely suspected of killing Alexander Litvinenko, tried to bust Nikolai Glushkov out of prison in 2001
The plot flopped and it was Lugovoy who was jailed for 14 months. It was an apparent attempt by the Russian security to keep Glushkov behind bars for longer
Glushkov was serving time over allegations he embezzled £87million while in charge of Russian airline Aeroflot.
Glushkov denies that he tried to escape from prison, and claims that the plan was dreamt up by the FSB and Lugovoy to keep him behind bars for longer.
Dissident Glushkov was discovered by his family late on Monday night at his suburban home in New Malden.
Police say his death is being treated as ‘unexplained’ and have taken the unusual step of putting counter-terrorism officers in charge of the investigation.
Nikolai Glushkov arriving at the High Court annex on October 18, 2011, wearing a pink dickie bow. He was found dead at his New Malden home in London
A private ambulance surrounded by police officers and with its back doors open arrives at the home of Nikolai Glushkov
The Russian newspaper Kommersant has reported that the 68-year-old was found by his daughter and had ‘strangulation’ marks on his neck. The paper also suggested the death could be suicide.
Glushkov was a businessman in Russia after the fall of Communism and had been a close associate of oligarch Boris Berezovsky, who was forced to flee Moscow after falling out with Vladimir Putin.
Glushkov was jailed in 2004 over claims of financial impropriety when he was in charge of Russian airline Aeroflot.
A private ambulance – a Volkswagen Transporter – is seen leaving the home of Russian exile Nikolai Glushkov tonight
Police are treating the death of Nikolai Glushkov, a Russian exile and former associate of the late oligarch Boris Berezovsky, as unexplained
Glushkov was a close associate of Boris Berezovsky (right), who fell out with Vladimir Putin and fled Russia. Mr Berezovsky was himself later found dead at his Berkshire mansion. The circumstances of his death are being reviewed
He later said he was told at the time that he would be killed on his way to court, saying: ‘I was told the way it would happen. I would be run over by a truck.’
His friend Mr Berezovsky fled to London and they met up again when Glushkov was freed from prison five years later and also came to Britain. He was granted political asylum in 2010.
Mr Berezovsky was himself found dead on a bathroom floor at his home in southern England in 2013 with a scarf around his neck.
A coroner concluded it was impossible to establish whether the oligarch was killed or committed suicide.
A police officer stands guard as two forensic investigators leave the property in New Malden with two cases
A police forensics tent has been set up outside his home in the London suburb of New Malden
A forensic officer walks towards the police cordon (left), while another officer carries items taken from the home
Mr Berezovsky’s death is one of 14 which will be reexamined in the wake of the nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal nine days ago.
Russian media reported that Glushkov was granted political asylum in Britain in 2010.
Last year, Glushkov appeared on a list published by the Russian Embassy in London of Russians wanted for serious crimes whom the UK had refused to extradite.
It said Russia had sought his extradition in 2015 ‘for committing a number of severe financial offences on the territory of Russia,’ but the British government refused.
Mr Glushkov, who was godfather to one of Mr Berezovsky’s children, did not believe his friend had taken his own life and made a number of public statements insisting the oligarch had been killed.
The Met Police have taken the unusual step of putting anti-terror police in charge of the probe
Police have said the death is ‘unexplained’ but have played, adding: ‘There is no evidence to suggest a link to the incident in Salisbury’
He said the tycoon’s former wife noticed marks on his neck minutes after he was found dead, adding: ‘A scarf was there. There were traces of him being strangled around the neck.’
He later told The Guardian: ‘Too many deaths [of Russian emigres] have been happening.’
Mr Glushkov also gave evidence in the high profile court battle between Berezovsky and Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich in London in 2011. At the time it was the biggest money private court case in history.
In a witness statement, Mr Berezovsky described Glushkov as a ‘treasured friend and trusted business associate’.
He stated: ‘The relationship I have with Nikolai is far more important than any amount of money.’
The private ambulance squeezes by a police van and some parked cars to leave the cordoned-off house tonight
Glushkov spent five years in jail in Russia before being freed and claiming asylum in Britain
Mr Berezovsky – who lost the case – claimed Mr Abramovich had used his influence with Putin to keep Glushkov in jail while negiotiating a shares deal. Mr Abramovich disputed those claims.
Glushkov’s death came a week and a day after fellow Russian exile Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were critically injured in a nerve agent attack in Salisbury.
A blue police evidence tent was in place outside Mr Glushkov’s home in New Malden this afternoon.
A neighbour who lived next door to the Russian exile told how she had dinner with him shortly after he moved in around four years ago.
Mr Glushkov told her to ‘appreciate democracy’ when he invited her into his home.
She said Nikolai Glushkov, 68, had recently undergone an operation on his leg which doctors were said to be considering amputating.
The view from a neighbour’s window showed the exile’s home as sparse with few possessions.
Officers remove items from an address in New Malden which has been sealed-off by police
He is understood to have lived alone with his dog.
A close friend of Glushkov, who asked not to be named, said: ‘He was such a lovely man.
‘He had a very bad leg and recently had a big operation, but he was improving and said soon he would be going round without his stick and walking properly.
‘He was in a lot of pain with it. He told me he had heart problems too, he used to go to Kingston Hospital and St George’s in Tooting.
He said that he was told he would be killed shortly before he was jailed for financial crimes in Russia in 2000. He fled to England on his release and claimed political asylum
His friend Damian Kudryavstev posted this tribute on Facebook earlier today
‘The police banged on my door at 3.30am this morning and asked if I had heard of seen anything, if I had seen anyone going round.
‘The police said there has been an incident and wouldn’t say much more.’
Mr Glushkov’s friend said his daughter would regularly visit with a man she believed to be her husband, but that he lived by himself.
The 65-year-old added: ‘I was round for dinner with him when he first moved in and he mentioned to me that we should ‘appreciate democracy’ more.
‘He never went into any detail, we were talking about countries and he was telling me about his home in Georgia which has wonderful wildlife.
A forensics officer ducks below the cordon which is being held up by police as reporters gather beyond the sealed-off area
Glushkov (right in recent years and, left, during his time in Russia) was jailed in absentia in Russia last year over allegations of financial irregularities
‘I never knew what his job was, I knew he did not want much.
‘He was such a nice fellow, dinner was just the two of us.
‘His house was very nice and he used to have a woman who came round to do the cleaning.
‘He definitely wasn’t doing badly, he came from a good family.’
Police and ambulance crews rushed to the home of the Russian exile late on Monday night to respond to calls they received.
Officers knocked on a friend and next door neighbour’s door at 3am and asked if she had seen anyone coming or going from the Russian’s house.
A New Malden resident close to Mr Glushkov added: ‘His birthday was Christmas Eve and we popped in for a glass of wine, he used to have a lot of people over.
The address in New Malden which has been sealed off by police after Russian businessman Nikolai Glushkov, a close friend of Putin critic Boris Berezovsky, has been found dead
‘It was a Russian house, all brown furniture.
‘He told me he was from Georgia and always said how beautiful it was.’
She continued: ‘He never mentioned his work – he was intelligent and very well-mannered. He had very good English.
‘He was very generous and friendly. At Christmas he gave us beautiful champagne.’
She said he had an operation a few months ago on one of his legs for arthritis.
‘He didn’t go out much because of his illnesses, he had something wrong with his heart and had a few strokes,’ she added.
Another neighbour, who did not want to be named, said: ‘He used to say hello in the street and he came to give our children gifts at Christmas, he was a nice man.
‘I think he lived on his own, he lived there for about two years but we didn’t see him regularly, just occasionally when he was putting the rubbish out and things like that.
‘I didn’t notice anything last night, we didn’t hear anything but there are two tents in the garden.
‘I don’t think I’ve seen him in the last week or so, I hadn’t noticed him, but I don’t know what’s happened – the police said they are still searching and there are lots of police cars.’
A woman who lives across the street said Nikolai used to visit her shop ‘a long time ago’ but that she didn’t know him.
She said: ‘There were five or six police cars this morning about six o’clock, it’s right across the street from us.
‘I didn’t really know the man, I’ve seen him and we used to see him out with his dog but that’s it.
‘He sometimes came in our shop many years ago, by the triangle, but I don’t remember what he looked like. I’m really shocked that this has happened in our street.’