A self-exiled Russian tycoon said on Sunday he believed his mother, found dead in her Moscow apartment, was murdered.
Flamboyant former mobile phone retailer Yevgeny Chichvarkin, fighting extradition from London to Moscow, contradicted official reports of a domestic accident after Lyudmila Chichvarkina was found dead with a head injury on Saturday.
“I think it was a murder. The whole apartment is stained with blood. My father saw it and our housemaid also saw it,” Chichvarkin told Russian News Service radio station.
“I’m not accusing anyone, I don’t have any grounds for that,” Chichvarkin told the radio station, with an audible tremble in his voice.
Russian prosecutors have charged Chichvarkin with extortion and kidnapping while part of an organised criminal group. Chichvarkin denies the charges, which are linked to his former business empire, and has said in the past he would be killed if he returned to Russia.
Known for wearing brightly coloured clothes to business meetings, Chichvarkin expanded his Euroset mobile phone retail chain from two to 5,000 stores in less than a decade, making it one of Russia’s biggest mobile phone retailers.
In 2008, he sold his 50 percent stake in the company, whose bright yellow stores pepper high streets across Russia, and moved to London with his family.
Russian law enforcement agencies on Sunday told Russian news agencies that Chichvarkina, aged 60, had slipped and hit her temple on the corner of a table.
“The woman tripped on a tile in the kitchen, the apartment door was locked from the inside,” Interfax news agency quoted an unnamed source in the law enforcement agencies as saying.
The Russian Prosecutor’s Office Investigative Committee said it was conducting an inquiry but had found no signs of a crime.
“If there are signs of foul play, a criminal case will be launched. If Chichvarkin’s mother’s death was the result of natural causes, the criminal case will be rejected,” Interfax quoted the Anatoly Bagmet, the head of the Investigative Committee’s Moscow office as saying.
A British court has delayed hearing a Russian request to extradite the retail tycoon until next August but should Chichvarkin return to Russia for his mother’s funeral, he faces arrest.
Chichvarkin could be the first person to be extradited from Britain to Russia if he loses his legal battle, though Moscow has repeatedly also demanded the return of prominent figures such as Kremlin critic Boris Berezovsky.
(Reporting by Conor Sweeney; Editing by Jon Hemming)