Local police are investigating the death of tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili in Britain, the British embassy in Tbilisi confirmed on February 13.
“We are aware of Badri Patarkatsishvili’s death; it is now a matter for the Surrey police. No further comments,” a spokesperson for the British embassy in Tbilisi told Civil.Ge on February 13.
Patarkatsishvili had a home in Surrey, Britain, where he died.
Surrey police said it was treating his death as “suspicious.”
“As with all unexpected deaths it is being treated as suspicious,” the Times quoted a spokeswoman for the Surrey police as saying. “A post mortem will be held later today to establish the cause of death.”
News of Patarkatsishvili’s death broke early on February 13. His lawyer and political associates in Tbilisi have also confirmed that Patarkatsishvili died last night.
The cause of death still remains unknown. Nona Gaprindashvili, a political associate of Patarkatsishvili, however, told journalists in Tbilisi: “It is said that heart failure was the cause of death, but he had been feeling very well as far as I know.”
“It happened at 11 o’clock (last night) at Badri’s house outside London. As far as I know from his relatives, it was his heart,” Russian billionaire Boris Berezovsky, a friend and business partner of Patarkatsishvili, told Reuters by phone. Berezovsky said he had seen him that day, BBC reported. He was not ill but had complained about his heart, he said.
Ia Antadze, a political commentator and journalist, has suggested Patarkatsishvili’s death will have little political fall-out. She did, however, say that if foul play is suspected there may be political consequences.
“If it is confirmed that there was no foul play, then nothing will change on the Georgian political landscape,” she told Civil.Ge on February 13. “He [Patarkatsishvili] failed to establish himself in Georgian politics to the extent that his departure woud have any major consequences. He also failed to establish a strong political party and, especially since the closure of Imedi TV, he had actually been out of the game.”
Meanwhile, a lawmaker from the ruling party, Nazi Aronia, told the Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) on February 13 that Patarkatsishvili’s death would be “a serious loss for the united opposition,” especially from a financial point of view.
The authorities have long alleged that the opposition was linked to Patarkatsishvili, with the media tycoon bankrolling them.
The nine-party opposition coalition, however, has always vehemently denied accepting any money from Patarkatsishvili. In particular, it tried to distance itself from Patarkatsishvili after the authorities released compromising video and audio tapes implicating him and his allies in an alleged coup plot.
Some politicians from Our Georgia Party, which was set up by Patarkatsishvili supporters, have, meanwhile, said they suspect foul play in Patarkatsishvili’s death. “It was murder,” Davit Shukakidze of Our Georgia Party said. “An investigation is on [in Britain] and everything will become clear.”
Salome Zourabichvili, the leader of the Georgia’s Way Party, part of the nine-party opposition coalition, also said it was hard not to suspect foul play.
Others opposition politicians were more reserved. “It is very hard to speculate now, when there is no official conclusions available from the police and investigators,” MP Kakha Kukava of the Conservative Party, also part of the nine-party opposition coalition said.
“I am not in a position to speak about the cause of death,” MP Davit Gamkrelidze, the leader of the New Rights Party, said. “Georgia has lost a very good patriot.”
Giorgi Targamadze, a former leading journalist at Imedi TV, who now leads the newly set up Christian-Democratic Party, said he had spoken with Patarkatsishvili on the phone a month ago. He said he hadn’t complained about health problems. “The last time we spoke, he said he’d had a medical check-up, which had revealed no health problems, especially regarding his heart,” Targamadze said.