Russian businessman Nikolai Glushkov, who was critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was found dead in New Malden in south-west London in March 2018, was strangled in his own home by a third party, a coroner has ruled.
West London Coroner’s Court heard there was evidence to suggest his death was made to look like a suicide and there had been “third-party involvement”.
Senior coroner Chinyere Inyama ruled that Mr Glushkov was unlawfully killed.
Mr Glushkov fled Russia after being accused of fraud during his time as deputy director of the Aeroflot airline, and was granted political asylum in the UK in 2010.
In 2017, during a trial in absentia, he was sentenced to eight years by a Russian court after being convicted of stealing £87 million from the airline.
Mr Glushkov, 68, had been due to attend the Commercial Court in London to defend himself on 12 March, the day his body was discovered by his daughter, Natalia.
His death came a week after the Novichok poisoning in Salisbury of the Russian former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.
Paramedic Dominic Biel told the inquest the scene of Mr Glushkov’s death was “suspicious” and recalled how his partner Denis Trushin said: “Don’t touch anything until the police come here, someone’s killed him.”
A pathology report summarised to the court said the injuries “could be consistent with a neck-hold, applied from behind, and the assailant being behind the victim”.
It added: “There is a lack of injuries to suggest prolonged grappling or restraint with the third party, and a lack of injuries of a defensive nature to the upper limbs.”
Recording his verdict, the coroner said: “From all the documentation, all the evidence gathered, Nikolai Glushkov died from an unlawful killing.”
The inquest coincided with a renewed appeal by the Met Police’s counter-terrorism unit for more information about the death.
Commander Richard Smith said over 1,800 witnesses had been contacted and more than 420 statements taken.
No arrests have been made and a motive is yet to be established, the Met said.
Mr Glushkov was a close friend of oligarch Boris Berezovsky, a vocal critic of Mr Putin, who was found hanged at his Berkshire home in 2013.
An inquest into Mr Berezovsky’s death recorded an open verdict.