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Exiled Georgian billionaire who feared being murdered found dead at home.

Byline: Sam Marsden, Laura May and Nathan Rees

AN EXILED Georgian billionaire who feared he would be assassinated has been found dead at his British home.

Detectives launched a major investigation after Badri Patarkatsishvili, 52, collapsed and died at his country mansion outside Leatherhead, Surrey, on Tuesday night.

His family reported that he suffered a heart attack, but Surrey Police said they would treat the death as "suspicious" until it was proved otherwise.

Mr Patarkatsishvili - Georgia's richest man, with an estimated pounds 6bn fortune - spoke recently of his fears for his life after analleged plot to murder him in London was uncovered.

One reported assassination plan was said to bear chilling similarities to the killing of ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in November 2006.

Mr Patarkatsishvili amassed his wealth during the mass privatisation of state industries in Russia during the 1990s.

He helped to finance the "rose revolution" that swept President Mikhail Saakashvili to power in Georgia in 2003, but the two men subsequently fell out.

The businessman-turned-politician was wanted in his home country on charges of plotting a coup d'etat, which he denied.

Mr Patarkatsishvili spent Tuesday in meetings in London.

He left London at 7pm and returned to his home on the outskirts of the capital. He was with close family members and other unidentified people when he collapsed and died at about 11pm.

Police said post-mortem examination results might not be returned for some time.

Mr Patarkatsishvili - who founded opposition TV channel Imedi in 2002 - backed mass street protests against Georgia's government in the capital, Tbilisi, in November. The demonstrations were violently broken up by police and Mr Patarkatsishvili left the country fearing arrest.

He unsuccessfully ran against President Saakashvili in elections last month, amid allegations of vote-rigging.

In December Mr Patarkatsishvili told the Sunday Times he did not feel safe returning to his home country.

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PLOT CLAIM Georgian billionaire Badri Patarkatsishvili toasts as he celebrates his birthday in Tbilisi, Georgia, in 2005
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Feb 14, 2008
Words:327
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