'King of Shadows' Poisoned
Published: September 28, 2004 (Issue # 1007)
A prominent St. Petersburg businessman and former bodyguard to President Vladimir Putin, died in suspicious circumstances in the city's Sverdlov Hospital on Friday.
Roman Tsepov, 42, director of elite bodyguard agency Baltic-Escort, was admitted to the hospital a fortnight earlier with symptoms of severe food poisoning, which daily became worse.
Doctors were unable to prevent the poison from affecting bone marrow and producing symptoms of radiation sickness, which ultimately led to Tsepov's death. The businessman was due to be moved to a clinic in Germany for further treatment Saturday, but it was too late.
He was buried Monday in the city's Serafimovskoye cemetery.
What the poison was and how it was administered to Tsepov are unknown and have become the subjects of speculation.
Some media sources reported Tsepov was poisoned by a giant dose of a medical drug typically used to treat leukemia and some other forms of cancer - which the businessman didn't suffer from - while other publications suggest he was intoxicated by an experimental poison, containing huge quantities of heavy metals.
No official statements about he origin of the toxic agent have yet been available from the city prosecutor's office.
Yelena Ordynskaya, spokeswoman for the City Prosecutor's Office, said investigators are trying to identify the poison.
"Forensic experts are carrying out a series of tests to establish the origins of the poison," Ordynskaya said Monday. "The prosecutor's office is investigating the death as a case of premeditated murder, which is Article 105 (part one) of the Criminal Code."
The investigation is also trying to establish when Tsepov was infected with the poison. It has been suggested that the businessman could have ingested the poison in a powder or liquid form while eating a meal. Local Internet newspaper Fontanka.ru reported the investigators already have a full record of Tsepov's movements on Sept. 10 and 11.
Tsepov was born in St. Petersburg in 1962. After graduating from the Supreme Military Commander School of the Russian Interior Ministry, he served with the interior troops.
In the early 1990s, Tsepov launched his first security business. By the mid-1990s he was running a security firm that provided bodyguard services to then mayor Anatoly Sobchak and key members of his administration, including Putin, who was then a deputy to Sobchak. Pages: