"Russian Elon Musk" raped and tortured to death in custody, say experts:— Rula Jebreal (@rulajebreal) April 17, 2018
Entrepreneur Valery Pshenichny had been accused of embezzling 100m rubles (£1.1m) and told to prepare for his coffin. https://t.co/g3z3D2qaui
Reports have emerged that a Russian entrepreneur, who prison officials said had committed suicide, was raped and then tortured to death.
A lawyer for Valery Pshenichny has said forensic investigation showed signs of "electric shock burns from a water-boiler cord... in his mouth, lacerations, stab wounds and traces of sperm were found on his body... and his spine was broken," according to Russian independent newspaper, Novaya Gazeta.
In the press, Pshenichny, a computer engineer, was also known as the “Russian Elon Musk.” He headed St. Petersburg-based company “Novit Pro,” which, a lot like Musk's ventures, SpaceX and Tesla, pursues several different research and development programs .
The company was reportedly given a contract to work on the construction of military submarines for Russia's Defense Ministry. However, Pshenichny was accused of embezzling 100 million rubles (nearly $1.6 million) and was arrested in January. He was taken to a prison in St. Petersburg, where, on Feb. 6, he was found hanging inside his cell.
He was 56.
Initially, prison authorities claimed he had killed himself.
However, Pshenichny's lawyer, Larissa von Arev, claims Pshenichny's autopsy reveals his death wasn't a suicide.
State authorities have also ordered prison officials to collect DNA samples from prison guards.
“Just before his death, his widow Natalia received notes from her husband telling her ‘not to pay anyone’ and proclaimed his innocence,” von Arev said.
The Russian penitentiary service has said it is opening an investigation into Pshenichny's case.
British publication the Independent reports the entrepreneur's wife received notes from him just days before his death in which he told her that he had been the subject of extortion and also instructed her "not to pay anyone."
“This tragic story shows the fact that our rights to life and health are not guaranteed in detention,” von Arev said, according to the Independent.
Deaths in custody as a result of alleged police abuse in Russia aren't uncommon. In fact, in 2015, Maria Berezina, an investigative journalist tracked a "strange epidemic" of suspects dying in prisons. Around 200 inmates mysteriously died in Russian prisons that year, a trend Berezina likened to the deadly hemorrhagic fever.