London: Hans Kristian Rausing, whose father made billions selling his stake in the Tetra Pak drinks-carton empire, has been charged in London with preventing the lawful burial of his American-born wife's body, British police said Tuesday.
While no cause of death has been established, the charge against Rausing — amid reports in British media that Eva Rausing's body lay in the couple's home for days — adds an element of the macabre to an already tragic story of a couple who struggled publicly with drugs while donating millions to anti-addiction charities.
Eva Rausing's body was found in the couple's luxury townhouse in an upscale London neighborhood on 9 July after police went to search the home following her husband's arrest on suspicion of drug possession.
Hans Kristian Rausing, 49, was then arrested in connection with the death, too, though police have said detectives are treating the death as "unexplained" pending the results of further tests after an initial autopsy was inconclusive.
British police said late on Tuesday night that Hans Kristian Rausing, who has been receiving medical treatment since his arrest, had been charged with "preventing the lawful and decent burial of the body of Eva Rausing on or before" his detention on July 9.
The charge is a common law offense in Britain, which means there is no maximum sentence if convicted. Hans Kristian Rausing could in theory face life imprisonment, though recent cases involving similar charges in the U.K. have seen shorter sentences of several years.
His family — which is worth an estimated 4.3 billion pounds ($6.7 billion) — was not commenting on the charge nor were his in-laws, the Kemeny family, according to Charlotte Offredi, whose public-relations firm Pelham Bell Pottinger is representing both families.
Just hours before police announced the charge, the Kemeny family had released a statement through the public relations firm referring to Hans Kristian Rausing in the warmest of terms and emphasizing the positive aspects of his long marriage to Eva Rausing, their daughter.
Tom Kemeny, a former Pepsi executive, said in the statement that his daughter had returned to the British capital to try to persuade her husband to join her in drug treatment in the US.
"At the time of her death her over-riding concern was for the safety of her beloved husband, for whom she interrupted her own treatment to return to London in an attempt to take him back with her to California, but tragically to no avail," he said in the statement.
The couple's struggles with addiction — long known to their close friends and family — became widely known in 2008 when Eva Rausing was caught trying to smuggle crack cocaine and heroin into the U.S. Embassy in London in her handbag.
Police later found more drugs, including a sizeable amount of cocaine, in a search of the couple's townhouse and the two were charged with drug possession.
Prosecutors later agreed to drop the charges in exchange for formal police warnings when the couple — who gave millions to anti-addiction charities — admitted guilt.
Before the embassy arrest, Eva Rausing's good looks and beautiful clothes — along with her husband and his friendly, bear-like countenance — had made the Rausings, who had married shortly after they met in the 1980s, welcome participants on the London philanthropic scene.
In the family statement released Tuesday, Eva Rausing's father paid tribute to his "beautiful, generous, and fun daughter" while noting the lengthy battle she and her husband, parents to four children, fought with addiction.
"Eva and Hans Kristian were a devoted and loving couple for the 21 years they spent together," Kemeny wrote. "They bravely battled their demons and supported each other."
Kemeny stressed his daughter's dedication to philanthropy and charities fighting addiction, and said that "even in the depths of her despair" she put others first.
"Eva and Hans Kristian 'saved' thousands of lives — tragically not her own," he wrote. "This is a stark reminder that the illness of addiction knows no social class or gender."
Kemeny called Hans Kristian Rausing a "son," whom "we love unconditionally with all our hearts."
Hans Kristian Rausing, who had been receiving medical treatment since his arrest, will appear in custody at West London Magistrates' Court on Wednesday.
His father has a net worth net worth estimated at 4.3 billion pounds ($6.7 billion) from the sale of his stake in the Tetra Pak milk-carton packaging company.