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Russian Mogul Charged With Money Laundering

April 27, 1999|From Associated Press

MOSCOW — Business tycoon Boris Berezovsky was charged with money laundering and barred from leaving Moscow after being grilled for several hours by prosecutors Monday.

Berezovsky, linked to several political intrigues in recent years, has been clashing with Prime Minister Yevgeny M. Primakov and fighting to preserve his financial empire. Berezovsky says that he is innocent and that the charges are "utterly wrong."

The Russian mogul said the investigation is politically motivated and is being carried out with the blessing of Primakov.

"Primakov's spirit is behind all that--the spirit of arrests and bans," Berezovsky said after questioning.

Officials rescinded a warrant for Berezovsky's arrest after he agreed to return from France for questioning, but upon arriving in Moscow a week ago he checked into a hospital with back pain.

Berezovsky left the hospital Monday to answer questions from prosecutors for the first time.

He was allowed to go free several hours later but was charged with money laundering, unlawful entrepreneurship and engagement in business activities while on government service, the Itar-Tass news agency reported, citing Berezovsky's lawyer Genri Reznik.

Prosecutors also made Berezovsky sign a pledge that he would not leave Moscow, which he promised to challenge.

"That creates an impression that they don't trust me, that I may run away," he said.

Prosecutors are investigating allegations that Berezovsky used a Swiss company, Andava, to illegally transfer $250 million in hard currency earnings from Russia's largest airline, Aeroflot.

Reznik called the accusations vague and urged the prosecutors to spell them out.

Media reports have said Berezovsky has a stake in Aeroflot, but he claims he has no such links. He says little about his business empire, but reports have said it includes automobile, oil and media holdings.

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