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Tycoon Won't Return to Russia for Questioning in Inquiry

November 16, 2000|From Times Wire Services

MOSCOW — Russian tycoon and former Kremlin insider Boris A. Berezovsky refused to show up for questioning by Moscow prosecutors Wednesday, saying he will choose exile rather than face a criminal case he says was fabricated on political orders.

Prosecutors summoned Berezovsky in an investigation into whether he channeled $970 million in sales from Russia's national airline, Aeroflot, through two Swiss companies, Andava and Forus Services. Prosecutors warned beforehand that he may be charged in the case.

In an open letter published in Russian newspapers Wednesday, Berezovsky wrote from an unspecified location abroad that he had made a "painful" decision to ignore the prosecutors' summons.

"They force me to choose between becoming a political prisoner or political emigre," Berezovsky said. He denied wrongdoing.

The Kremlin declined comment.

Berezovsky controls property in Russia ranging from news media to oil companies. His close ties to former President Boris N. Yeltsin led him to be dubbed one of Russia's top "oligarchs," businessmen who amassed fortunes in dubious privatization deals after the 1991 Soviet collapse and used their Kremlin connections to advance their interests.

In choosing exile, Berezovsky joined his archrival, media magnate Vladimir A. Gusinsky, who ignored a summons in a separate case Monday. Gusinsky's lawyer said he was "in Europe."

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