Ex-Kremlin aide will answer Swiss questions if released from US jail

Pavel Borodin is suspected of money laundering Keystone

The former Kremlin property manager, Pavel Borodin, will answer Swiss investigators' money-laundering charges if released from detention in New York, according to Russia's ambassador to the United States. The Swiss justice authorities are preparing a request for Borodin's extradition from the US, where he was arrested on Thursday.

This content was published on January 20, 2001 - 11:29

Ambassador Yuri Ushakov reportedly spoke by telephone to Borodin and told him he was trying to secure his release. He later told Russian news agencies the arrested official denied all charges, and was ready to clear up and answer any questions, but only as a free man.

A US federal judge has ruled that Borodin would be held until January 25, when he is expected to appear in court.

The Russian authorities have proposed a non-extradition deal to officials in Bern on Friday.

They have aked the Swiss authorities to drop their international arrest warrant against Borodin, as well as their extradition request. In exchange, the Russian government would guarantee that Borodin would appear before a Geneva court.

There has been no official response from Swiss officials regarding the proposal, so far.

The Geneva prosecutor handling the case, Bernard Bertossa, said Borodin was under investigation for involvement in the laundering of up to $25 million (SFr41 million).

"I was officially informed by the US authorities about Borodin's arrest on Thursday," said Bertossa. "He was arrested on our international warrant [and] we will be asking the US to extradite him to Switzerland."

He added that Switzerland had 40 days to formally demand Borodin's extradition.

The former Kremlin finance chief is wanted by the Swiss justice authorities on suspicion of accepting bribes from two companies in canton Ticino, in exchange for granting lucrative contracts to renovate the Kremlin. He denies any wrongdoing.

Bertossa is probing allegations that the companies, Mabetex and Mercata, paid millions of dollars in bribes to high-ranking Kremlin officials, including Borodin and family members of the former Russian president, Boris Yeltsin.

Bertossa said the charges against Borodin centred on alleged involvement in a wider money laundering scheme worth "tens of millions of dollars".

In Moscow, the Russian Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov, summoned the US ambassador to protest against Borodin's arrest and demand his immediate release.

Borodin's lawyer in Geneva, Dominique Poncet, said that his client could not be tried in Switzerland because only Russia had jurisdiction to try a Russian citizen for corruption.

The Russian authorities dropped their own case against Borodin on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence to proceed. At the time, the decision was criticised by Russia's former chief prosecutor, Yuri Skuratov, who said it was "more about politics than justice".

Borodin was moved from his Kremlin post last year after Vladimir Putin entered office. He is currently head of a special body overseeing efforts to form union between Russia and Belarus.

swissinfo with agencies

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