Geneva issues arrest warrant for former Kremlin official

Swiss prosecutors have intensified their investigations into alleged high-level Russian money laundering by issuing their first international arrest warrant against a former Kremlin official, Pavel Borodin (picture).

This content was published on January 27, 2000 - 15:34

Swiss prosecutors have intensified their investigations into alleged high-level Russian money laundering by issuing their first international arrest warrant against a former Kremlin official, Pavel Borodin (picture). They are expected to issue more arrest warrants in the "Mabetex" affair soon.

The Geneva investigating magistrate in charge of the case, Daniel Devaud, confirmed reports that Borodin, the head of Russia's presidential office until earlier this month, is wanted for questioning in Switzerland. He declined to give further details.

Mr Borodin, who controlled most of Russia's state property interests under former president Boris Yeltsin, has been linked to allegations of bribery by a Swiss construction firm, Mabetex. Russian prosecutors believe the Lugano-based company paid bribes to Russian officials to secure lucrative contracts to renovate the Kremlin and other state property. Borodin and Mabetex have denied the allegations.

The French newspaper, Le Monde, reported that Swiss investigators have found evidence that the Kremlin's renovation was financed by state funds as well as the proceeds from the privatisation of state oil companies. Some of that money is said to have been siphoned off and laundered through banks and companies in Switzerland.

The international arrest warrant against Borodin is understood to have been issued late last month, a few weeks before he was dismissed when Vladimir Putin took over as Russia's acting President. On Wednesday, Borodin regained some of his political power when he was appointed to a senior post in the council of the newly established Russia-Belarus union.

Devaud hinted that news of the warrant, which first emerged in Russia, was unwelcome. "It's not in our interest to have news of an arrest warrant revealed in the press if we want to arrest the person against whom it is issued," he said.

The Mabetex investigation in canton Ticino was triggered by a request for judicial assistance from prosecutors in Moscow one year ago. Since then it has widened to Geneva, where local prosecutors have set up a separate investigation into Borodin and a list of 23 other senior figures in Russian society, including former ministers. Newspaper reports also linked Mabetex to Swiss credit cards issued to members of Boris Yelstin's family, but this has not been confirmed by investigators.

Legal sources said their suspicions were initially aroused by complex transactions involving large amounts of money passing through Swiss bank accounts.

By Peter Capella

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