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Geneva prosecutor plays down Russian businessman's demands

Geneva's cantonal prosecutor, Bernard Bertossa, has indicated that the Russian businessman Sergei Mikhailov should scale down his demand for SFr800,000 in damages from the canton following an unsuccessful prosecution.

This content was published on January 20, 2000 - 16:54

Geneva's cantonal prosecutor, Bernard Bertossa, has indicated that the Russian businessman Sergei Mikhailov should scale down his demand for SFr800,000 in damages from the canton following an unsuccessful prosecution.

Speaking at the Swiss Press Club in Geneva, Bertossa said the claim from Mikhailov's lawyer was much too high.

"Of course everyone acquitted by a court is entitled to a damages claim but this demand is 80 times more than the maximum permitted under Geneva law. I've never seen damages paid that high," Bertossa said.

Mikhailov spent two years in jail before a Geneva court acquitted him in 1998 of leading a mafia group and unlawful residence in Switzerland.

In a separate development, Bertossa told journalists that Swiss investigations into allegations of high-level Russian money laundering were moving forward but operations under check were " extremely complex".

Swiss officials are helping Russian prosecutors investigate allegations of widespread corruption and kickbacks reaching to the family and associates of the former Russian President, Boris Yeltsin.

One case involves the Mabetex company of Lugano which was raided by Swiss authorities in connection with suspicions that several Russian officials received "a great deal of money" for helping the firm receive contracts for renovating the Kremlin.

The Kremlin and Mabetex have denied that any wrongdoing.

"What I can say is that they are extremely complex operations, that suspicions of payments of commissions to people close to the centre of power in Moscow aren't limited to the Mabetex affair...but other companies took part in activities of a similar nature," Bertossa said.

In a separate investigation, Swiss authorities in September froze SFr26 million in bank accounts suspected of being linked to allegations that Russian businesses and individuals illegally relayed billions of dollars through the Bank of New York.

By Robert Brookes




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