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Former Kremlin official arrested in US on Swiss warrant

Pavel Borodin is wanted in Switzerland on suspicion of money laundering Keystone Archive

A former Kremlin finance chief, Pavel Borodin, has been arrested in New York on a Swiss warrant for alleged money laundering. The Swiss prosecutor handling the case said he would ask for Borodin's extradition.

The Swiss justice ministry said Borodin had been arrested on Thursday at John F Kennedy airport, and was later scheduled to appear before a court in Manhattan.

He was reportedly in the country to attend the inauguration on Saturday of president-elect, George W Bush.

The Swiss authorities issued an arrest warrent for Borodin in January 2000 on suspicion that he had accepted bribes from two companies in canton Ticino, in exchange for granting lucrative contracts to renovate the Kremlin. He denies any wrongdoing.

The Geneva prosecutor handling the case, Bernard Bertossa, said he will shortly ask the US authorities to extradite Borodin.

Russia’s foreign ministry said it had protested to the US ambassador over Borodin’s arrest and demanded his immediate release.

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.

The Russian authorities dropped the case last month, 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”.

The boss of Mabetex, Beghjet Pacolli, has been charged in Switzerland with handing out bribes totalling $4 million (SFr6.5 million). Mercata is alleged to have given bribes worth $60 million.

Lawyers representing the two firms argue that even if bribes were paid, no crime was committed because bribery of foreign officials was not a crime under Swiss law at the time.

But the Swiss inquiry is focusing on allegations that the two companies were used by Russian officials to launder money in Switzerland.

swissinfo with agencies

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