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Russian prosecutor travels to Switzerland for corruption probe

(AP) -- A Russian prosecutor looking into possible Kremlin corruption flew to Switzerland on Monday to examine documents and consult with his Swiss counterparts, a news report said.

(AP) — A Russian prosecutor looking into possible Kremlin corruption flew to Switzerland on Monday to examine documents and consult with his Swiss counterparts, a news report said.

Prosecutor Nikolai Volkov was expected to spend about ten days in Switzerland investigating whether a Swiss company that renovated the Kremlin paid bribes to senior Russian officials, the Interfax news agency reported.

The case is just one of several scandals in Russia that allegedly link prominent political or business figures to corruption.

However, it has not been tied to another emerging scandal that has linked several Russians to suspected money laundering at the Bank of New York.

In the Swiss case, Russia requested help to determine whether the Swiss firm Mabetex paid bribes to Russian officials, and Volkov was to receive a report on the findings.

The Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera claimed last week that Swiss investigators had found evidence showing payments of more than $1 million to bank accounts allegedly controlled by a Kremlin official.

Mabetex and Kremlin officials have denied any wrongdoing.

But in Moscow on Monday, the prosecutor who had been investigating the Mabetex case before Volkov took it over said “at least 90 percent of what has been published (about the affair) is true” and investigators have documents to prove it.

Georgy Chuglazov, who remains deputy head of administration at the Prosecutor General’s office, did not elaborate. His comments were carried on Russian television.

He said top Yeltsin aides had been questioned, but reiterated that no one had been charged.

“The existence of bank accounts, including in foreign banks, is not a crime. It’s another matter if we establish that the funds were obtained in an illegal way,” he said.

Switzerland is also cooperating with Russia in an investigation into whether money belonging to the state-run Aeroflot airline was misappropriated.

Swiss authorities froze bank accounts following the Russian request for legal assistance, Dominique Reymond, spokesman for the federal prosecutor’s office, said last month.

Authorities have not named any people under investigation, but Russian media reports have linked the inquiry to business tycoon and Kremlin insider Boris Berezovsky.

Swiss prosecutors last month seized a large quantity of documents during searches of two firms named by the Swiss media as Andava and Forus Services.

Russian investigators suspect that Berezovsky set up Andava and Forus Service to hide $250 million of Aeroflot’s hard-currency earnings outside Russia. Berezovsky has denied the accusations.

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