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Yukos investigation leads to Switzerland

Yukos boss Mikhail Khodorkovsky was jailed in Russia last October Keystone Archive

Swiss police carried out simultaneous raids on companies across Switzerland on Thursday in connection with a Russian probe into the oil giant Yukos.

Officers and investigators searched homes, seized documents and carried out interviews in the cities of Zurich and Geneva, as well as in cantons Fribourg and Schwyz.

The Federal Police Office declined to name the companies involved or give details of what was found.

In a statement, the Office said the documents seized and other evidence would be made available to Russian investigators as part of international judicial aid procedures.

Request for assistance

Officials said the investigation was authorised after receiving a request for international judicial assistance last August from Russian authorities investigating the embattled oil company.

They cited suspicions of membership of a criminal organisation, abuse of confidence, fraud and tax fraud.

The request named individuals the Russian authorities allege were involved in the fraudulent trade in oil and oil products, and said money from illegal deals was being passed through Swiss companies and bank accounts.

Tax evasion

The former head of Yukos, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was jailed in Russia last October on charges of tax evasion and fraud.

Observers claim the probe that led to the arrest is a Kremlin-directed effort to punish Khodorkovsky – Russia’s richest man – for funding opposition political parties.

Swiss police said they had agreed with the Russian authorities that no further details about the latest investigations would be made public.

Thursday’s raids come less than four months after Switzerland launched a formal investigation into the Russian billionaire, Boris Berezovsky.

Berezovsky is alleged to have siphoned off funds belonging to the Russian airline, Aeroflot, through two firms in Switzerland.

swissinfo with agencies

The raids were carried out simultaneously across four Swiss cantons.
Police searched homes and seized documents, but declined to provide further details.
The investigation was authorised after Russia requested judicial assistance from Switzerland in August 2003.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR