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Mabetex director charged in Kremlin corruption scandal

Pacolli will have to answer allegations that he bribed Russian officials

(Keystone)

The justice authorities in Geneva have charged Beghjet Pacolli, the director of the Swiss construction company, Mabetex, with involvement in the Kremlin corruption scandal.

Pacolli is the fourth person to have been charged with bribing top Russian officials in order to win contracts.

The Geneva judge, Daniel Devaud, has refused to provide the exact details of the indictment, but said that his charge related to money laundering and participation in organised crime.

Pacolli has denied any wrongdoing.

On Monday, formal charges were levelled against two former UBS asset managers and a Geneva lawyer, who were not named. They were also charged with money laundering.

Russian prosecutors looking into the case have said they lack evidence to charge Pacolli and Borodin. They have accused Switzerland of withholding key evidence.

"We're hoping Switzerland will fulfil several of our international legal requests and we will receive new material," the Russian state media quoted Prosecutor Ruslan Tamayev as saying.

The money laundering investigation was opened in 1999, and initially focused on Mabetex, a construction company based in canton Ticino.

Those in charge of the case later turned their attentions to another Ticino firm, Mercata. Its director, Viktor Stolpovsky, failed to attend a meeting with judge Devaud on Monday. His lawyers said they had requested a delay.

Both companies are accused of having made secret payments into the Swiss bank accounts of leading Russian officials to gain lucrative refurbishment contracts in 1995 and 1996. Those alleged to have received bribes include Kremlin property manager Pavel Borodin, for whom an arrest warrant was issued in Geneva in January, and two daughters of the then president, Boris Yeltsin.

Mabetex is alleged to have given bribes totalling $4 million, and Mercata $60 million, but lawyers defending the firms claim that even if bribes were paid, no crime was committed. They argue that the bribery of foreign officials was not a crime under Swiss law at the time.

However, judge Devaud said that Swiss law allows the firms to be charged because their activities contributed to the laundering of money in Switzerland by Russian officials.

In two further cases, the Swiss authorities are investigating allegations of money laundering involving Russian officials said to have diverted aid from the International Monetary Fund to the Bank of New York, and that up to $600 million of revenues were diverted from the Russian airline Aeroflot into Swiss accounts.

swissinfo with agencies

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