Russia ends corruption inquiry into Swiss company
Russia has halted its investigation into a corruption case in which a Swiss company is alleged to have bribed family members of the former Russian president, Boris Yeltsin. But Switzerland is continuing to investigate the case.
The Russian authorities said there was insufficient evidence to proceed. The chief Russian investigator, Ruslan Tamayev, said no charges would be brought against Yeltsin or his daughters.
He told Russia's Interfax news agency on Wednesday the decision had been reached "without any political or physical pressure".
However the former Russian chief prosecutor, who was taken off the case by Yeltsin in February 1999, has criticised the move. Yuri Skuratov told Russia's private NTV channel that the decision had been taken at the highest level, and was "more about politics than justice".
The Swiss justice authorities and Russia have been involved in lengthy investigations about allegations that a Ticino-based firm, Mabetex, bribed high-ranking Russian officials in exchange for lucrative building contracts in the Kremlin.
Those implicated included the former Kremlin finance chief, Pavel Borodin, and members of the Yeltsin family. Borodin remains subject to an international arrest warrant issued at the request of the Geneva authorities in January.
Tamayev said that there was no evidence that any member of the Yeltsin family had held a bank account in Switzerland. But he said the family had held credit cards guaranteed by the head of Mabetex, Beghjet Pacolli.
Up to SFr55,000 was spent on these cards, but the balance was paid off from one of Yelstin's personal accounts.
Pacolli has denied any wrongdoing. He has been charged in Switzerland with handing out bribes totalling $4 million (SFr6.5 million).
Reacting to the Russian decision to stop the case, Pacolli told Switzerland's ats agency that he was satisfied and relieved. "The truth always comes out, however long it takes," he said.
A similar case, involving another Ticino-based company, Mercata, is also being investigated in Switzerland. The company is alleged to have given bribes worth $60 million.
But lawyers defending the two Swiss firms claim 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.
The Geneva magistrate handling the case, Daniel Devaud, disagrees. He has said that Swiss law does allow charges to be brought in these cases because the firms' activities contributed to the laundering of money in Switzerland by Russian officials.
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