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Switzerland ends legal aid to Russia in corruption inquiry

Valentin Roschacher said he expected Russia to return the Swiss documents


Switzerland has terminated legal aid to Russia in a corruption investigation involving top Kremlin officials suspected of accepting bribes from a Swiss company. The authorities have demanded that Russia return all documents relating to the case.

The move follows Russia's decision to halt its investigation into the case - a move that Geneva prosecutor, Bernard Bertossa, last week described as politically motivated.

Speaking in Bern on Tuesday, the federal prosecutor, Valetin Roschacher, said legal assistance to Russia would be stopped, and that all documentation provided by Switzerland must be returned.

He said the Swiss documents contained "informative material" which was needed by Bertossa for his investigation into the affair.

Switzerland is pressing ahead with its inquiry into allegations that a Swiss company bribed family members and associates of the former Russian president, Boris Yeltsin, in exchange for lucrative building contracts in the Kremlin.

Bertossa is trying to determine whether Kremlin officials used two Ticino-based companies, Mabetex and Mercata, as a front for laundering the alleged bribes. He said last week he would continue his investigation, despite Moscow's decision to call off its inquiry.

Bertossa told a Russian newspaper that the Russian decision was "a double standard of jurisprudence... one for friends, one for opponents".

The chief Russian investigator, Ruslan Tamayev, has denied the decision was motivated by "any political or physical pressure". He said the case had been closed for lack of evidence.

swissinfo with agencies

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