A court in the United States is on Monday expected to decide whether to allow the extradition to Switzerland of the former Kremlin aide, Pavel Borodin. If the New York court rules in favour of extradition, Borodin could soon be facing money laundering charges in Switzerland.
The New York authorities arrested the former top Russian official in January at Switzerland's request. Investigators in Geneva say they have evidence implicating Borodin in the disappearance from Swiss bank accounts of $25 million (SFr43 million).
They believe the former Kremlin property manager may have received the money from two Ticino-based firms, Mabetex and Mercata, in return for granting them lucrative contracts to renovate the Kremlin.
The Geneva prosecutor, Bernard Bertossa, who has vowed not to give up until former President Yeltsin's right-hand man explains where the money has gone, is leading the Swiss investigation. But if the ruling goes against Switzerland, Bertossa may never have the answers he is seeking.
For his part, Borodin has expressed willingness to come to Switzerland, but only if Switzerland drops its extradition proceedings.
Switzerland's efforts to have Borodin brought to trial in Switzerland have caused ructions with Russia. The Russian authorities announced last December they had dropped their own investigation into the matter for lack of evidence. Since then they have being putting pressure on Switzerland to conclude its case against Borodin as quickly as possible.
But the Swiss economics minister, Pascal Couchepin, said he did not believe the Borodin affair was having a negative impact on bilateral relations. Speaking from Moscow, where he is heading a delegation of Swiss industry leders, Couchepin said that "relations between Switzerland and Russia remain good."
"Nothing can damage our relationship with Russia," continued Couchepin, "not even the Borodin case."
His Russian counterpart, German Gref, echoed Couchepin's remarks, saying the issue of Borodin's extradition was "for the courts to decide, and would not damage relations between the two countries".
Gref's comments contradict a statement made by the Russian foreign ministry earlier this month, which said the Borodin case was becoming "more and more a political case than a legal one". It added that the affair could have a "negative effect on Russian-American relations".
The Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, has refused Russian requests to intervene in the case.