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Yeltsin immunity in question following resignation

Boris Yeltsin's dramatic resignation as Russian president last Friday has raised questions about whether he, and his family, will continue to enjoy immunity from prosecution over allegations of laundering money through Swiss banks.

This content was published on January 3, 2000 - 16:45

Boris Yeltsin's dramatic resignation as Russian president last Friday has raised questions about whether he, and his family, will continue to enjoy immunity from prosecution over allegations of money laundering.

Swiss prosecutors suspect Yeltsin and his relatives may be linked to an alleged multi-billion dollar Russian money laundering scheme. They are also investigating whether the former Russian president took kickbacks from a Swiss construction company, called Mabetex, in exchange for building contracts at the Kremlin.

Yeltsin has taken steps to protect himself from prosecution. The day he resigned, his appointed successor, Vladimir Putin, signed a decree granting Yeltsin immunity from prosecution. But whether the Russian authorities will consider this binding remains to be seen. Our Russia correspondent, Max Schmid, says much will "depend on how the political situation in Russia develops under a new administration".

Last September, the Swiss prosecutor leading the investigation into alleged money laundering in Switzerland, Bernard Bertossa, said there was "no question of interrogating Yeltsin" as long as he was president of Russia. He was not available for comment on Monday, but at the time he made the point that Yeltsin's family did not benefit from the same immunity.

Max Schmid says it's unlikely that even Yeltsin could have guaranteed immunity for his family in the decree signed by the acting president, Putin. He also points out that future Russian leaders may take a dim view of the considerable power that was wielded by Yeltsin and his circle.

Indeed on Monday, Putin sacked Yeltsin's daughter from her post as presidential adviser. For much of her father's rule, Tatyana Dyachenko was considered the power behind the presidency. The speed with which she was dismissed suggests the family's power to influence Kremlin policy, and protect themselves, has already disappeared.

By Jonas Hughes

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