Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 188

Nikolai Volkov, the top investigator from the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office, said today that further progress on the Aeroflot case would depend on how soon the Swiss would hand over related documents. The transfer, he said, is complicated by Swiss legal procedures, and the case could take more than a year. Volkov claimed that his office had already established that Andava was illegally set up in Switzerland to receive Aeroflot’s foreign currency receipts, and that preliminary charges have been brought against Berezovsky, former Aeroflot commercial director Aleksandr Krasnenker and former Aeroflot vice president Nikolai Glushkov (Russian agencies, October 12).

But while Volkov promised the case would not “fall apart for political reasons,” there is little doubt that its success or failure will depend on the outcome of the political power struggle now going on in connection with Yeltsin’s impending succession. One need only recall that the arrest warrant issued for Berezovsky earlier this year, issued while Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov was still in office, was rescinded as soon as Primakov was removed. In addition, many observers believe that both Skuratov and his successor, Yuri Chaika, were removed from the post of prosecutor general for not completely shutting down the investigation into Berezovsky. The progress of the Aeroflot case will therefore most likely depend on whether Berezovsky maintains his power within the Kremlin inner circle.

Despite Volkov’s complaints about the pace of Swiss justice, the Swiss authorities can be credited with maintaining a tough line against suspected Russia-related crime and corruption, regardless of Carla Del Ponte’s recent departure from the post of the country’s top prosecutor to head the UN’s war crime tribunal. Del Ponte worked closely with Russian Prosecutor General Yuri Skuratov on a number of corruption cases, including those involving Aeroflot and Mabetex, before he was suspended earlier this year. In early October, Swiss media reported that some twelve bank accounts had been frozen in connection with the suspected laundering of money from Russia (Russian agencies, October 6). About the same time, Switzerland’s highest court said that it had rejected fifteen appeals by the three firms implicated in the Aeroflot case–Forus Services SA, Andava and Anros–to overturn decisions to block bank accounts held by the companies (Associated Press, October 7). Over the weekend, a senior Swiss police official confirmed that the Swiss authorities recently turned down a visa application by Berezovsky “on police grounds” (Associated Press, October 10).

Meanwhile, Swiss Deputy Prosecutor Felix Baenziger, who is currently filling in for Del Ponte, is heading a delegation of Swiss prosecutors which arrived in St. Petersburg this weekend for meetings with Russian prosecutors aimed at improving cooperation between the two countries (Russian agencies, October 11).