Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 229

Former Aeroflot deputy director Nikolai Glushkov was arrested yesterday on charges of large-scale fraud and jailed in the Federal Security Service’s Lefortovo prison in Moscow. The arrest, made on the orders of Deputy Prosecutor General Vasily Kolmogorov, took place while Glushkov was being questioned in connection with the Aeroflot case. That case involves allegations that the tycoon Boris Berezovsky, Glushkov and another Aeroflot deputy director, Aleksandr Krasnenker, funneled US$973 million from the Russian state airline’s hard currency revenues through two Swiss firms, Andava and Forus Services, and that some of those funds were embezzled. Glushkov was already under investigation for conducting illegal business and money laundering in connection with the Aeroflot case, and investigators said yesterday that his arrest was made on the basis of new evidence. Krasnenker was also charged yesterday with large-scale fraud, but not arrested. Glushkov’s lawyer said the charges against his client were without foundation and said the arrest would be protested on the grounds that Glushkov is ill (Russian agencies, December 7; Vremya novostei, Segodnya, December 8).

Last month, Glushkov failed to turn up for questioning in connection with the Aeroflot case because he had to undergo surgery. He did, however, give an extensive interview to the newspaper Kommersant, in which he claimed not only that Andava and Forus Services had managed Aeroflot’s revenues on a fully legal basis, but also that in 1995 he had been asked to manage the airline’s revenues because those revenues were being diverted into 450 separate bank accounts. Glushkov claimed his putative efforts to clean up this situation and make Aeroflot’s finances more transparent were opposed by officers of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and Foreign Intelligence Service, who, he said, comprised 3,000 of Aeroflot’s 14,000 employees. Glushkov also claimed that Berezovsky was not connected to Aeroflot in any way. Kommersant, it should be noted, is part of Berezovsky’s media empire (Russian agencies, November 23).

For his part, Berezovsky charged yesterday that Glushkov had been made a “political prisoner.” Berezovsky failed to appear last month for questioning in the Aeroflot case, preferring to remain outside Russia. He instead faxed a statement to various Russia media charging that he had been forced to choose between being a political prisoner and a political exile and again accusing President Vladimir Putin of authoritarianism (see the Monitor, November 15). Berezovsky was charged with money laundering in connection with the Aeroflot case in early 1999, when Yevgeny Primakov was prime minister, but the charges were subsequently dropped. While he has not subsequently been charged with a crime, it is possible that, like Glushkov and Krasnenker, he will be charged with large-scale fraud. If so, it is possible that he would be put on the international wanted list of Interpol, the international crime-fighting agency. Earlier this week, the Russian authorities placed Media-Most chief Vladimir Gusinsky, who is also abroad, on the Interpol list (Russian agencies, December 4). Prosecutors allege that Gusinsky defrauded the Gazprom natural gas monopoly in taking out US$300 million loans for Media-Most.

Meanwhile, Berezovsky, who is currently in France, also said yesterday that in reaction to the arrest of Glushkov and the new charges against Krasnenker, he had decided to cancel his plans to hand over the 49-percent stake in Russian Public Television (ORT) he controls to a group of journalists and cultural figures, to be held in trust. Berezovsky said he feared that the holders of these shares would become targets of the authorities. Some observers, however, said that Berezovsky’s decision to abandon TeleTrust, the company set up to hold the ORT shares, had less to do with his fears for those who would manage the shares than with the fact that two of the twelve board members had refused to sign off on the plan, arguing that Berezovsky had not given them sufficient assurances that they would be consulted over the fate of the ORT shares. Whatever the case, Berezovsky said he did not rule out the possibility that he would hand over the ORT shares to Roman Abramovich, the tycoon and State Duma deputy who is running for the governorship of the Chukotka region, in Russia’s Far North. Abramovich is favored to win Chukotka’s gubernatorial election, which is set for December 24. A poll taken in Chukotka on December 7 found that 84.75 percent of the respondents supported Abramovich while only 4.32 percent supported Aleksandr Nazarov, Chukotka’s incumbent governor (Russian agencies, December 7; Vremya novostei, December 8).