Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 61

Following last week’s scandal involving the search of Kremlin offices by prosecutors in connection with a criminal investigation into alleged bribes to top Russian officials from the Swiss firm Mabetex, rumors began to circulate that the next target on Prosecutor General Yuri Skuratov’s list are people and businesses connected with tycoon Boris Berezovsky. These rumors were given some confirmation on March 26, when prosecutors searched and seized documents at the headquarters of Aeroflot airlines in Moscow and ten other unnamed locations. Law enforcement officials reportedly said that the actions were taken in connection with a criminal case involving alleged abuses by the management of Aeroflot, which is widely believed to be under Berezovsky’s control, and other criminal cases linked in “one way or another” with Berezovsky (Russian agencies, March 26).

The same day, prosecutors and “spetsnaz” police raided the dacha and office of Sergei Lisovsky, head of the Premier SV advertising agency, which has enjoyed a monopoly on selling advertising for Russian Public Television, another company believed to be controlled by Berezovsky. The raid was connected with a criminal case initiated by Skuratov’s office concerning allegations that Lisovsky, through his private security structures and other connections, illegally gathered information on a number of heads of media and “prominent public figures.” One newspaper quoted a source in the general prosecutor’s office as saying that those spied on included executives at RTR, the country’s state television station, and TV Center, the station controlled by the Moscow city authorities, and unnamed newspapers (Russian agencies, March 26; Kommersant, March 27). Kommersant quoted several top officials from RTR and TV Center as expressing surprise and doubt that Lisovsky would have done this.

On the other hand, the paper reported that officials in the prosecutor general’s office said that they had “irrefutable” documents–including transcripts of tapped phoned conversations, documents involving the bank accounts, property and other information on specific VIPs and their family members (Kommersant, March 27).

Last December, agents of the tax police raided Lisovsky’s offices and residences, but a tax evasion case against the media magnate was recently dropped after he paid the allegedly unpaid taxes. The prosecutor general office’s new criminal investigation into Lisovsky was said to be launched at the request of investigators in that office who have been working to solve the 1995 murder of television journalist Vladislav Listiev (Kommersant, March 27). Listiev was murdered after being named head of Russian Public Television and vowing to end corruption in the placing of advertising on the channel. Prosecutor General Yuri Skuratov said last year that he had received documents from Switzerland concerning financial deals which might shed light on the motives for Listiev’s murder.