Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 20

Swiss authorities have reportedly issued an international warrant for the arrest of Pavel Borodin, who headed the Kremlin’s “property management” department under former President Boris Yeltsin. Earlier this month, Acting President Vladimir Putin removed Borodin as Kremlin property manager, but this week (on January 25) Borodin was appointed state secretary in the new Russia-Belarus union. There were, however, contradictory reports yesterday about exactly what action the Swiss authorities had taken against Borodin. According to one report, an arrest order with a charge of money laundering was signed by Bernard Bertrossa, the chief prosecutor in the city of Geneva. Bertrossa and Vensan Solari, Borodin’s lawyer in Switzerland, were quoted elsewhere, however, as saying that Swiss judicial investigator Daniel Devo had simply subpoenaed Borodin to give evidence (Russian agencies, January 27; Segodnya, Moscow Times, January 28).

Be that as it may, Swiss prosecutors are reportedly preparing to transfer to their Russian counterparts documents which show that Borodin laundered money made from large-scale machinations involving the renovation of the Kremlin and other buildings owned by the Kremlin’s property management department (Vedemosti, January 27). Last year, Russian Prosecutor General Yuri Skuratov launched a criminal investigation into whether Borodin’s office received kickbacks in return for granting the Swiss construction firm Mabetex lucrative contracts for refurbishing the Kremlin and other Russian government buildings. Skuratov asked the Swiss authorities for assistance, but Yeltsin subsequently suspended him after a fragment from a videotape allegedly showing Skuratov in bed with two prostitutes was aired on RTR state television. Russian and Western media last year reported that the Swiss authorities had frozen the bank accounts of more than twenty top Russian officials. Borodin was the only official named in those reports. He has denied all the charges.

Ruslan Tamaev, the investigator who is leading the Russian investigation into Mabetex, said yesterday that he was surprised by the action of his Swiss counterparts, but added that they had promised to explain their actions today. The Swiss, he said, are planning to send documents related to the Mabetex case to Russia, which will allow the Russian and Swiss investigations to be merged into one. Tamaev also said that the investigation is awaiting the results of an audit of the Kremlin’s property department currently being carried out by the Audit Chamber, an independent Russian federal agency set up by the parliament to monitor the use of federal budget funds (Segodnya, January 28). In late December, Tamaev announced that the Mabetex case would be extended six months to allow that audit to be completed.

For his part, yesterday Borodin called the warrant “complete nonsense” and a “political provocation” by unnamed persons in Russia directed “against the Russia-Belarus union and against the highest leaders of the state, with whom I happened to work.” He also claimed that Swiss officials had never contacted him (Russian agencies, January 27). In any case, it seems unlikely that Borodin will be faced with arrest any time soon. According to some reports, his new job as state secretary of the Russia-Belarus Union gives him the status of an international bureaucrat and thus immunity from prosecution–the same protection Boris Berezovsky enjoyed several years ago, when he was deputy secretary of the Commonwealth of Independent States (Russian agencies, January 26). In addition, Tamaev said that extraditing Borodin would violate Russia’s constitution, and Vensan Solari, Borodin’s Swiss lawyer, said that a Swiss subpoena to appear to give evidence carries no legal force outside Switzerland (Segodnya, January 28).