Investigators from the Prosecutor General’s Office and Federal Security Service (FSB) seized documents yesterday from the offices of Vladimir Gusinsky’s Media-Most group in central Moscow and from the offices of NTV, Media-Most’s flagship television channel, at the Ostankino TV center. It was the second seizure of documents at Media-Most’s headquarters: The first took place during a May 11 raid by security agents in ski masks and camouflage. They were not present during yesterday’s raid. The prosecutors said they were seizing documents in connection with the criminal case against Gusinsky involving allegations that he was involved in illegally privatizing and embezzling state funds from the St. Petersburg-based Russkoye Video Company. Perhaps more significantly, they also said they were looking into whether Gazprom, Russia’s 38-percent state owned natural gas monopoly, improperly paid off and guaranteed two loans to Media-Most, one worth US$211 million, the other worth US$170 million. NTV’s founding documents were reportedly among those seized by investigators. At the same time, investigators reportedly seized documents from Gazprom’s corporate headquarters in southern Moscow (Russian agencies, July 11). Gazprom owns some 30 percent of NTV and some 14 percent of Media-Most, and received another 40 percent of Media-Most’s shares as collateral against the aforementioned loans (see the Monitor, July 7). Were the authorities to rule that the loans were made improperly, Gusinsky, who was jailed briefly last month in connection with the Russkoye Video case and remains under investigation, could lose control of NTV and/or Media-Most. He has been summoned to appear at the Prosecutor General’s Office today (Russian agencies, July 12). The media magnate, who has already been interrogated three times, has refused to cooperate with investigators.
Media-Most representatives charged yesterday that the latest seizure of documents was part of an ongoing politically motivated campaign by the authorities against their company. Gusinsky himself suggested yesterday that he had expected a “reaction” from the authorities to the July 9 edition of “Itogi,” NTV’s weekly news analysis program. During that broadcast, “Itogi” host Yevgeny Kiselev strongly attacked President Vladimir Putin’s State of the Nation address, saying that the head of state’s reference to alleged antistate activity by some media was a reference to NTV (see the Monitor, July 10). The program also featured a report alleging that during the tenure of Putin’s predecessor Boris Yeltsin, the Kremlin “property department,” then headed by Pavel Borodin, bought an apartment worth several hundreds of thousands of dollars for a top prosecutor, Vladimir Ustinov, who was appointed prosecutor general earlier this year. “Itogi” questioned how Ustinov could be trusted to investigate Borodin, who is being probed in connection with the Mabetex case, involving alleged kickbacks from a Swiss firm to Kremlin officials in return for lucrative refurbishing contracts (NTV, July 9). Putin once worked as Borodin’s deputy.
…WHILE AUTHORITIES ACCUSE LUKOIL CHIEF OF TAX EVASION.