Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 166

Nikolai Volkov, the investigator who was leading the probe by the Prosecutor General’s Office into alleged massive embezzlement from the state airline Aeroflot, spoke out about this week about his sacking late last month. Among other things, Volkov told reporters that progress in the investigation resulting from a recent trip to Switzerland, where he received hundreds of volumes of documents which Swiss prosecutors had seized Andava and Forus, the firms that allegedly served as conduits for misappropriated Aeroflot revenues, was probably what led to his removal. According to press reports in both Russia and the West, the firms served as front companies for Boris Berezovsky. Volkov also said it was possible that Boris Berezovsky’s decision to transfer the 49-percent stake of Russian Public Television (ORT) under his control was connected to the Aeroflot case. “I have the impression that the authorities use the law enforcement system for bargaining with the oligarchs–now bringing a criminal case, now suddenly closing it, now arresting people, now letting them go,” Volkov said. The former investigator said he believed that the Prosecutor General’s Office had sufficient basis “to bring certain people to book for stealing and laundering hundreds of millions of dollars in funds from Aeroflot,” but said that The former investigator there was some basis for comments recently made by Geneva prosecutor Bernard Bertossa, that Russian law-enforcement officials are not interested in seeing corruption investigations through to the end (Russian agencies, September 6; see the Monitor, August 31, September 6). At the end of last month, Laurent Kasper-Ansermet, the Geneva magistrate who is leading an investigation into the alleged diversion of a US$4.8 billion International Monetary Fund credit to Russia in the summer of 1998, accused the Russian authorities of not cooperating with his investigation (see the Monitor, August 31).

In separate comments published this week, Volkov that at the time of his removal he was two to three months away from being able to name and arrest those guilty of committing crimes in the Aeroflot case (Novaya gazeta, September 7).