Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 231

During an official visit to Greece on Monday, Prosecutor General Yuri Skuratov said that in the near future there would be “significant exposures” in the case involving the alleged embezzlement in the early 1990s of diamonds and precious metals worth US$183 million. The case centers around Andrei Kozlenok, who co-owned a San Francisco-based company called Golden Ada, Inc. Kozlenok was arrested in Greece in June of this year and extradited to Russia. Russia’s State Committee on Precious Stones and Metals, searching for a way to get around the monopoly control of South Africa’s De Beers, reached an agreement with Golden Ada to sell diamonds on the international market and return the proceeds to Russia. The money, however, disappeared. After his arrest, but while still in Greece, Kozlenok declared he was innocent, claiming that high-ranking Russian government officials had disposed of the precious stones and metals. Prosecutor General Skuratov said Monday that Kozlenok had basically stopped giving evidence once he was extradited to Russia–Kozlenok, in fact, said at the time he was certain he would be murdered in Russia–but that his office had found “additional evidence” which allowed the case to move forward. “Kozlenok was an instrument in the hands of other figures,” Skuratov said. “This has already been absolutely clearly determined.”

Meanwhile, tax police in Moscow on Friday ransacked the offices and apartments of Sergei Lisovsky, whose business empire includes the Premier SV advertising agency, which has a advertising monopoly on Russian Public Television (ORT), and Rise Lis’s, which organizes pop music tours. The homes and offices of two of his associates were also raided, and all three men were subsequently brought in for question. Lisovsky has been fighting the tax authorities in court over an alleged 240,000-ruble (US$12,000) tax bill which they claim he owes. Lisovsky, however, is also a controversial figure: In June 1996 he was one of two top Yeltsin campaign officials caught trying to take US$538,000 in cash out of the Russian White House, headquarters of the Russian government. The arrests were made by members of the Presidential Security Service, then headed by Aleksandr Korzhakov, whom Yeltsin subsequently fired, at the behest of Anatoly Chubais, then Yeltsin’s campaign chief. Lisovsky was also questioned about the 1995 murder of Vladislav Listiev, ORT’s director, who had announced a moratorium on advertising on the channel in an effort to root out corruption. Lisovsky was never charged with anything in connection with the Listiev case.

Premier SV reportedly owes ORT US$50 million, which has put Lisovsky at odds with CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovsky, who reportedly controls ORT. Over the weekend, Lisovsky’s lawyer charged that the search of his client’s apartment by the tax policy had been conducted illegally. Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov sharply criticized the searches, calling them “a wild act of search and seizure,” arbitrary rule by the authorities” and “an exercise in intimidation.” Last week, President Boris Yeltsin placed the tax police under his direct authority.