Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 67

Russia’s already overheated domestic political temperature rose another few degrees yesterday when Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office issued arrest warrants for two once-powerful “oligarchs”–Boris Berezovsky and Aleksandr Smolensky. The warrant for Berezovsky is connected with the investigation into the alleged embezzlement of funds from the state-run airline Aeroflot. Berezovsky, along with Nikolai Glushkov, Aeroflot’s former commercial director, allegedly funneled the airline’s hard currency revenues from overseas ticket sales through Andava, a Switzerland-based front company they allegedly set up (Russian agencies, April 6). As previously reported, Berezovsky reportedly received permission from Russia’s Central Bank to perform such operations only retroactively (see the Monitor, February 12).

Law enforcement sources have have reportedly said several times over the last week that Berezovsky has been issued numerous subpoenas to appear as a witness in the Aeroflot case but has ignored them. Berezovsky, whose plane was reportedly denied entry to Russia from Ukraine last week, is now in France. Glushkov is reported to have been shuttling between France and Switzerland. One report cited law enforcement sources as saying that prosecutors in other countries, “diplomatic channels” and even Interpol had been approached for help in finding Berezovsky and Glushkov (Izvestia, April 7).

Berezovsky, for his part, denied in a telephone interview that he planned to go into exile in France, and lashed out against the “many shameless and not very bright people in the Prosecutor General’s Office who violate laws” (Russian agencies, April 6).

Meanwhile, Aleksandr Smolensky, founder and head of SBS-Agro Bank, was charged with embezzlement and bank fraud, evidently as a result of the investigation launched last month by the prosecutor general’s office into charges that he had embezzled US$32 million from a bank in Kazakhstan in the early 1990s (see the Monitor, March 4-5). SBS-Agro’s press service was quoted today as saying that Smolensky, who is in Austria, was recovering from flu-related complications and only for that reason had not returned home (Kommersant daily, April 7). Smolensky reportedly holds dual Austrian-Russian citizenship.