Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 185

Switzerland’s top law enforcement official has expressed concern over the Russian authorities’ lack of cooperation in the investigation into the alleged embezzlement and laundering of hundreds of millions of dollars from Aeroflot, the Russian state airline through two Swiss companies connected to Boris Berezovsky. In an interview published today, Swiss federal prosecutor Valentin Roschacher said that his trip to Moscow last month to meet with his Russian counterpart, Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov, was made at his own initiative and was aimed above all at expressing his concern over the firing of Nikolai Volkov, the chief Russian investigator in the Aeroflot case, and finding out Ustinov’s position on the firing and the Aeroflot case firsthand. “After Mr. Volkov’s arrival in Bern in July for discussions on further work on the Aeroflot case, it seemed to us that everything was in order,” Roschacher said. “But then we suddenly found out that he had retired. This was an unpleasant surprise for us.” Volkov was fired after returning from Switzerland with crate-loads of documents which the Swiss law enforcement authorities had seized from the two Swiss companies linked to Berezovsky, Andava and Forus. Volkov subsequently cited the Aeroflot case as the reason for his early firing (see the Monitor, September 8). Roschacher said that a second reason for his visit to Moscow in mid-September was to hand over a second load of documents related to what he called “the Berezovsky affair”–meaning the Aeroflot case–which had been seized by Swiss investigators. The Swiss prosecutor said that he could not say that his trip to Moscow had brought about any changes for the better, but that the Russian side had promised to speed up their probe into Aeroflot and use the materials provided by the Swiss side, and more generally to continue their corruption investigations and cooperate with the Swiss investigators. Roschacher said he hoped that the Russians would not shift investigators as they had with Volkov, but added that while what the Russian officials had said sounded “wonderful,” time would show the sincerity of their assurances (Segodnya, October 5; see also the Monitor, September 18).

Geneva has also complained that it has not received an answer to a request for assistance from the Russian side in another money laundering case–the so-called Mabetex case, involving former Kremlin “property manager” Pavel Borodin. That request was made by Geneva investigating magistrate Daniel Devaud back in July, and the contents of his letter to Prosecutor General Ustinov, which detailed the charges against Borodin and others, were published in newspaper Segodnya (see the Monitor, September 14). Deputy Prosecutor General Vasily Kolmogorov and Ruslan Tamaev, the chief investigator in the Mabetex case, flew to Switzerland yesterday. Prior to his departure, Kolmogorov said he would answer Devaud’s letter and was counting on “the continuation and deepening of contacts” between the Russian and Swiss prosecutors (Segodnya, October 5).

Moscow’s behavior in the Aeroflot and Mabetex cases will be a key indicator of the sincerity of President Vladimir Putin’s oft-repeated pledges to crack down on corruption and reduce the influence of Yeltsin-era oligarchs. It is also worth noting that the newspaper Segodnya, which is part of Vladimir Gusinsky’s embattled Media-Most group, continues to give the Swiss investigations far more coverage than other Russian media.