Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 194

The Prosecutor General’s Office has issued an arrest warrant for Boris Berezovsky, the one-time Kremlin insider who went into self-imposed exile last year after falling out with President Vladimir Putin. The charges against Berezovsky, which were reported in the media late last week, are connected to the so-called Aeroflot case, involving charges that two Swiss companies reportedly set up by Berezovsky, Andava and Forus illegally received hundreds of millions of dollars in hard currency revenues from Russia’s state airline. Berezovsky has been charged on three counts–facilitating the embezzlement of Aeroflot funds by “arranging working in that company for several of his acquaintances,” failure to repatriate hard currency made abroad and moneylaundering. The charges against Berezovsky reportedly also assert that in 1997 he pressured then Central Bank chief Sergei Dubinin to sanction the use of Andava as Aeroflot’s “treasury center” in the West and give Andava a license to export hard currency (see the Monitor, February 26, 1999).

As of July, when the Prosecutor General’s Office announced that it had completed its investigation of the Aeroflot case, four people had been charged with defrauding the state airline of some US$40 million. First, Nikolai Glushkov, Aeroflot’s former first deputy general director and a close Berezovsky associate. Second, Aleksandr Krasnenker, its former deputy general director for commerce and advertising and another Berezovsky associate. Third, Lidiya Kryzhevskaya, its former chief bookkeeper. And, fourth, Roman Sheinin, general director of the company Finansovaya Obyedinennaya Korporatsiya (FOK). At that time, Berezovsky was not listed among the accused. However, while news of the arrest warrant for the tycoon was announced only last week, it was apparently signed nearly a month ago–on September 20. Berezovsky, who has been abroad for some time, was quoted over the weekend as saying that he would not return to Russia and was ready for the possibility that the Russian authorities would seek his arrest abroad through Interpol, the international crime-fighting agency (Kommersant, October 20; see the Monitor, July 25). In early 1999, when Yevgeny Primakov was prime minister, an arrest warrant was issued for Berezovsky in connection with the Aeroflot case, but was soon afterwards rescinded.

Berezovsky also said he believed that the decision to put out a warrant for his arrest “was not taken by [Prosecutor General] Vladimir Ustinov but by the government, I think above all by the president,” and that it was aimed at “taking away” TV-6, the Moscow-based television channel in which Berezovsky holds a 75-percent stake. Earlier this year the company Lukoil-Garant, an affiliate of the oil giant Lukoil, which holds a 15-percent stake in TV-6, went to court to demand the liquidation of MNVK, the company that formally owns TV-6. Lukoil-Garant charged that MNVK had mismanaged TV-6 and caused the channel’s shares to drop sharply in value. Late last month the Moscow Arbitration Court found in favor of Lukoil-Garant, and last week Berezovsky wrote an open letter to Lukoil chief Vagit Alekperov offering to buy Lukoil-Garant’s stake in TV-6 for US$10 million as a way of settling the dispute (Novaya Gazeta, October 22; NNS, October 19).