Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 51

Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov has announced that the Aeroflot case–involving allegations that two Swiss companies set up by Boris Berezovsky, Andava and Forus Services, embezzled millions of dollars from Russia’s state airline–will be transferred to a court in one and a half to two months. This corresponds to May 18, the official end to the Prosecutor General’s Office’s investigation. Among those who have been accused in the case are Nikolai Glushkov, Aeroflot’s former first deputy general director, Aleksandr Krasnenker, the airline’s former commercial director, and Roman Sheinin, former head of a company called FOK, which is the Russian affiliate of Andava, one of the Swiss companies through which Aeroflot funds were allegedly embezzled. Glushkov was jailed in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison late last year, while Krasnenker and Sheinin signed agreements not to leave Russia while the investigation was ongoing (see the Monitor, December 8, 2000).

What is interesting about the approaching end of the Aeroflot case is that no charges have yet been brought against Berezovsky, who went into self-imposed exile last year after publicly falling out with President Vladimir Putin and receiving a summons from the Prosecutor General’s Office to appear for questioning in connection with the Aeroflot case (see the Monitor, November 15-16, 2000). The newspaper Segodnya today quoted an “informed source” in the Prosecutor General’s Office as saying that Ustinov’s announcement that the investigation is coming to a close suggests that Berezovsky will be cleared, with Glushkov, Krasnenker and Sheinin “taking the rap.” The paper also quoted the source as saying that the court will consider only a small portion of the incriminating material which former investigator Nikolai Volkov brought back with him from Switzerland last year. The Prosecutor General’s Office forced Volkov into retirement soon after he returned from Switzerland. Segodnya’s source said the other evidentiary material would probably go into a separate criminal case, which would then be shut down, allowing Berezovsky to return to Russia. According to Segodnya, the documents and other evidence that Volkov brought back Switzerland–reportedly weighing nearly two tons–would have allowed investigators to trace the entire route the Aeroflot money took, and included information on financial machinations involving the airline company Transaero and the automaker AvtoVAZ.

The paper also reported that the Aeroflot investigators had also received unspecified information concerning Runicom, the Swiss-based oil trading company which reportedly belongs to Roman Abramovich, the noted oligarch who was formerly closely associated with Berezovsky and is currently governor of the Chukotka region (Segodnya, March 14). Last August, Swiss prosecutors raided Runicom’s offices in Montreux, Switzerland, and Bernard Bertossa, the chief prosecutor of Geneva, subsequently said the raid was related to an investigation into whether a US$4.8 billion that the International Monetary Fund credit extended to Russia in the summer of 1998 had been diverted (see the Monitor, August 31, 2000). More recently, Oleg Lurye, an investigative reporter for the biweekly newspaper Novaya Gazeta, charged that Runicom had received the right to export oil from the state-owned oil company Slavneft in return for having handed over to the state Berezovsky’s 49-percent share in Russian Public Television (ORT). According to Lurye, Runicom stands to earn US$700 million in revenues a year from selling Slavneft’s oil (Novaya Gazeta, February 26).