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The Russian court has appointed the announcement of a verdict to businessman Boris Berezovsky
The Russian court has appointed the announcement of a verdict to businessman Boris Berezovsky, accused of illegal appropriation of the Aeroflot company’s assets, for November 22. Prosecutor Alexander Koblyakov demanded during court hearings on Monday that Berezovsky be declared guilty of fraud and money laundering and be sentenced to nine years in prison. Berezovsky has been charged on 11 counts in Russia, including for illegal appropriation of 13 million U.S. dollars of the SBS-Agro Bank. Six warrants for Berezovsky’s arrest have been issued in Russia in his absence. Berezovsky's lawyer Alexander Dudkin insists that his defendant be cleared of the Aeroflot fraud charges and demands that he be acquitted and that the criminal case be dropped altogether because of the absence of evidence. The prosecution insists that Berezovsky’s guilt has been fully proven by the case materials, written evidence and witness testimonies. “I ask the court to find Berezovsky fully guilty for fraud, i.e. embezzlement and legalisation (laundering) of money received in criminal ways,” the prosecutor said. The court hearings have been held in Berezovsky's absence because he is living in Britain where he has been given the status of political refugee. The Russian authorities have repeatedly demanded his extradition, but with little success so far. The accusation of embezzling Aeroflot’s 214 million roubles was slapped down on him on last April 13. Earlier, Berezovsky figured in the case as a co-conspirator and as an accomplice, but now as a direct perpetrator of the crime. The Aeroflot case is connected with operations with hard currency revenues of the air company through the Swiss Forus and Andawa companies. Articles of the Russian Criminal Code, under which Berezovsky is charged (embezzlement of money through swindling and money laundering), provide for a maximum punishment of a ten-year imprisonment. In the summer of 2006 Moscow’s Savelovsky court passed a two-year suspended sentence, in connection with the Aeroflot case, on former first deputy managing director of the company Nikolai Glushkov, former chief accountant of the company Lidia Kryzhevsakaya and ex-chief of the Financial Amalgamated Corporation Roman Sheinin for embezzling 215 million roubles, belonging to Aeroflot. In November of the same year, the court exacted 214.988 million roubles from them in favour of the company. Russia instituted five criminal cases against Berezovsky. Three of them were united into joint proceedings. They were started in connection with Berezovsky’s calls on capture of power by force and exercise of extremist activities. The investigation is conducted by the Federal Security Service. Berezovsky has been charged on 11 points in Russia, including embezzlement of over 13 million U.S. dollars of the SBS-Agro Bank, and six warrants have been issued for his arrest in absentia. Within the framework of this case the court has already arrested Berezovsky’s house that he rents in France. “In July this year the Basmanny court imposed a freeze on the Clocher de la Garoupe estate, including all of its buildings, plots of land, premises, parks and gardens in France,” head of the Moscow City Court press service Anna Usachyova said earlier. Currently, the assets in question belong to Fotopark Limited. “The execution of the court’s ruling is liable to the operation of international law,” Usachyova said. Berezovsky’s lawyer claimed he had no knowledge of the court’s decision. “There is a possibility such decision has been made. If so, it was made without our participation. Similarly, we have received no prior notification of charges against Berezovsky in the SBS-Agro case,” the lawyer said. The Russian Prosecutor General’s Office brought fraud and money laundering charges against Berezovsky within the framework of the probe into the embezzlement of 13 million U.S. dollars from the SBS-Agro Bank in 1997, Berezovsky’s lawyer Andrei Borovkov said. “Berezovsky is charged with the organisation of a criminal group for purposes of getting loan money for the purchase of real estate on the Mediterranean coast of France. The claimed sum is 13 million dollars,” Borovkov told Itar-Tass. He explained that Berezovsky was mastermind of the criminal group and was linked with firms through which the bank’s money was transferred. All the events date back to 1997. The criminal charges against Berezovsky, originally part of an older criminal affair involving the top management of SBS-Agro management dating back to 2000, were later converted into a separate case, according to the lawyer. This is not the first criminal case opened against Berezovsky in Russia. Two cases had earlier been opened against him for actions aimed at the seizure of power by force, fraud with AvtoVAZ automobiles and illegal purchase of a house and land plot in the Zhukovka health improvement centre in the Moscow region. The “Aeroflot case” is currently examined in court within the framework of which Berezovsky is charged with embezzling 214 million roubles of the air company. Another two cases are linked with Berezovsky's actions aimed at the seizure of power by force. Berezovsky admitted in an interview to Radio Echo of Moscow in 2006 that he had for 18 months planned a coup d’etat in Russia with the aim of overthrowing of the “anticonstitutional regime.” In 2007, the businessman said in an interview published by the Guardian newspaper, “We need to use force to change this regime.” “It isn’t possible to change this regime through democratic means. There can be no change without force, pressure.” Asked if he was in effect fomenting a revolution, he said: “You are absolutely correct,” he said in the interview. Besides Russia, Brazilian judicial authorities have charged Berezovsky with involvement in a major international criminal syndicate engaged in money laundering through football clubs of Brazil and trade in football players.
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