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A Moscow Region court has adjourned until January an 'in absentia'
A Moscow Region court has adjourned until January an 'in absentia' trial of fugitive Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky on charges of money laundering, a RIA Novosti correspondent reported on Tuesday.

The decision was made after the plaintiff-victims and witnesses in the case failed to appear in court.

Last month prosecutors referred to the courts a criminal case against Berezovsky and Yuly Dubov, accused of money laundering during a deal for the delivery of a large batch of cars produced at the AvtoVAZ car plant in Togliatti.

The court began hearings into the case on Tuesday. During the session, a prosecutor read the official charges.

According to investigators, Berezovsky, who was the mastermind behind an organized criminal group, used his personal connections with the management of AvtoVAZ to arrange for a deal in 1994 between AvtoVAZ and another automaker, LogoVAZ, managed by the former oligarch and other group members.

Under the contract, AvtoVAZ undertook to supply 20,000 VAZ cars of different models to LogoVAZ at prices valid at the time of supply. Prepayment for the cars was not envisaged.

Investigators believe that Berezovsky, who now lives in the U.K., and other members of his criminal group used the proceeds from the car sales to acquire stock in reputable companies, real estate, and for other personal needs.

They have established that contrary to the contract terms, the criminal group led by Berezovsky failed to pay AvtoVAZ for 5,560 vehicles supplied and used an estimated sum equivalent to around $24 million for their own needs.

In particular, the money was spent on acquiring shares in Russian Public Television and the Moscow Independent Broadcasting Corporation, which owned the TV6 channel. Also, a part of the money was spent on real estate purchases in elite areas outside Moscow.

Investigators have also established that Berezovsky spent part of the money to buy a 14.3-hectare plot of land in the Krasnogorsk district northwest of Moscow for his daughter.

The court has received official notification from Berezovsky's lawyers, saying that their client was against them participating in the hearings. The fugitive oligarch is being defended in court by a state-appointed lawyer, Valery Doronin.

The victims in the case, comprising the government of the Samara Region and management of the AvtoVAZ company, has requested the case be heard in their absence.

Over a dozen criminal probes have been launched in Russia against Berezovsky, a one-time close associate of late president Boris Yeltsin, including plotting to stage a coup and embezzling $13 million from a leading Russian bank.

Russia has issued multiple warrants for Berezovsky's arrest and has repeatedly demanded his extradition from Britain, where he was granted political asylum in 2000.

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