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Monday, April 07, 2008

Russia says Fugitive Billionaire is in Britain

Gutseriev04/03/2008 - Moscow News Weekly - MOSCOW (Reuters) - The billionaire former head of Russian oil company Russneft is hiding in London from Russian police who want to arrest him for tax evasion, Russia's ministry of interior said on Wednesday. Mikhail Gutseriyev, whose personal fortune is estimated at around $2.6 billion, has countered the tax evasion charges by saying the accusations are false and designed to imprison him so that a pro-Kremlin businessman can buy Russneft cheaply. His last previously known location was in Turkey. "We have information that Gutseriyev is based in Britain and travels from there periodically to Azerbaijan," the deputy head of the interior ministry's investigation department, Oleg Logunov, told a news briefing. A British embassy spokeswoman declined to comment. "We are working through Interpol and with both the British and Azeri sides to ensure his extradition to Russia," Logunov said of Gutseriyev. "But as you know through experience the extradition procedure, especially with the British, takes a long time, but are resolved." Among Russians sheltering in Britain is Boris Berezovsky, the 62-year-old one-time ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin who is now one of his most vocal enemies. Berezovsky, who made his billions by buying up chunks of Russian state industry cheaply during the chaotic post-Soviet 1990s, has called for a revolution in Russia. Other Russian businessmen hiding in London from Russian prosecutors include executives from the now bankrupt oil company Yukos. In 2003, Britain refused to extradite Chechen rebel Akhmed Zakayev because a judge decided he would not face a fair trial. Moscow's relations with London dipped further after 2006 when former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko died in London from a radioactive poison. British police accused a Russian of the killing but Moscow refused to extradite him.

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