Interpol to reel in Russia’s richest woman?

Moscow could ask for Interpol’s help to bring the country’s richest woman, Elena Baturina, to Russia for questioning. Police say Baturina is evading investigation over a massive embezzlement case her former company was allegedly involved in.

If Elena Baturina, who is married to the former Moscow Mayor, Yuri Luzkhov, fails to appear for interrogation, she may incur liability under the Criminal Procedure Code, the Investigative Committee stated on Friday.

Baturina, the third richest woman in the world according to Forbes’ 2010 list, was summoned to court on several occasions earlier this year, namely on February 25, March 4 and April 8, but she stated she could not attendas she was staying abroad.

"She did not come on any of those days. In response to the summons, the investigators received messages from the INTECO Company [Baturina’s former most expensive property] signed by the head of the personnel department, which said that Baturina was away from Russia and for that reason could not give evidence to the investigators," the official told Itar-Tass.

If Russia’s richest woman continues to skip court hearings, additional measures may be applied, including the involvement of Interpol, the authorities said.

"If the person involved in the investigation of a criminal case continues to stay away from the investigation operation, measures envisaged by the present criminal procedure legislation may be taken against him," stated the representative of the Investigation Department.

Commenting on the Investigation Department’s press release, Elena Baturina said that "the timing of these calls [to court] strangely coincide with [Luzhkov’s] criticisms of the actions of the current administration.”

"The Investigative Department acts through the media, instead of using the standard method of issuing summonses,” Baturina said, claiming that she had not received any official summonses for questioning.

"The situation is evolving in the worst traditions of the Stalinist era: wife of the public enemy, children of the public enemy, etc,” Baturina said. “In April, as noted in the Investigation Department’s press statement, my attendance was unnecessary. But now, suddenly, they urgently need me."

The ex-mayor of Moscow, Yury Luzhkov, was also due to attend at the Investigative Committee at 10 am on October 28 to testify as a witness in the case over embezzlement of the Bank of Moscow funds.

However, the investigator received a letter from Luzhkov stating he could not appear in court due to his stay in another country. The committee took the reason into consideration and postponed the case hearing.

The investigators are probing the purchase of shares which were part of an additional emission by the Bank of Moscow by the Moscow mayor’s department in 2009. Soon after that, the Bank of Moscow channelled some 13 billion roubles (over $430 million) into the account of Premier Estate Company.

In 2010, Forbes recognized Elena Baturina as the third richest woman in the world with a fortune of over $2.9 billion. But since the resignation of her husband, Baturina’s fortune has decreased to some $1.2 billion. Nevertheless, she is still considered to be Russia’s richest woman.

Many critics correlate Baturina’s unprecedented wealth with her husband’s 18-year-long tenure as Mayor of Moscow. President Medvedev dismissed Yury Luzhkov from his post on September 28, 2010, citing a loss of confidence.