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26 Jun, 2009 11:14

Berezovsky sentenced to 13 years

Self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky has been found guilty in absentia of the embezzlement of assets belonging to Russia’s biggest carmaker AvtoVAZ and sentenced to 13 years in prison, Interfax news agency reports.

The trial in one of Moscow’s courts was proceeding in his absence. Berezovsky’s interests were represented by a state solicitor as the tycoon has forbidden his lawyers to take part in the trial.

“The court sentence states that an embezzlement of a large sum of money by Berezovsky and Dubov [the second man accused] has been uncovered,” one of the participants of the trial told the agency.

Berezovsky was found guilty of the embezzlement of 143 million roubles back in 2004, but he was penalized for just a part of this sum – 58 million roubles.

The court also ordered the condemned to vindicate 58 million roubles in favor of the Samara Region, where AvtoVAZ headquarters are located.

The voicing of the sentence took two days due to its scale. The prison terms to be handed down on Berezovsky and his partner Yuliy Dubov, who’s got nine years, were announced on Friday.

The prosecutors were calling for 15 years in jail for the tycoon.

“According to the investigators, back in 1994, Berezovsky, who was a leader of an organized criminal group, used his personal relationship with the management of AvtoVAZ and organized the preparation and signing of a contract between AvtoVAZ and LogoVAZ, where he and members of his criminal group were among the top managers,” Marina Gridneva, official representative of the General Prosecutor’s office, said.

Under this contract, AvtoVAZ was obliged to make a delivery of 20,000 VAZ cars of different models to LogoVAZ at the prices effective at the time of their shipping. The pre-pay for the purchase of vehicles was not mentioned in the document.

LogoVAZ, however, violated the contract, selling the 5560 cars they received and not paying a penny back to AvtoVAZ. The fraud allowed Berezovsky to embezzle over 143 million roubles.

The tycoon, who currently resides in London, has claimed he’s not guilty, describing the court’s decision as “politically motivated”.

Berezovsky has already been sentenced in absentia to six years imprisonment for embezzling Russian airline Aeroflot.

One of the most powerful men in Russia during the Yeltsin era, Berezovsky fled to London in 2001 and was granted political asylum in Great Britain.

The British courts have rejected Russia’s multiple demands to extradite him. Russia’s General Prosecutor’s office says they are going to use the new sentence for Berezovsky as grounds for yet another appeal.

“Of course, the General Prosecutor's office will make every effort to ensure that [Berezovsky and Dubov] would get the punishment they deserve,” prosecutor Dmitry Linsky said.

The 63-year-old Berezovsky is also wanted in Brazil for alleged money laundering.