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13 Jul, 2007 11:27

Brazil wants Berezovsky for money laundering

A Brazilian court has issued an arrest warrant for Russian businessman-in-exile Boris Berezovsky. He and several other directors of Brazilian sports club Corinthians are suspected of money laundering.

The Media Sports Investments (MSI) group, created with Mr Berezovsky's participation, was financing one of the country's most popular football teams – Sao Paolo's Corinthians. The investigators said the group was involved in illegal financial operations.

Berezovsky has denied the accusations.

A Brazilian judge said Interpol would be asked to carry out the overseas arrest of Boris Berezovsky, according to Reuters news agency.

The Russian businessman currently enjoys asylum in the UK after exiling himself from Russia.

Back in the 1990s Mr Berezovsky was considered one of the most influential people in Russia. His fortune helped him earn political connections, which in turn aided the expansion of his businesses.

He made his fortune importing Mercedes cars into Russia and later distributing cars made by Russia's Avtovaz. He took ownership of the Sibneft oil company and became the main shareholder in the country's main television channel ORT which was later turned into a propaganda vehicle for Boris Yeltsin’s presidential campaign in 1996.

Mr Berezovsky left Russia in 2001 soon after Vladimir Putin was elected president. He was charged with misappropriation of funds and fraud in his home country. But Mr Berezovsky claims all his troubles stem from his criticism of Putin, whom he accuses of stifling democracy.

His claims helped him win asylum in the UK, which the Kremlin insists should be revoked.

“Berezovsky, a man schooled in intrigues, never does anything unintentionally. I think he is preparing for the Duma elections in December and presidential elections in March next year, pursuing both his political and business interests,” commented Oleg Morozov, Vice Speaker of the State Duma.

Apart from the embezzlement charges, Mr Berezovsky has been accused of inciting the overthrow the Russian government. The Kremlin has also hinted that Mr Berezovsky could be directly linked to the case of former FSB Agent Litvinenko, poisoned in London last year as well as the murder of the Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya.
Recently Mr Berezovsky was charged with diverting more than $US 8 MLN from national flagship carrier Aeroflot in the late 1990s. The preliminary hearings into the case have already started.

“With the connivance of the British Home Office Berezovsky has gone absolutely unpunished. You've probably all noticed how he said he couldn't care less if Russia opened a criminal case or not,” stated Yury Chaika, Russia’s Prosecutor General.

However in order for Mr Berezovsky to face the charges in court, he has to be extradited from the UK first.