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7 Nov, 2008 06:04

Disgraced diplomat swaps American jail for Russian one

A Russian former UN diplomat convicted of laundering hundreds of thousands of dollars in the U.S. has been granted long awaited permission to serve his sentence in his homeland.

Vladimir Kuznetsov was sentenced to 51 months behind bars in October 2007, and a fine of more than $73,000, for laundering $300,000 from firms seeking UN contracts. He had been serving as a diplomat for more than 20 years for both the Soviet Union and Russia’s Foreign Ministries, before taking on a more senior role at the UN.

In September 2005, the 49-year-old was accused by U.S. authorities of establishing an offshore company to hide the $300,000 obtained from another Russian UN employee, Aleksandr Yakovlev, who served as a procurement officer.

Kuznetsov was stripped of his diplomatic immunity by the then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and arrested by the FBI.

His defence claimed he just borrowed the money from his colleague and was not aware Yakovlev got it through bribery.

Meanwhile, Yakovlev pleaded guilty and testified against Kuznetsov as his crime associate.

In March 2007 the jury found Kuznetsov guilty and he started serving his sentence in an American jail in October 2007. The former diplomat is now waiting for the Russian and American authorities to finalise the details of his return.