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17 Apr, 2007 02:20

Russia wants Berezovsky extradited

Russia wants Berezovsky extradited

The Russian Prosecutor General's Office has announced it has completed the probe into the Boris Berezovsky embezzlement case – one of many filed against the exiled businessman by Russian authorities.

The billionaire is accused of diverting 214 MLN rubles (more than $US 8 MLN), from the national airline Aeroflot in the late 1990-s. 

Besides embezzlement, Mr Berezovsky is also charged with fraud and an attempt to overthrow the Russian government. The latest charge was incriminated against him on April, 13. That happened after the interview to the British Guardian newspaper in which he said that the only way to change the political course in Russia was by use of force. That is what actually urged the Russian authorities to file a request to the British authorities, once again, to extradite Boris Berezovsky.

The President's First Deputy Press Attaché, Dmitry Peskov, has called on the British authorities to rethink their decision to harbour a fugitive billionaire “who is using the protections afforded by the British state to call for regime change in a sovereign state”.

Russia's Prosecutor General, Yury Chaika, said his office has sent a request to London asking the UK authorities to strip Berezovsky of his refugee status and to send him back to Russia.

“We believe and I have clearly stated this in my instruction, that Berezovsky has created a criminal group whose aim is to forcibly overthrow the legal and constitutional regime of the Russian Federation. He has done this apparently with the connivance of the British authorities which makes him feel he is non-punishable. We asked the British authorities once again to return to the question of depriving him of his political asylum status, because his actions constitute a legally defined crime, and we have demanded his extradition to the Russian Federation,” Yury Chaika stated.

In 2003, Boris Berezovsky was granted political asylum in the UK and since then has enjoyed the status of a political refugee. The Russian authorities hope that the new attempt to extradite him will be successful.

“Our Prosecutors have demanded his handover numerous times and they have got refusals from the British side up to that moment. We do not know the reason why the British side found insufficient our proofs that Mr Berezovsky may have something in common with fraud allegations in Aeroflot case. But this time it is obvious, this time his statements are considered to be a crime not only in accordance with Russian laws, but also in accordance with British laws”, Dmitry Peskov, First Deputy Press Attache to the Russian President, said.

Aleksandr Khinshtein, State Duma Deputy and a member of the Parliament’s Commission on Corruption, commented to Russia Today on Boris Berezovsky's statements.

“Boris Berezovsky, in our opinion, is just a minor figure in a big foreign policy game being played by certain political circles in the West, and in these terms it is not pleasant for Russia when people, who are accused of crimes here in Russia – not political crimes but criminal cases – are not extradited back to Russia. This undermines normal relations between our countries,” Aleksandr Khinshtein noted.

According to the Guardian newspaper, Scotland Yard is now examining the case and they have asked for all the records of the interview.

“London is a magnet for a lot of disgruntled dissidents from around the world, from all sorts of countries and the idea is you are given a sanction to stay here, given asylum on the understanding that you don’t bring your politics with you,” Richard Beeston, Diplomatic Editor from the Times newspaper, commented.

The Times newspaper says that the exiled billionaire possibly faces deportation and his case might appear in court. The British Foreign Office has also condemned the statements made by Berezovsky.