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Russian UN diplomat sentenced for money laundering

The former Russian UN diplomat, Valdimir Kuznetsov, has been sentenced to four years and three months in jail after being found guilty of money laundering. He will also have to pay more then $US 73,000 in fines.

Valdimir Kuznetsov spent more then 20 years serving as a diplomat for the Soviet and then Russian Foreign Ministry and later at the United Nations. In 2002 he was elected Chairman of the Budget Advisory Committee of the UN General Assembly.

In September 2005 he was arrested by FBI after being stripped of diplomatic immunity by the then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. U.S. authorities accused the 49-year-old diplomat of establishing an offshore company in order to hide $US 300,000 in illegal money received from another Russian UN employee, Aleksandr Yakovlev.

Mr Yakovlev, a former UN procurement officer, was arrested in 2005 on charges of bribery and money laundering. He pledged guilty and testified against Mr Kuznetsov as part of a plea bargain.

Mr Kuznetsov’s defence claimed he was not aware that the sum in question was obtained by Mr Yakovlev through bribery, and that it was borrowed by the defendant from his colleague.

In March the jury found Mr Kuznetsov guilty of the crime, and this Friday the court announced its sentence. Mr Kuznetsov has one week to say goodbye to family and friends before going to prison for more then four years. According to the court’s decision, he will start serving his sentence on October 27.

Mr Kuznetsov’s lawyers, however, are going to appeal the ruling within the next ten days. They say the prosecution was based solely on one testimony and the verdict was unjust.