By Henry Meyer
Russian billionaire Andrei Borodin accused Russia of playing “a dirty game” aimed at crippling him financially by freezing his assets and called on Switzerland and other states to release his funds.
Borodin, former chief executive of the Bank of Moscow, is wanted in connection with the embezzlement of Moscow City Hall funds, according to the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office. Borodin, 45, says he is innocent and that he hopes money in the politically-motivated case will be unfrozen “very” quickly.
“It is a very dirty game which they are playing,” he said in a Dec. 4 interview in English from a hotel on London’s upmarket Park Lane. “Their goal is by freezing assets and funds to disable people from paying for consultants, solicitors and PR people. It is a great pity that foreign authorities, based on international agreements, simply believe what the Russian prosecutors and police are saying.”
Russia was ranked the most corrupt nation among the Group of 20 advanced economies in Berlin-based Transparency International’s 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index. The jailing of businessmen such as Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former billionaire owner of Yukos Oil Co. arrested in 2003, is a touchstone for investors concerned about the independence of Russia’s judiciary.
The Interior Ministry said Oct. 23 that it had secured a freeze on more than $400 million held in Borodin’s accounts in Switzerland, Belgium and Luxembourg and on other assets.
Russian regulators agreed to provide a record 395 billion-ruble ($12.8 billion) bailout for Bank of Moscow in 2011 after state-run VTB Group bought the city government’s 46.5 percent stake in the lender and uncovered bad debts.
Borodin denies any wrongdoing and says the bank’s takeover was “political.” VTB said in August that the transaction was “a purely strategic deal and not a political one.”
Ousted Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov was questioned in November 2011 as a witness in the case involving City Hall’s purchase of a stake in Bank of Moscow in 2009 for about 15 billion rubles. The bank then fraudulently lent almost 13 billion rubles to property company ZAO Premier Estate, funds which ended up in a bank account controlled by Luzhkov’s wife, Elena Baturina, according to investigators.
Baturina, who became Russia’s richest woman during her husband’s 18-year stewardship of Europe’s largest city, denies any wrongdoing, saying she received the money through a property transaction.