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BBC News, World Edition

Tuesday, 5 November, 2002, 14:47 GMT

Russia demands UK-based tycoon's arrest

 

Berezovsky fled to London after fraud inquiry

Russia has formally demanded the extradition from the UK of tycoon Boris Berezovsky, say prosecutors in Moscow.

The Russian businessman fled to London after a corruption inquiry was launched against him in Russia five years ago.

The request follows last week's arrest in Denmark of Chechen envoy Akhmed Zakayev, after an extradition request was sent to the authorities in Copenhagen.


"I would like them to send the warrant - so we can solve the problem of who is lying and who is not lying"

Boris Berezovsky

Mr Berezovsky announced on Sunday that he would fund Mr Zakayev's fight against extradition.

The UK Home Office has said it never comments on reports of requests for extradition.

But in Moscow, prosecutor-general's office spokesman Leonid Troshin told Interfax news agency that the extradition request had been sent through the Foreign Ministry.

Mr Berezovsky told BBC News Online that Moscow had falsely claimed four times previously that extradition requests had been made.

"I don't know what is true," he said. "Before it was only lies.

"But I would like them to send the warrant - so we can solve the problem of who is lying and who is not lying."

Mr Berezovsky was absolutely confident that he could prove in a British court that he had no case to answer in Russia, he said.

He said the timing of Moscow's announcement was no coincidence, coming only days after his offer to help Mr Zakayev's defence.

"There is a link. I think maybe it made the public prosecutor a little crazy and angry," he said.

Mr Berezovsky had powerful interests in oil and the media before the launch of the inquiry against him.

He still claims to have a major stake in a big Russian oil company.

He has denied the corruption charges and says he will not return to Moscow because he would be illegally jailed. He has also said he fears for his safety if he goes back.

The UK and Russia do have formal extradition procedures, agreed only last year after the lapse of a 19th Century treaty.

 

Chechen charges

In a separate development, the Russian authorities have handed over to Denmark specific details of some of their allegations against Mr Zakayev - although none of them links him with the Moscow theatre siege, which sparked the original call for his arrest.

Russian prosecutor-general Vladimir Ustinov handed the papers to Danish Justice Minister Lene Esperson during a visit to Moscow.

 

Prosecutors say Mr Zakayev ran a Chechen rebel group which committed murders and other crimes.

The list of crimes handed to the Danes is said to include the murder of a policeman in 1996 and playing a role in a Chechen-backed uprising in Dagestan two years later.

"We are charging Zakayev with setting up a rebel group that operated from 1991 to 2001," said deputy prosecutor-general Sergei Fridinsky.

"The number of its members varied from 300 to 1,500. The group has been involved in a number of crimes, including some linked with terrorism."

Mr Zakayev, who is a close aide of ousted Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, was detained in Copenhagen where he was attending a conference on Chechnya.

 

Hostage tragedy

Russia says both men were involved in the preparation of last month's hostage crisis in Moscow, which ended in the deaths of 120 hostages and about 50 Chechens.

Both men strongly deny the claim.

The rebels themselves said they were under the command of warlord Shamil Basayev, who this week said he organised the operation in secret and asked for Mr Maskhadov's forgiveness.

Denmark is to decide by the end of the month whether to grant the extradition request.

Danish authorities had asked Moscow to provide evidence to back up their arrest warrant.

 

 



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