Belarus Charges American

Emanuel Zeltser, a U.S. lawyer and expert on money laundering in the former Soviet Union, has been charged with possession of false documents by Belarus' KGB.

The KGB confirmed that Zeltser was in custody following his detention March 12 as he arrived for meetings with clients.

It gave no further details about the circumstances of his arrest or the purported use of the documents but said Zeltser faced up to three years in prison if convicted.

The 54-year-old, Russian-born lawyer heads the nongovernmental organization American Russian Law Institute in New York and is a known expert on organized crime and money laundering. His clients have included Pavel Borodin, a former Kremlin aide whom a Swiss court accused of money laundering, and Badri Patarkatsishvili, the late billionaire who was a bitter opponent of Georgia's current administration.

The KGB made no mention of his secretary, Russian national Vladlena Funk, who was also detained March 12 at Minsk's airport.

Jonathan Moore, the top U.S. diplomat in Belarus, was quoted by the BelaPAN news agency as saying U.S. officials had had no contact with Zeltser since his detention.

Kommersant on Thursday cited Joseph Kay, a distant relative of Patarkatsishvili and another Zeltser client, as saying that Zeltser flew to Minsk at the suggestion of self-exiled Russian businessman Boris Berezovsky.

Berezovsky proposed that Zeltser urgently visit Belarus to prevent Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko from a possible sale of Patarkatsishvili's oil business in the country, Kay said.

Zeltser met Berezovsky on March 11 to show him Patarkatsishvili's will, which granted Kay the power of attorney, valid after Patarkatsishvili's death, to collect Patarkatsishvili's assets and distribute them among his relatives. Patarkatsishvili's widow, Inna Gudavadze, has accused Kay of forging her husband's last will. Zeltser arrived in Minsk on Berezovsky's personal jet, accompanied by Anatoly Motkin, an Israeli national and the manager of Patarkatsishvili's presidential election campaign, as well as Funk, Kay said.