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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Police Seize MMM Chief

Armed tax police and Security Ministry troops raided the home of MMM chairman Sergei Mavrodi on Thursday and detained the shadowy financier whose pyramid scheme cheated millions of Russians out of their savings.


The Prosecutor's Office said it was investigating Mavrodi for concealing profits from the State Tax Service amounting to tens of billions of rubles, but had not arrested him as of late Thursday.


Officials said they had found 24.5 billion rubles ($11.77 million) this week in cash and bank deposits of a firm called Invest-Consulting, which they said was one of the many shell companies headed by Mavrodi in the MMM scheme.


Mavrodi, short and stout with light brown hair, waved to reporters and smiled as armed OMON officers wearing black ski masks escorted him into a red Zhiguli and drove him to the tax police headquarters for further questioning.


Militia officers were forced to push back a crowd of journalists and MMM supporters massed at the entrance to the riverfront apartment building in the Fruzinskaya region. Supporters shouted, "Hands off Mavrodi" as he walked by.


Authorities said no weapons were fired in the raid.


Mavrodi's two brothers were put into a separate car and also taken in for further questioning and officials removed two cartons believed to contain documents from Mavrodi's apartment.


"If we find some reason to arrest Mavrodi from the search of his apartment then probably we will do so," said Alexander Borisov, a spokesman at the scene with the tax police.


An official with the tax police said earlier that Mavrodi, if convicted of concealing profits and failing to pay taxes, could receive up to five years in prison.


In response to the MMM raid, which authorities stressed came after Mavrodi refused to attend a meeting with Finance Ministry officials Wednesday to reveal his company's financial data, Mavrodi shut down MMM's extensive operation throughout the country.


"The government has declared war on us," Mavrodi told Interfax in a telephone interview earlier in the day.


"How can we work while the president's apartment is being stormed?" asked MMM spokesman Sergei Taranov.


Events climaxed at 5 P.M. when three OMON officers in camouflage uniforms lowered themselves with ropes from the roof of Mavrodi's building and entered his eighth-floor apartment through an open door on the balcony.


More than two dozen OMON troops and tax police, many wearing flak jackets and carrying Kalashnikovs, had ringed the 10-story red sandstone building and sealed off the courtyard.


Officials said they were forced to break in after Mavrodi refused to honor a search warrant during three hours of negotiations.


"We had to use force. There was no other way," Borisov said. "We tried to solve this problem by civilian methods, but the other side didn't agree to follow our civilian proposals."


The government action Thursday brought to a head the MMM scandal