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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Berezovsky's Child Held for Drug Possession




St. Petersburg police confirmed Tuesday that the eldest daughter of millionaire tycoon-turned-politician Boris Berezovsky was arrested over the weekend for cocaine possession.


Yelizaveta Berezovskaya, 27, was detained in Russia's second city Saturday and charged with possession of a large quantity of cocaine -- punishable by up to three years' imprisonment -- but was subsequently released on bail on condition that she not leave the city.


Police in St. Petersburg refused to comment on the circumstances of Berezovskaya's arrest, other than to confirm that she had been held.


"This, indeed, happened," said an officer of the city's 28th police precinct, whose patrolmen made the arrest.


Boris Berezovsky, who was appointed late last month as executive secretary of the Commonwealth of Independent States, has not made any statement on the arrest.


When reached by telephone Tuesday, his spokesman, Vladimir Ruga, declined to comment.


Several Russian newspapers reported Tuesday that Berezovskaya, a graduate of Cambridge University and now a Moscow-based artist, was arrested along with two male companions outside the Griboyedov nightclub at 2a Voronezhskaya Ulitsa.


The fashionable club was raided on several occasions last year by riot police after they received tip-offs that clients had illegal drugs.


According to the Kommersant Daily newspaper, two police officers approached Berezovskaya and her two companions -- Moscow fashion designer Ilya Voznesensky and an unidentified resident of St. Petersburg -- and asked whether they were carrying any weapons or drugs. Berezovskaya said she was and produced a plastic bag, containing 0.85 grams of cocaine, the daily said.


Berezovskaya and Voznesensky were then taken to the 28th precinct, where Berezovskaya was booked for possession of drugs and detained for the night. The newspaper quoted police officers as saying Berezovskaya behaved calmly.


The next morning, she was released on bail after signing a pledge to remain in St. Petersburg while her case was being processed. Berezovskaya could not be reached Tuesday, and acquaintances refused to disclose her whereabouts.


A Russian journalist who did not wish to be identified, said he spotted Berezovskaya's father outside the Hotel Grand Europe in downtown St. Petersburg on Monday. Hotel employees would not reveal on Tuesday if Berezovsky had been staying there.


Forbes magazine last year ranked Berezovsky as Russia's wealthiest man, with assets of $3 billion. He controls a extensive business empire, including media holdings, a car dealership and an oil company. He is a flamboyant and controversial figure who has cultivated close contacts with President Boris Yeltsin's entourage, including with members of Yeltsin's family. The tycoon is currently in Armenia as part of his tour of former Soviet republics.


Kommersant said Berezovskaya is to be defended by a team of five lawyers, who have already said the charges against their client are unlikely to stand up in court.


The newspaper quoted the lawyers as saying that Berezovskaya volunteered to hand over the cocaine and so, in accordance with Russia's criminal code, should be exonerated.


However, an officer of the St. Petersburg police's anti-drug unit said Tuesday that Berezovskaya can still be charged with possession, because under the code, handing in drugs is only considered voluntary if it is unsolicited.


The officer, who refused to give his name, said, however, that Berezovskaya's admission that she had the cocaine on her could still be considered as a mitigating factor by a court.


Under Russia's tough new drug law, which came into effect last month, 0.85 grams of cocaine is considered a "large quantity," possession of which can be punished by a prison sentence of up to three years. Previously, possession of relatively small quantities of drugs was only punishable by a fine.


Yelizaveta Berezovskaya is the oldest of the tycoon's six children. She majored in philosophy, art and literature at Cambridge University and returned to Russia after graduation to work in television.


She has kept out of the public eye: The only previous publicity she received was last month, when she staged an exhibition of her art installations in a Moscow gallery.