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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Warrant Issued for Borodin's Arrest

Swiss authorities have issued a warrant for the arrest of former top Kremlin official Pavel Borodin on money-laundering charges, a Swiss magistrate said Thursday - adding that warrants may soon be issued against more suspects in the case.

The magistrate, who declined to be named, told Reuters the warrant had been issued by Geneva's chief prosecutor Bernard Bertossa. "I can confirm that the chief prosecutor, Bertossa, has issued an international arrest warrant for Borodin," the magistrate said. "The warrant is for money laundering."

Borodin, reached by telephone, said he had done nothing wrong and called the warrant a political smear against him and acting President Vladimir Putin. "This has been ordered politically, not just against me, but against Putin, because I am on his team," he said.

Putin, however, moved earlier this month to distance himself from Borodin, removing him from his post as chief Kremlin property manager, where he oversaw an empire of dachas, apartments, health clinics and hotels worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Borodin, whose political patron, Boris Yeltsin, resigned as president Dec. 31, has been named to the considerably less important position of state secretary of the Russia-Belarus union, though Thursday he was still answering the phone in his old Kremlin office.

Borodin said he learned of the warrant from news reports. "This is complete nonsense," he said. "I don't know anything about this."

"Once, as a witness, I spoke with a Russian investigator. But no one from Switzerland has ever tried to contact me," he said. Borodin said he would send a complaint to the Russian Prosecutor General's Office and to the Foreign Ministry.

Swiss federal police sources said that once such a warrant is issued, Borodin could not travel to the West without running the risk of being arrested and extradited to Switzerland.

Georgy Chuglazov, an adviser to the Prosecutor General's Office, said Borodin could not be extradited to Switzerland.

The charges are part of an investigation by Geneva's judicial authorities into alleged kickbacks paid to Russian government officials by Swiss-based construction firm Mabetex. The Kremlin and Mabetex have denied any wrongdoing in the affair, in which a number of Swiss bank accounts have been frozen.

Swiss prosecutors have said they are investigating Borodin on suspicion of taking bribes from Mabetex in return for giving the firm lucrative contracts to renovate government buildings including the Kremlin, charges Borodin has previously denied.

Yury Skuratov, the suspended prosecutor general, said that by issuing the arrest warrant the Swiss "demonstrated to the world" that they are determined to prosecute foreigners using Swiss banks for money laundering.

Skuratov, who was suspended after he pushed ahead with the Mabetex investigation and was replaced by an acting prosecutor general, said the warrant was a way for Swiss prosecutors "to show their displeasure with the slow pace of the investigation by the [Russian] Prosecutor General's Office."

Skuratov said it would be logical now if the Swiss were to forward the case documents to the Prosecutor General's Office and advise that Borodin be prosecuted in Russia.

"The fact that they have not done it yet shows that they don't trust Russian law enforcement bodies," he said.

The Swiss magistrate said international arrest warrants were likely to be issued for two more suspects soon.

The arrest warrant is the first to be issued in the Swiss investigation into the multimillion-dollar web of Russian financial dealings and alleged corruption.

It underscores investigators' suspicions that Switzerland may have played a central role in capital flight and potentially high-level corruption and embezzlement in Russia.

The Swiss move could have political implications for Russia as well as the United States, where the wisdom of Western aid to Moscow has become an issue in foreign-policy debates in the campaign for the 2000 presidential elections.

Separately, Swiss authorities are also investigating Swiss connections in an alleged money-laundering scandal involving the Bank of New York. They are assisting U.S. investigators in the affair, in which two people have already been indicted in the United States.