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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kozhin Finds No Evidence on Borodin

Vladimir Kozhin, who replaced Pavel Borodin as head of the Kremlin property empire, said Thursday that he has found no evidence to back up the corruption allegations leveled against his predecessor.

Speaking at his first news conference since his appointment in mid-January, Kozhin said his priority is to make the presidential property department transparent and accountable.

Kozhin said he has spent four months auditing the department's properties and "no malicious violations have been discovered," only poor management of budgetary and nonbudgetary funds.

Borodin is suspected of accepting kickbacks from Swiss construction firms in return for awarding contracts to build or renovate presidential property. Swiss prosecutors have issued a warrant for his arrest on charges of laundering money through Swiss banks.

The Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera quoted a letter from Geneva investigating magistrate Daniel Devaud this week, alleging that Mabetex had paid $4 million in bribes f mostly to Borodin. Mabetex head Behgjet Pacolli has denied the allegations.

Devaud accused another Swiss contractor, Mercata Trading and Engineering, of paying bribes worth $60 million, of which at least $25 million went to Borodin.

Bernard Bertossa, Geneva's prosecutor, said in an interview published Thursday in Corriere della Sera that Swiss investigators in the Mabetex and Bank of New York money-laundering cases have not gotten sufficient cooperation from their Russian counterparts.

"We have a clear impression that behind the public talk about the readiness [to cooperate], there is no room for cooperation when investigations get close to Russia's political elite," he said.

Kozhin outlined plans to improve management of the Kremlin's properties, including hotels, resorts, farms and medical institutions, which Borodin estimated were worth $600 billion.

Kozhin said all equipment and materials will now be bought only through tenders and he wants a new state agency to be created to handle the tenders.

He said Thursday he is planning to establish a network of what he called Kremlyovsky shops to sell agricultural products grown on presidential farms and lobby for legislation to prohibit State Duma deputies from privatizing state apartments given to them for the time they work in parliament.

Kozhin refused to release any figures for profits and losses for the properties handled by his department. Some of the 200 state companies were shut down "because it was hard to understand what they were doing and why they were created at all," he said.

Kozhin said his department is now busy setting up properties for Putin's representatives in the seven new federal districts. He said the seven offices would cost no more than the offices for the former presidential representatives in the 89 regions, which will be shut.

In his previous position, Kozhin headed the federal currency and export control service. He had headed the service's St. Petersburg branch at the time when President Vladimir Putin was working in the St. Petersburg city administration. When Putin came to Moscow in 1996, Borodin was one of his first bosses in the Kremlin.