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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Volkov Firing Stalls Aeroflot Inquiry

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The firing of Nikolai Volkov, who was heading the Russian investigation into the Aeroflot embezzlement case, has caught his Swiss counterparts off guard.

They will now delay transferring documents related to the high-profile case to the Prosecutor General’s Office, Agence France Presse said, citing a spokesman for the Swiss federal prosecutor’s office, Jurg Blaser.

Blaser said Wednesday his agency has asked the Russian prosecutor’s office officially to confirm Volkov’s resignation and identify his successor who will carry on the investigation, AFP reported.

Volkov was forced to resign last week after sending an unauthorized invitation to a Swiss prosecutor asking him to visit his Moscow office and deliver more documents on the Aeroflot case. Volkov said the invitation was used by his superiors to remove him from the case.

Volkov’s resignation was accepted Monday, with the case transferred to investigator Alexander Filin.

"Of course we were disappointed, but we are gradually getting used to often changes in the Russian prosecutor’s office," said Bernard Bertossa, a prosecutor in Geneva canton.

"We started the investigation with [former Prosecutor General Yury] Skuratov, then came Volkov and now he is off," Bertossa said Thursday.

Volkov’s removal from the case was expected to slow down, if not stall, the investigation. Even if the new investigator defies expectations and pursues the case as vigorously as Volkov did, he will have reams of documents to familiarize himself with.

"The new investigator will need a lot of time," Volkov was quoted as saying in the Thursday issue of the Segodnya newspaper.

Volkov said he would have needed another year himself to complete the investigation and send the case to court.

Last year, Volkov filed charges against Boris Berezovsky, a financial tycoon and Kremlin insider who was accused of diverting Aeroflot funds through two Swiss companies, Andava and Forus.

The charges were later dropped, but Berezovsky has remained a witness in the case and his accounts in Swiss banks remain frozen. Former senior Aeroflot officials Alexander Krasnenker and Nikolai Glushkov are the only two official suspects.

Volkov noted in the Segodnya interview, however, that he had been close to completing investigation of some instances of alleged embezzlement of Aeroflot funds.

For instance, he alleged that Aeroflot paid for leasing Boeing aircraft by taking out a loan "at an enormously high interest rate" from a private company headed by the head of Aeroflot at the time. The transaction cost Aeroflot $30 million, Volkov said.

Neither the time period nor the Aeroflot head was named.

Calls to Volkov’s office went unanswered Thursday.

— Igor Semenenko contributed to this report.