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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Borodin Arrested in New York

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A high-ranking Russian official at the center of a Kremlin corruption scandal was detained after arriving at John F. Kennedy airport in New York, the Foreign Ministry said Thursday.

Pavel Borodin headed the Kremlin property administration under former President Boris Yeltsin, and currently is secretary of the Russia-Belarus Union - a post that guarantees him legal immunity in Russia.

Late last year, Russian prosecutors closed a more than two-year-old investigation into whether he and other members of Yeltsin's inner circle had received kickbacks from two Swiss firms that held lucrative contracts to refurbish Kremlin properties.

But Swiss authorities have signaled that they will continue to pursue the case. Swiss prosecutors put out an international warrant for Borodin's arrest on Jan. 31, 2000 on money-laundering charges.

Borodin has denied the charges, and Russian prosecutors said that the Swiss had failed to provide sufficient evidence that a crime had been committed.

In Moscow, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov called U.S. Ambassador James Collins in to the ministry on Thursday morning to lodge a formal protest of the arrest. Ivanov demanded Borodin's "immediate and unconditional release," said Vladimir Oshurkov, an official in the ministry's information department.

Geneva prosecutor Bernard Bertossa said that Switzerland would request Borodin's extradition. Swiss Justice Ministry spokesman Folco Galli said Switzerland had 40 days to make the request, though this could be extended by a further 60 days.

Interfax reported that Borodin had traveled to the United States to attend President-elect George W. Bush's inauguration Saturday. It quoted Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko as saying that Borodin had been invited by a member of the inauguration committee whom he identified as James Zenders.

Lukashenko said that Borodin was sent to the United States to represent the Russia-Belarus Union at the inauguration. However, Borodin's lawyer, Genrikh Padva, said that Borodin was not traveling on a diplomatic passport, Interfax reported.

Russian consular officials in New York have not yet been permitted access to Borodin, Russian state television reported. He was expected to appear in court later Thursday.

Messages left at the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and other agencies were not returned early Thursday. The U.S. Embassy in Moscow declined to comment.

Swiss prosecutors have alleged that their Russian counterparts were sluggish in pursuing corruption investigations against highly-placed officials, while energetically prosecuting Kremlin opponents such as media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky.

The head of one of the Swiss firms involved, Behgjet Pacolli, has been charged in a Swiss court in connection the Borodin case.

Some members of the Russian parliament angrily protested the arrest.

"We, the absolute majority of deputies, are indignant that the new U.S. administration started [its work] with the arrest of a high-ranking official," complained ultranationalist legislator Vladimir Zhirinovsky. "Our ministries could take retaliatory actions."

His words reflected the widespread expectation in Russia that the Bush administration will take a harder line toward Russia.