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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Berezovsky Spared in Aeroflot Case

More than two years after it was opened, the Aeroflot fraud case will be sent to court in May, but Boris Berezovsky is not among the four people charged with defrauding the airline of hundreds of millions of dollars, an official at the Prosecutor General's Office said Wednesday by telephone.

Berezovsky has been spared, at least temporarily, even though Deputy Prosecutor General Vladimir Kolmogorov issued an official statement in November saying his office planned to bring charges against him.

Prosecutors said last year they had established that about $900 million in Aeroflot funds went through two Swiss-based companies, Andava and Forus, reportedly co-founded by Berezovsky to service the airliner's hard-currency proceeds. It was unclear how many millions may have been diverted.

Berezovsky has denied any wrongdoing.

The defendants are Aeroflot's former commercial director Alexander Krasnenker, former deputy director Nikolai Glushkov, former senior vice president Lydia Kryzhevskaya and Roman Sheinin, who heads the Moscow-based company FOK, which is suspected of working with Andava to defraud the national carrier.

All four were charged last year with organized gross fraud, but only Glushkov has been arrested and jailed.

The investigation was opened Jan. 18, 1999. By law, an investigation must be completed within six months unless extended, which the Aeroflot case was repeatedly.

But when the current term expires May 18, investigator Alexander Filin has decided not to seek an extension and to send the case immediately to court, said the official at the Prosecutor General's Office, who asked not to be identified.

"We believe that a decision should be made quickly on the case of Aeroflot. … The case of those who we believe are guilty should be sent to court," Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov was quoted as saying by Monday's Nezavisimaya Gazeta, which is owned by Berezovsky.

The prosecutor's office official said Berezovsky has not been charged in the case and he would not comment on why Kolmogorov has failed to keep his promise to do so. Neither Kolmogorov nor Filin could be reached Wednesday.

But Berezovsky is not off the hook. The official said a separate case could be opened against Berezovsky even after the trial begins "if sufficient evidence is collected."

Berezovsky, once considered untouchable because of his close connections to former President Boris Yeltsin, went into self-imposed exile last year.

Andrei Ryabov, political analyst at the Moscow Carnegie Center, said prosecutors are unlikely to charge Berezovsky unless he resumes his criticism of the Kremlin.

Shortly after Vladimir Putin's inauguration in May, ORT television, which was then controlled by Berezovsky, launched an offensive against the new president, accusing him of using excessive force in Chechnya and infringing upon freedom of speech.

The campaign, which some analysts believed was launched in an effort by Berezovsky to demonstrate his political weight and try to preserve his waning influence in the Kremlin, reached its peak when the Kursk submarine sank in August 2000 and Putin initially decided not to cut short his vacation.

Soon enough Berezovsky saw control of ORT wrested from him and he fled Russia. He continued his anti-Putin crusade for some time from the United States, but then went silent.

Berezovsky's silence "could have been a signal of truce to the Kremlin and this signal may have been heard," Ryabov said. Should Berezovsky resume his criticism of Putin, he could find himself wanted for arrest.

Ryabov said in any case the Kremlin was unlikely to welcome back Berezovsky soon. "I believe Berezovsky's exile will be a long one," he said.

Berezovsky was initially charged in the case, together with Glushkov and Krasnenker, in spring 1999. The charges against all three were later dropped.

Glushkov and Krasnenker were charged again in December 2000. Kryzhevskaya and Sheinin also were charged last year.

Sheinin's company FOK, or Financial United Corporation, was founded by Andava in 1996, the weekly Versia quoted an investigator as saying in 1999.

According to the report, Glushkov chose FOK to pay Aeroflot's bills abroad. Using Irish-based front firm Grangeland, FOK asked Andava to pay these bills, which Andava would do while Grangeland pocketed a 30 percent commission, said the investigator, who was not identified.