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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Borodin Charged in Switzerland

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GENEVA, Switzerland — Former Kremlin aide Pavel Borodin arrived in Geneva over the weekend after being extradited from New York, and within hours was charged with money laundering and membership in a criminal organization.

Borodin, 54, was arrested on a Swiss warrant Jan. 17 at Kennedy Airport while traveling to Washington to celebrate President George W. Bush's inauguration. Having been denied bail by a New York judge, Borodin agreed last Monday to be flown to Switzerland rather than face a lengthy extradition battle from his U.S. prison cell.

"Mr. Borodin denies that he committed a crime of any kind," said defense lawyer Dominique Poncet after the hearing Saturday with investigatory judge Daniel Devaud. "We totally reject all the charges."

"We consider that the Swiss authorities have absolutely no competence [jurisdiction] in this affair," Poncet told journalists outside the state court in downtown Geneva. "The Russian authorities have made a formal statement that there has been no crime committed in Russia."

He described Borodin, who at the time of his arrest was the head of the Russia-Belarus Union, as being "jetlagged but very confident" that he would be cleared.

Poncet, a prominent law professor and veteran criminal counsel, said the defense team would apply for bail next Tuesday or Thursday, with Borodin staying in Geneva's main Champ Dollon prison in the meantime.

Click here to read our special report on the case against Borodin.

He said there was no risk of Borodin fleeing while on bail.

"We are going to present a request for his release, and of course Mr. Borodin would still be available to Swiss justice. It is a personal commitment that he has made and one his country has, too. He has an obligation to uphold it because he can't lose face at home," the lawyer said.

Geneva State Prosecutor Bernard Bertossa has accused Borodin of receiving some $30 million in kickbacks from two Swiss companies, Mercata and Mabetex, that had lucrative contracts to renovate Kremlin buildings.

Some of the kickbacks were allegedly laundered through Swiss banks.

If found guilty, Borodin could face up to five years in prison.

Mabetex chief Behgjet Pacoll has been charged in relation to the case.

Borodin used to be the Kremlin property manager and a member of Boris Yeltsin's inner circle. President Vladimir Putin dismissed him from the Kremlin post last year.

There have been demonstrations in Russia against the detention, although Putin's administration has toned down initial protests.

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov has merely urged Swiss authorities to conduct the case according to law and avoid politicizing it.

After a series of high-level dismissals and resignations, Russian authorities late last year closed their investigation into alleged corruption, saying Swiss authorities failed to provide evidence.

During the probe, there were allegations that Mabetex gave Yeltsin and his two daughters credit cards to buy tens of thousands of dollars worth of designer clothing and other items, with Borodin acting as the conduit for payments.

Geneva prosecutors refused to accept defeat, and criticized Russian authorities for showing little interest in pursuing highly placed officials.

Bertossa maintained that there was proof in the form of documents showing that Borodin received commissions on contracts that he signed on behalf of the Russian Federation.

Even though Switzerland has a reputation for being lax on money laundering, the Geneva prosecutors office headed by Bertossa is renowned for the zeal of its investigations.

Bertossa's determination to pursue Borodin comes despite the collapse of a case against Russian businessman, Sergei Mikhailov, who was acquitted in December 1998 of charges that he was a mafia boss.

A court subsequently ordered Geneva authorities to pay 800,000 Swiss francs ($482,000) compensation for the two years Mikhailov spent in jail.

(AP, Reuters)