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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Prosecutors Charge Berezovsky With Car Theft

The Prosecutor General's Office said Wednesday that it has charged self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky and his business associate Badri Patarkatsishvili with car theft.

Deputy Prosecutor General Vladimir Kolesnikov told reporters in Samara that Berezovsky, who lives in London, and Patarkatsishvili, an adviser to Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, stole 2,033 cars worth $13 million from top automaker AvtoVAZ in 1994 and 1995.

"Through the mass media I would like to urge the law enforcement agencies of Britain and Georgia to activate work on returning to Russia ... Berezovsky and Patarkatsishvili, his first deputy in LogoVAZ," Kolesnikov said.

Berezovsky set up LogoVAZ in 1989 with Patarkatsishvili and senior managers of flagship automaker AvtoVAZ, including current CEO Vladimir Kadannikov. Ostensibly, the company was created to provide the aging AvtoVAZ factory with automation software. Instead, it quickly began selling cars and became the auto giant's official dealer.

"It's all rubbish from beginning to end," Berezovsky said by telephone from London. "It seems to me that the total sum I am charged with exceeds the Russian budget.

"What is it to ask English and Georgian law enforcement agencies to 'activate work?'" he said. "Doesn't Kolesnikov understand that there has to be an official extradition request to do that? Everyone is going to think I paid him for all this free publicity -- but I didn't. I didn't pay him."

An official in the prosecutor's office in Moscow said that no official request for Berezovsky's extradition had ever been made.

When asked if he was worried about being extradited, he said no. In fact, he said, Scotland Yard has been guarding him and his house since he was approached a month ago by detectives who told him that there had been a threat on his life and offered to protect him.

Scotland Yard said it does not comment on personal matters.

In his book "Godfather of the Kremlin, Boris Berezovsky and the Looting of Russia," Forbes magazine senior editor Paul Klebnikov gives a detailed account of how Berezovsky, through LogoVAZ, took over three lucrative state companies -- AvtoVAZ, Aeroflot and Sibneft -- by "privatizing" their managers and financial flows. Berezovsky and Patarkatsishvili figure in a case currently being heard in which prosecutors allege $252 million was illegally siphoned out of Aeroflot in 1996 and 1997 through two Swiss companies founded by Berezovsky -- Forus SA and Andava SA.

Kolesnikov said part of the money Berezovsky and Patarkatsishvili made from the AvtoVAZ scam financed the construction of three mansions in the Moscow region, which were then handed over to former LogoVAZ deputy general director Alexander Krasnenker, who also figures in the Aeroflot case, and an employee named Magomed Ismailov.

The two also paid $260,000 for a dacha in the Moscow region for Nikolai Tikhonov, a former head of the Soviet Union's Council of Ministers, he said, adding that one of Berezovsky's daughters now lives there.

Kolesnikov also said they used the ill-gotten funds to buy more than $1 million worth of real estate in St. Petersburg and more than $3 million worth of shares in television broadcasters ORT and TV6, as well as the Ogonyok publishing house.

As for Patarkatsishvili, a spokeswoman for the Georgian prosecutor's office said that no request to extradite him had come from Russia since November, when he was "charged as an accomplice in a prison break, but we denied the request because Georgia does not extradite citizens to any country."

She was referring to the attempted escape last year of former Aeroflot deputy director Nikolai Glushkov, who is facing charges in the Forus and Andava affair.

"I will not hide that during the investigation of the [LogoVAZ] case there appeared some very serious questions that Samara region Governor [Konstantin] Titov needs to answer," Kolesnikov said.

Titov's spokeswoman Lyudmila Takayeva said the governor is ready to answer any questions any time.

In addition to the LogoVAZ charges, Kolesnikov announced that more than a dozen criminal cases had been opened in the Samara region within the last month, including corruption in the regional construction committee, engine theft at AvtoVAZ and several others ranging from misspent government funds to tax evasion.