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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Federal Guard Service Linked to Kasyanov Case

The Federal Guard Service, which answers directly to President Vladimir Putin, was involved in the controversial acquisition of state-owned villas by former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and Alfa Group head Mikhail Fridman, Izvestia reported Monday, citing the properties' former owners.

Shalva Chigirinsky, the owner of the Evikhon oil company, which leased the villas from the Federal Guard Service in 1996 for 49 years, told the newspaper that the Federal Guard Service and the State Property Ministry demanded the return of the villas in 2003.

Evikhon head Mikhail Arushanov said a lawyer from the Federal Guard Service brought him documents to sign that transferred Evikhon's rights to the villas to two companies, one of which was Art-Group. Art-Group reportedly was acquired by Kasyanov shortly after he was fired by Putin in early 2004.

The Federal Guard Service denied any involvement in the deal, Izvestia reported.

The newspaper said a Federal Guard Service official who signed one of the transfer agreements, former deputy head Anatoly Protsenko, retired in 2004 and now heads Alfa Telecom, a subsidiary of Alfa Group. Protsenko declined to comment, Izvestia said.

Prosecutors are investigating whether Kasyanov broke the law by acquiring his villa. The probe is widely seen as a warning to Kasyanov, who has criticized the Kremlin and hinted he might run for president in 2008. Kasyanov, who has denied wrongdoing, left Monday for a vacation on the Mediterranean Sea, Interfax reported. He is expected to return at the end of August.