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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

350 Takeovers Investigated

Police investigated nearly 350 questionable company takeovers last year, double the number in 2004, the Interior Ministry said Thursday.

The cases involved disputed assets of 120 billion rubles ($4.25 billion) and resulted in 11 criminal convictions, the ministry said in a statement.

No figures were given for 2004.

The investigations were an echo of the violent company takeovers of the 1990s -- often involving armed raids by masked men -- when such cases were much more in the public eye.

"They've started to pay more attention to this problem," said Gennady Melnik, a spokesman for the ministry's investigative department. "The state is interested in order."

One example cited by the ministry was from 2004 when 40 men wielding baseball bats broke into Moscow bank Natsionalny Kapital and produced a court ruling transferring ownership of the bank. Police caught the raiders, and last November eight of them were sentenced to one year in prison.

Melnik said the jump in criminal cases was partly due to the authorities reacting swiftly to media reports of raids on companies.

Mikhail Kuznetsov, a mergers and acquisitions specialist at investment company Finam, said most questionable takeovers were carried out by simple fraud, and that in Moscow alone about 10 major companies specialized in such takeovers.

"They've learned how to start investigating such cases," he said of Interior Ministry officials. "We are becoming a tad more civilized."