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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Banker's Poisoning Trial Starts

A suspect accused of killing a wealthy banker by lacing his telephone with poison in 1995 maintained his innocence at the start of his trial Friday.

Vladimir Khutsishvili faces up to life in prison if convicted of murdering his former partner, Ivan Kivelidi, founder of Rosbiznesbank and one of the country's richest businessmen in the mid-1990s.

Khutsishvili's lawyer, Boris Kuznetsov, told the Zamoskvoretsky District Court on Friday that his client had had no reason to kill Kivelidi, Interfax reported.

The court has ordered the trial to take place behind closed doors to protect witnesses and other participants.

Kivelidi fell into a coma Aug. 1, 1995, and died three days later. His secretary, Zara Ismailova, died two days later after falling ill with similar symptoms.

An investigation found that the two had suffered a severe reaction to a highly toxic substance smeared on Kivelidi's telephone.

Investigators detained Khutsishvili shortly after Kivelidi's death but then released him, after which he went into hiding. Prosecutors charged Khutsishvili with murder in January 2000, and he was arrested in central Moscow after an acquaintance tipped off police that he had returned to town.

Along with the murders of journalists Vladislav Listyev and Dmitry Kholodov, the Kivelidi case is one of the country's most infamous unsolved crimes from the 1990s.