Berezovsky wanted in Brazil for alleged money laundering
Tom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro and Saeed Shah
Saturday July 14, 2007
The tussle between Britain and Russia over the London-based billionaire tycoon Boris Berezovsky took a new twist yesterday when the Brazilian authorities issued a warrant for his arrest.
Brazilian officials vowed to seek the extradition of Mr Berezovsky from the UK to face charges of money laundering. He is already wanted in Russia, accused of embezzlement.
The Brazilian move comes after the authorities there released the findings of a two-year investigation into a suspected money laundering racket involving the Brazilian football club Corinthians, which was effectively bought by a company linked to Mr Berezovsky in 2004. Brazilian prosecutors argue that Media Sports Investments (MSI), the subsidiary of an offshore company that formed a "partnership" with Corinthians in November 2004, is funded with the profits from organised crime in Russia.
In Brazil on Thursday, Judge Fausto Martin de Sanctis ordered the arrest of Mr Berezovsky and two other men, including the Iranian businessman Kia Joorabchian, who controls MSI in Brazil, which is accused of laundering Mr Berezovsky's money through the Corinthians team. Since none of the men was in Brazil, arrest warrants were forwarded to Interpol. The lawyer behind the federal investigation, Rodrigo de Grandis, told the Guardian that if the men tried to enter Brazil they would be arrested immediately. Officials from Brazil's public prosecutor admitted yesterday, however, they were not hopeful that Mr Berezovsky could be extradited.
Mr Berezovsky said the Brazilian court order was "an extension of the Kremlin's politicised campaign against me". The tycoon fell out with Russian leader Vladimir Putin and left the country in 2000. He has since been charged with embezzling millions of dollars from Russia's flagship airline, Aeroflot. This week, a trial in Russia started in the Aeroflot case, in Mr Berezovsky's absence.
The tycoon also faces potential prosecution in Russia over alleged calls for the government's overthrow, stemming from an interview he gave earlier this year to the Guardian. Britain, which granted him asylum in 2003, has repeatedly refused Russian requests for extradition.
Last year, Mr Berezovsky was detained and interrogated at Sao Paulo's international airport as he tried to embark for London. He was released without charge.
Monday, July 16, 2007
Berezovsky wanted in Brazil