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Sunday, April 18, 1999 Published at 19:17 GMT 20:17 UK


World: Europe

Berezovsky back to face the music

Berezovsky (right) helped finance Yeltsin's re-election campaign

By Paul Anderson in Moscow

The Russian billionaire businessman, Boris Berezovsky, has returned to Moscow from France to face accusations of involvement in a multi-million dollar money laundering scandal.

Mr Berezovsky announced he would return to Russia after the authorities there issued a warrant for his arrest but the warrant was later withdrawn.

The twists and turns of the saga, with all the ingredients of the soap operas Russians love so much, have held the country enthralled for months.

Unscrupulous public image

Here is a man who amassed his fortune during the free-for-all early days of Russia's economic liberalisation now accused of acquiring at least part of it by dirty tricks.


[ image: Primakov: Furious disagreements with Berezovsky]
Primakov: Furious disagreements with Berezovsky
Most Russians see Mr Berezovsky and the small band of Russia's ultra rich as unscrupulous businessmen who, in a few short years, have fleeced the people of the country's wealth.

But Mr Berezovsky is fighting back. When an arrest warrant was issued while he was on business in France, he immediately announced he would return voluntarily to Russia to answer the charges against him.

The prosecutor general's office later cancelled the warrant.

Grand conspiracy

But he still faces tough questioning and accusations that hundreds of millions of dollars from the national airline, Aeroflot, with which he was connected, were channelled illegally to a firm which he set up in Switzerland. Mr Berezovsky has said he will do that on Monday.

The tycoon, whose interests range from oil to cars and the media, sees the whole affair as a grand conspiracy. He believes it is led by the Prime Minister, Yevgeny Primakov, and is designed to disgrace him and influence President Yeltsin with whom Mr Berezovsky is believed to have close ties.

He said that by returning to Moscow, he will be able to clear his name entirely.





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