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Tycoon fears Putin enforcers

An exiled Russian banker has called in the police after a mystery chase on the M4

The Sunday Times

A RUSSIAN tycoon who fled Moscow claiming to be a victim of Kremlin persecution fears he may be the target of the Russian security services in Britain.

Andrey Borodin, a billionaire banker, claimed he had recently been the target of a surveillance operation at his new home near Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire.

The fugitive tycoon, who has spent about £50,000 funding human rights groups fighting abuses by the Kremlin, said he had called in police after a car being driven by Mario Hinterdorfer, his personal assistant, was involved in a high-speed chase on the M4 in August.

A RUSSIAN tycoon who fled Moscow claiming to be a victim of Kremlin persecution fears he may be the target of the Russian security services in Britain.

Andrey Borodin, a billionaire banker, claimed he had recently been the target of a surveillance operation at his new home near Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire.

The fugitive tycoon, who has spent about £50,000 funding human rights groups fighting abuses by the Kremlin, said he had called in police after a car being driven by Mario Hinterdorfer, his personal assistant, was involved in a high-speed chase on the M4 in August.

Hinterdorfer had been transporting Borodin’s water-skis from his Henley home to Datchet Lake, Berkshire.

“It might have been someone from the Russian security service, it might have been criminals,” Borodin said. “I have no direct evidence about who it was but we called in the police who are still investigating.

They told us the car had false numberplates, which of course is very suspicious.”

Borodin, 45, is applying for political asylum in Britain after fleeing to London with his family last year.

In doing so, he has become one of the latest – and richest – of the growing exodus of super-rich who have sought refuge from the Kremlin in Britain. Borodin came to notice this summer when it emerged that he had paid £140m for his new family home, making it the most expensive house sale in Britain.

An economist by training, he is the former president and owner of the Bank of Moscow, one of Russia’s biggest banks.

Forbes magazine lists him as the 96th richest person in Russia.

His fall from grace began in early 2011 when he was forced to sell his stake in the bank for $750m (£465m) – which he claims was half its true value.

Shortly afterwards, he decided to flee after learning that he might face arrest over an alleged fraud involving huge loans from his bank. Borodin says the charges are trumped up by the government of Vladimir Putin.

Although he insists he is not politically motivated, he accepts he has angered the regime by making allegations of corruption against Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian prime minister, who is one of Putin’s close allies.

Thames Valley police confirmed that the incident on the M4 was under investigation but declined to give further details.

Borodin, who has since upgraded security around his house, knows what can happen to those who cross the Kremlin’s path. Six years ago, another political exile, the former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko, was murdered with radioactive poison in London. It is an open secret in Whitehall that the Kremlin ordered the assassination as revenge for Litvinenko’s outspoken attacks on Putin.

In March, the Russian businessman German Gorbuntsov was shot and badly injured as he arrived at his home in London’s Docklands. Police are still hunting the gunman. The 46-year-old had applied for political asylum for himself and his family.

Borodin has been accused of funding the punk band Pussy Riot, three of whose members were jailed for two years in August after protesting against Putin – one was later released.

He is also said to have paid up to $50m to an opposition movement to overthrow the Russian government.

He dismisses the allegations. “I have never advocated or believed in the use of undemocratic or unlawful methods for pursuing political change,” he said. “I don’t support the opposition but I have supported the human rights organisations that are based in Russia by giving them money.

“What Russian society really needs is a fair legal system. It needs an independent prosecution system and an independent police [force] which doesn’t prosecute people for political reasons.”

An arrest warrant was issued against Borodin by the Russian state prosecutor in May last year, although legal sources say Moscow has yet to issue formal extradition proceedings.

Last month Borodin became the subject of an Interpol “red notice” because of the allegations against him in Moscow. Noting that individuals subject to red notices can be arrested when they cross international borders, he said: “I have no intention of leaving the country.”