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If you go against the Kremlin, you’ve got to pay

Tribune de Geneve

Exiled in London, the fallen oligarch Andrey Borodin talks about the system of power and opposition in Russia

Tristan de Bourbon – London

Exiled to the UK for the last year and a half, Andrey Borodin paints a terrifying picture of the system that governs his country.

What are you doing in London?
I left my country at the end of March 2011 for a family weekend celebrating the birthday of my daughter. I haven’t been back to my country since then. In just a few months I became an enemy of the Kremlin, in particular prime minister Dmitry Medvedev because I dared to go against his wishes a bit too forcefully.

How did your woes begin?
In Autumn 2010, Igor Yusufov, at the time special advisor to Dmitry Medvedev for economic issues, told me that the private bank that I chaired, the Bank of Moscow, was being placed under the control of the state having been sold to the publicly owned bank VTB. At the time, of-course it was never stated out loud but he planned to pocket a margin of at least 450 million Swiss francs that would be shared between him, Medvedev and Andrey Kostin, the CEO of VTB. To do so and in order to secure my future, I had to accept a discount of around 50% on the value of my shares.
I resisted as much as I could before giving in and selling them the shares for 734 million Swiss francs. And that’s why they began to make countless accusations against me. Because there is an important rule: if you go against the Kremlin, you’ve got to pay later. Given that Medvedev had his hand firmly on court decisions, this was relatively simple for him.

What do they accuse you of?
I have lost count of the number of times I have been charged for fraud and personal enrichment. Recently, they accused me of having promised 50 million dollars to Sergey Udaltsov to help him seize power in several Russian towns by force. This is pure provocation.

You are nonetheless on Interpol’s red list…
This is automatic after the legal authorities in your country make a request. But there is no independence in the Russian legal system where prosecutors are under the orders of the government and, by the way, it is a serious error of western legal authorities not to take account of this fact because it puts the life of Russian citizens in danger. The latest accusations against Alexey Navalny for fraud announced yesterday, the day before the opposition’s large demonstration, confirms that the courts are under the government’s thumb. I am therefore pleased that US politicians have passed the Magnitsky Act which restricts foreign travel by certain Russian dignitaries and their use of money abroad.

In what way do you think this is important?
The government authorities currently control everything in the country. This law will enable people to fight for the rights, freedom and sometimes the lives of Russian citizens. My country needs help in order to develop an independent legal system and this step can assist it. All western countries must pass similar legislation even if I know that it will be difficult given that Moscow is one of the largest trading partners of Brussels.

It was announced that you have bought a house for 207 million Swiss francs in the English countryside and that bank accounts amounting to 370 million Swiss francs belonging to you have been frozen, notably in Switzerland. What is the current situation on this matter?
I confirm that my Swiss accounts have been frozen but my lawyer hopes that the problem will soon be solved. My money is my own and I earned it honestly. I don’t want to comment on any other rumours about this matter.

Delayed justice

Yesterday, six years after the event, a Russian court sentenced a former policeman for his involvement in the October 7, 2006 assassination in Moscow of the opposition journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, to 11 years in a prison camp. The person who ordered the assassination has never been identified. Former Lieutenant Colonel Dmitry Pavilutchenkov admitted to a Moscow court that he organised this murder, which sparked considerable reaction throughout the world. The former policeman confessed that he had put the journalist under surveillance, bought a pistol and given it to the murderer to carry out the crime. AFP