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Why Britain Has Granted Asylum to Banker Borodin

BBC Russian Service

The British Home Office denies political asylum to 99 per cent of the seekers, BBC lawyers say; therefore, Andrei Borodin had to produce solid proofs of his having been pressured politically in Russia.

It became known on Friday that Andrei Borodin, former head of the Bank of Moscow, had received political asylum in Great Britain. Earlier, the British office would deny that and Borodin himself would refuse to comment on his status.

Interviewed by the Vedomosti daily, the businessman said that his “lawyers submitted a political asylum request to the British Home Office stating that the persecution of my colleagues and me in Russia was politically motivated. It involves interests of various politicians, including former president Dmitry Medvedev, who in fact is the principal initiator of all these persecutions.”

Borodin left Russia in the spring of 2011.

The Home Office is able to tell a political refugee from a thievish businessman, British lawyers say.

An asylum seeker needs to produce, for example, publications that supposedly tarnish his name, provide testimony that he is being pressured or proofs of persecutions against the organisation’s employees.

“Cannot find protection in Russia”
“The lawyer must provide Amnesty reports, witness testimony, an expert reference on the region,” says lawyer Pam Barar, founder of Barar Associates, specializing on political asylum facilitation in Great Britain.

In a vast majority of the cases, the Home Office denies asylum, but if there is enough proof of persecutions, a decision can be made in the blink of an eye, the lawyer adds.

“The British immigration authorities are conservative in the provision of political asylum, and it is not easy to receive it nowadays, because the public believes that there are too many refugees in Great Britain,” Arthur Dedel, assistant lawyer at Zaiwalla & Co LLP, says.

“Britain is indeed interested in attracting wealthy migrants, who would contribute to economic growth, but wealth or no wealth do not guarantee the seeker political asylum,” the head of the Russia and the CIS division of the same company adds.

A businessman seeking political asylum must show that his case is not the first one in its kind, Oleg Degtyarev, director of Law Firm Ltd., adds.

“He must show that there have been similar cases on which affirmative decisions were made. He must show that his business is under attack, that groundless charges are brought up and that he cannot find protection in his own country,” the expert adds.

The Russian Interior Ministry has already said that it will still seek extradition of the former president of the Bank of Moscow.

Interior officers can travel to London, but they are powerless to either return the businessman into Russia or change his status, Pam Barar is convinced. Borodin’s status may be reviewed only if the Home Office receives proofs that the documents presented by Borodin contained serious breaches.

A Political Decision
In Russia, Borodin and his deputy, Dmitry Akulinin, are subjects in a case of an illegal loan and are charged of “abuse of office” and “grand fraud.” The case is about a loan of 12.76 billion roubles that according to the investigators was illegally issued to the Premier Estate Company to buy a land plot in western Moscow from the Inteko Company.

Following the purchase of Moscow government’s share in the bank (46.48%) by VTB, a state bank, in 2011, audits by the Central Bank revealed that the Bank of Moscow had been issuing multi-billion loans to affiliated organisations, of which loans amounting to 150 billion roubles were unsupported by collateral.

In a BBC interview, Borodin has said that “the fact of a hole discovered was an artificial operation and it had to do with the fact that VTB needed to improve its situation and the acquisition of the Bank of Moscow was used as a pretext to obtain multi-billion infusions from the state.”

In March 2011 Andrei Borodin got rid of 19.92 per cent of Bank of Moscow shares by selling them to businessman Vitaly Yusufov, as the Russian press reported.

However, in late 2011 Borodin gave an interview to Vedomosti, a Russian business newspaper, in which he said that “a political decision was behind this entire story [the sale of the Bank of Moscow]: that of taking the bank under control. And the decision was implemented by VTB board chairman Andrei Kostin and Igor Yusufov [the father of Vitaly Yusufov], who was close to the higher-ups. Yusufov told me in so many words that he was acting in the interests of and on instructions from president Dmitry Medvedev, who was the one who had made the decision on obtaining control over the Bank of Moscow. It is a politically motivated decision on property takeover, and the West has a very negative view of those who make those decisions.”

When interviewed later by the same daily, Igor Yusufov denied he was representing Dmitry Medvedev’s interests.