Russian prosecutors seek return of Berezovsky's assets
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MOSCOW, March 25 - RAPSI. Russian federal prosecutors seek the return of illegally acquired assets belonging to the late Boris Berezovsky, 67, who was found dead in London Saturday, Deputy Prosecutor General Alexander Zvyagintsev said in a statement Monday.
"Berezovsky was accused of grave economic crimes as part of a transnational criminal group," he said. "The Russian Criminal Code allows the authorities to confiscate the property of criminal group members. Therefore, the Prosecutor General's Office will continue to insist on returning to Russia the assets illegally acquired by Berezovsky and his accomplices and legalized abroad."
Earlier, Investigative Committee Chairman Alexander Bastrykin said Russia must introduce criminal liability for legal entities to return to Russia the funds that were illegally siphoned abroad.
Bastrykin told Rossiyskaya Gazeta that the capital outflow from Russia hit $56.8 billion last year, including over $35 billion withdrawn through suspect financial transactions, according to the Central Bank.
In Russia, Berezovsky has been declared guilty of fraud, theft and laundering AvtoVAZ, LogoVAZ, and Aeroflot funds. Two sentences - one for 13 years and the other for six years - have been handed down against him in absentia.
Berezovsky has remained in the UK since 2000. Despite numerous requests, the UK refused to hand him over to Russia to stand trial on a number of criminal counts.
News broke on Saturday that the self-exiled oligarch and outspoken Kremlin critic was found dead in his home near London. A host of theories have surfaced, most of which fall into two categories - that he committed suicide or that he suffered from a heart attack. However, the cause of death remains unconfirmed.
The BBC reported Sunday that UK police specializing in the detection of nuclear, chemical, and biological contamination have been deployed to search Berezovsky's home, noting that his body has not yet been removed from the house as a precaution while the search runs its course.
Notably, a close ally of Berezovsky's, former Russian intelligence officer and alleged MI6 agent Alexander Litvinenko, died in London in 2006 after being poisoned by the radioactive substance polonium-210.
After suffering a series of large-scale defeats in London's High Court of Justice, Berezovsky was widely believed to be on the verge of bankruptcy.
The latest news on the Berezovsky front involved his plans to auction a valuable Warhol painting, "Red Lenin," at Christie's Auction House in an effort to gather the funds to pay his legal fees. He also reportedly planned to sell several properties and a 1927 Rolls Royce through an auction as well.
During his life, Berezovsky developed an international reputation for engaging in controversial disputes. However, while Boris Yeltsin served as Russia's president, he enjoyed unparalleled political influence. When President Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000, however, Berezovsky's sphere of influence collapsed beneath him.
After Berezovsky fled Russia, he was granted asylum in the UK in 2003.