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Russian Prosecutors Begin Formal Request for Gusinsky Extradition - 2003-08-26


Russian prosecutors have begun the paperwork to officially request former media mogul Vladimir Gusinsky's extradition from Greece, where he was detained last week. Mr. Gusinsky is wanted in Russia on charges of wide-scale fraud and corruption - charges Mr. Gusinsky says are politically motivated.

The Russian prosecutor-general's office says it has begun the process of formally preparing a request for the extradition of Vladimir Gusinsky, who once headed one of the most powerful independent media empires in Russia.

On Monday, a court in Athens decided to order the former Russian media mogul to be held in detention pending possible extradition to Russia on fraud charges.

Mr. Gusinsky fled Russia amid the charges more than three years ago, when Russian President Vladimir Putin came to power. He says the charges against him are politically motivated retaliation.

Russian prosecutors allege that Mr. Gusinsky misrepresented his former company's assets several years ago to secure $250 million in loan guarantees from Russia's state-owned controlled gas company, Gazprom.

Gazprom eventually took over Mr. Gusinsky's holdings in a move widely viewed as a setback for press freedom in Russia.

Mr. Gusinsky's media outlets, which included Media-Most radio and independent NTV television, provided some of the most critical coverage of the Russian military campaigns in Chechnya, to the ire of many in the Kremlin.

Officials in Moscow also later accused Mr. Gusinsky of fraudulently capitalizing from the privatization schemes of the 1990s, in which vast fortunes were made overnight through the selling off of formerly government-owned firms.

This is not the first time Mr. Gusinsky has faced extradition charges. In 2000, he was arrested in Spain, but a Spanish court refused to extradite him. He then flew to Israel, where he has lived until this latest run-in with the law.

Mr. Gusinsky's latest arrest comes amid a high-profile standoff between the Kremlin and another so-called oligarch, Mikhail Khodorkovsky. The disputes are raising concern that President Putin is seeking to control the new Russian elite before parliamentary elections in December.

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