Police raid company of ex-Moscow mayor's wife

17th February 2011, Comments 0 comments

Police raided the offices of Russia's richest woman on Thursday in a probe linked to an emergency loan she took out from a bank founded by the deposed mayor of Moscow -- who is also her husband.

Yelena Baturina called the probe a political provocation that had nothing to do with the loan her Inteko construction company took from the Bank of Moscow.

"I know for certain that these searches have no relation to either our company or the Bank of Moscow," Interfax quoted Baturina as saying.

"This is simply an ordered (raid) and a form of (political) pressure," she added.

Investigators said the raid was linked to a loan that Inteko took out in 2009 from the Bank of Moscow as the company's finances suffered from the aftermaths of the global financial crisis.

"The searches are being conducted within the frameworks of a criminal investigation into the embezzlement of 13 billion rubles from the Bank of Moscow," an interior ministry spokeswoman told Interfax.

The probe into the disputed loan was launched only weeks after the dramatic departure of Yury Luzhkov from his mayoral seat.

The Kremlin accused the mayor of corruption and investigators soon launch an inquiry into a 12.76 billion ruble (435 million dollar) loan that the bank issued to a little known firm in 2009 that was allegedly nothing more than a shell company.

Various media reports said that the small firm then went on to purchase a plot of land at what investigators believe was an inflated price from Baturina's debt-ridden Inteko company.

The Vedomosti business daily said the company that acted as the intermediary in the transaction was partially owned by Bank of Moscow executives and had been set up only three months prior to the disputed land deal.

The Financial Times for its part reported that the transaction took place on the same day as the Moscow city parliament approved a 15-billion-ruble transfer to the Bank of Moscow.

It added that Russia's interior ministry was now checking to see whether the funds were transferred to help Baturina settle her debts.

Baturina's prominence and $1.1 billion fortune is believed to be a result of Moscow real estate contracts awarded to Inteko by the city, and Russia's main TV channels aired specials alleging corruption ahead of Luzhkov's ouster.

© 2011 AFP

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