Russian billionaire Yevtushenkov denies freed from house arrest
Russian billionaire Vladimir Yevtushenkov on Friday denied reports he had been unexpectedly freed from house arrest after being detained this week in a money-laundering probe.
"Don't believe it, they didn't free (me)," Yevtushenkov told the state RIA Novosti news agency in a phone call after a source in his Sistema conglomerate told AFP that his house arrest pending a money laundering probe had been lifted.
The spokesman for Russia's powerful Investigative Committee, which is in charge of Yevtushenkov's case, Vladimir Markin, was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying the 65-year-old was still under house arrest.
Alexander Shokhin, the head of Russia's Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, a big business lobby group, told RIA Novosti: "The measure (of detention) has not been changed." He added that a court on Wednesday is due to hear an appeal by Yevtushenkov's lawyers for his house arrest to be lifted.
The probe against Russia's 15th richest man, with a fortune of $9 billion (7 billion euros), according to Forbes magazine, centres on a deal in which Sistema bought oil company Bashneft.
Sistema is a vast holding with major interests in the country's biggest mobile telephone company MTS and a range of other assets.
Yevtushenkov was placed under house arrest late Tuesday, issued with a monitoring bracelet, barred from using the Internet, and confined to his country mansion outside Moscow.
Yevtushenkov's case swiftly won comparisons with the prosecution of former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who spent a decade behind bars after being stripped of his Yukos oil company.
It was not clear how Yevtushenkov had access to a telephone on Friday since under the terms of his house arrest he was banned from communicating with anyone except police, lawyers and prison guards.
Russian news agencies on Friday afternoon alerted news that Yevtushenkov had been freed, citing a company source, immediately prompting a rise in the share price of Sistema.
Shares in Sistema rose by 13 percent on the reports, while shares in Bashneft and MTS went up 5.2 percent and two percent respectively after falling sharply on the news of Yevtushenkov's arrest.
Amidst the confusion, President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the liberal Internet television channel Dozhd (Rain) that Putin was informed of Yevtushenkov's release but "also learnt of this from media."
Deputy prime minister Arkady Dvorkovich also reacted to the reports of Yevtushenkov's release, telling the state TASS news agency it was a "positive piece of news."
© 2014 AFP