Swiss return 53 million francs to Aeroflot

27th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

Swiss authorities said Friday that they had returned some 53 million francs to Aeroflot after assets were seized over a decade ago in a money laundering probe.

"Following an application for legal assistance from Russia, the Federal Examining Magistrate responsible ordered assets totalling approximately 53 million francs (40 million euros, 52 million dollars), which had been confiscated in Switzerland, to be returned to the defrauded Russian airline Aeroflot.

"The sum was transferred to an Aeroflot account in Zurich today," the Swiss Federal Examining Magistrate said in a statement.

Russian authorities in 1999 sought legal assistance from Switzerland amid investigations into the embezzlement of assets from Aeroflot.

The Aeroflot case focused on the hard-currency cash flows of Russia's main carrier, some quarter-billion dollars of which were allegedly funnelled into two Swiss firms -- Forus and Andava -- founded by tycoon Boris Berezovsky in 1996 and 1997.

Swiss authorities gathered evidence for the Russians and froze several Swiss bank accounts. Bern also began a criminal investigation into money laundering and corporate fraud.

A Russian court eventually sentenced three former directors of Aeroflot to two years in prison for their role in the affair.

After their conviction, Russian authorities asked Switzerland to return seized assets to Aeroflot.

However, Switzerland had already began its own criminal proceedings on the case and had to wait until they were completed before processing Russia's request.

In 2008, the Federal Criminal Court delivered a guilty verdict and ordered the seizure, culminating in the return of the assets this week.

© 2010 AFP

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