Russia drops charges against fugitive oligarch
The Russian authorities on Friday dropped charges of illegal business activity against fugitive oil tycoon Mikhail Gutseriyev, opening the door for the oligarch to return home from Britain.
"Criminal prosecution of Gutseriyev in relation to charges of illegal business activity has been halted due to changes in legislation," Irina Dudukina, a spokesman for the investigative committee of the Russian interior ministry, told AFP.
Earlier the prosecution dropped tax evasion charges against the businessman, she added.
The founder of mid-sized oil firm Russneft, Gutseriyev fled to Britain to avoid tax fraud charges in 2007.
A source close to Russneft told AFP on Friday Gutseriyev was still believed to be in Britain but did not rule out his "return in the nearest future."
The source, who insisted on anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, also said the businessman, who launched his career in Russia's volatile North Caucasus region, may help the Russian authorities in the solution of that region's "core problems".
He declined further details. North Caucasus has been plagued by a host of problems ranging from poverty to corruption to a recent spike in violence and suicide bombings.
Last month Russia's AFK Sistema holding controlled by billionaire Vladimir Yevtushenkov said it had bought a 49 percent stake in Russneft in a deal worth less than 100 million dollars.
The ownership structure of Russneft is murky. The company is currently thought to be owned by Gutseriyev, according to the Russneft source.
© 2010 AFP