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Toni Schönfelder
A lifetime of innovation

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Toni Schönfelder
A lifetime of innovation

RUSSIA: MEDIA EXECUTIVE ORDERED ARRESTED, VOWS TO STAY OUT OF COUNTRY Russian prosecutors have ordered the arrest of media tycoon Vladimir Gusinsky on charges of embezzlement, escalating the battle between the Kremlin and the owner of Russia´s only independent national television network. The warrant was issued after the businessman, now in Western Europe, failed to appear at the prosecutor´s office for interrogation. The prosecutor´s office said it would notify Interpol, the international law enforcement authority, that Gusinsky should be detained at any border. Berezovsky said in a statement he would ignore a summons to appear before prosecutors the following day and remain abroad. Berezovsky has been summoned to answer prosecutors´ questions in a case involving alleged profit-skimming from the national flagship airline Aeroflot. The pursuit of Gusinsky has been more vigorous than that of any other tycoon, and has included masked raids at his corporate headquarters and his jailing for three days in June. The prosecutor´s office has also intermittently pursued prominent businessman Boris Berezovsky, a media and oil magnate, but not with the same intensity. An anchor for Gusinsky´s station NTV said tonight that one criminal charge involved a debt of $211 million owed by Gusinsky´s conglomerate, Media-Most, to the state-controlled natural gas monopoly Gazprom. On Saturday, Media-Most signed an agreement giving Gazprom a greater share of Media-Most´s stock to settle the debt. Both sides have described the pact as amicable and said it preserves Media-Most´s independence. The NTV anchor said the agreement, forwarded to the prosecutor´s office, rendered any criminal charge groundless. But Vasily Kolmogorov, the Russian deputy prosecutor general, said, "Criminal proceedings against Gusinsky will continue anyway, no matter whether Media-Most and Gazprom reach an amicable agreement or not." He described the case as "fraud in which large credits were taken [based] on the security of nonexistent assets." According to NTV, Gusinsky is also accused--falsely, in his view--of transferring Media-Most assets abroad. Gusinsky has been under pressure from the prosecutor´s office since May. He was charged with fraud in June, but the charges were dropped after he signed a deal agreeing to sell off his empire. The secret deal included forgiveness of most of Media-Most´s debt to Gazprom. Gusinsky later fled the country and renounced the agreement, saying he had signed it under duress. Washington Post, Nov. 14, 2000

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