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Berezovsky fraud case goes to court

The case of fugitive tycoon Boris Berezovsky, accused of embezzling Aeroflot funds, has been sent to a Moscow court, a court spokesperson said Friday. 

„The case has been submitted to the Savyolovsky Borough Court, but no date for the hearing has been set yet,” Anna Usachyova said. Berezovsky has been charged with embezzling over 214 million rubles ($8.3 million) of the airline's funds and laundering over 16 million rubles ($620,000), the Prosecutor General's Office said. He could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted. His defense lawyer said the hearing could take anywhere from two to three days to several months. „There are only 14-15 witnesses in the case, but a huge amount of documents,” Semyon Aria said, adding that if these documents are read out in court, the examination could run for months.

In the late 1990s, the tycoon was charged with setting up two front companies in Switzerland to divert millions of dollars from the Russian flagship carrier. However, the Aeroflot case was suspended after he fled to the United Kingdom and was granted political asylum there in 2003. British authorities have so far turned down all requests from Moscow to extradite him. The Prosecutor General's Office took up the case in April of this year after Berezovsky told The Guardian newspaper that he bankrolled Kremlin insiders conspiring to overthrow President Vladimir Putin. Berezovsky's defense team said previously it had sent a request to the Prosecutor General's Office that the case against their client be dropped. „We have requested that the case be dropped as there is absolutely no evidence substantiating Berezovsky's guilt,” lawyer Andrei Borovkov said. Prosecutors said Berezovsky's case would be heard in absentia. (