Russia charges suspected crime boss with tax evasion
By Guy Faulconbridge, Reuters
"He was charged today with tax evasion," Mogilevich's lawyer Alexander Pogonchikov said by telephone after leaving Moscow's Sailors' Rest prison where Mogilevich is being held. The Interior Ministry confirmed the charge.
Mogilevich, 61, was using the name Sergei Shnaider when dozens of Interior Ministry police swooped on him and Vladimir Nekrasov, owner of the Arbat Prestige cosmetics retailer, last week on a busy central Moscow street. Nekrasov was also charged.
"He (Mogilevich) is accused of supposedly organising tax evasion by Arbat Prestige though he has absolutely no links to this company. He is not the founder, not a director, not a shareholder in this company," Pogonchikov said.
Both Mogilevich and Nekrasov denied the charges.
Analysts said the real motive for Mogilevich's arrest could be linked to accusations that he is involved in the lucrative, multi-billion-dollar gas trade between Russia and Ukraine.
Ukraine's Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has accused Mogilevich of being behind RosUkrEnergo, an intermediary firm that has a monopoly on the sale of Russian and Central Asian gas to Ukraine.
Ukrainian-born Mogilevich has previously denied through a lawyer any links to the firm, which is jointly owned by Russian gas monopoly Gazprom and two Ukrainian businessmen.
Investors have long been puzzled by RosUkrEnergo, which won its monopoly in January 2006 after Russia cut off the gas to Ukraine in a price dispute that disrupted supplies to Europe, questioning why the joint venture is needed.
Ukrainian premier Tymoshenko has resumed a campaign against RosUkrEnergo amid stormy negotiations about debts owed to the firm by Ukraine's state energy firm Naftogaz.
Some analysts have speculated that the Kremlin, facing an election in March which Gazprom chairman Dmitry Medvedev is likely to win, may have decided that RosUkrEnergo's current structure and remit may no longer suit Moscow's needs.
RosUkrEnergo's Ukrainian half is largely controlled by Ukrainian businessman Dmitry Firtash, who said last week he was in no way connected with Mogilevich.
An Interior Ministry spokeswoman said Mogilevich had been charged with large-scale tax evasion but that Russia would not extradite him despite a request from the United States.
"A request from the American side has been received. But Semion Mogilevich is a Russian citizen and we do not intend to extradite him," spokeswoman said.
The United States' Federal Bureau of Investigation says Mogilevich created a powerful Eastern European organised crime group in the 1990s that smuggled weapons and drugs and engaged in prostitution, money laundering and organised stock fraud.
Mogilevich's lawyer Pogonchikov declined to comment on the allegations about his client's alleged links to organised crime.
Ukrainian gas executive denies connection to Russian crime boss suspect
The co-owner of the company that arranges gas deliveries to Ukraine's 47 million people on Monday denied reports that the company had connections to an internationally wanted suspected Russian crime boss.
Ukrainian businessman Dmytro Firtash issued the statement through his company Group DF, after Russian police last week arrested Semyon Mogilevich in Moscow as part of an investigation into alleged tax evasion by the owners of a cosmetic-shop chain.