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Renaissance Capital Top Bank Executive in Fraud Probe

The president of investment bank Renaissance Capital, Oleg Kiselyov, is facing fraud charges, his lawyer Alexander Asnis said Friday.

The investigation, which is being handled by the City Prosecutor's Office and the Moscow city police, is related to an alleged attempt in the last year to steal shares in one of Russia's biggest iron-ore producers, Mikhailovsky GOK.

"I have not read the charges, so I cannot comment on them," Asnis said, adding he hoped to get access to the charges on Monday, having first learned about the case in media reports Friday.

Asnis said he eventually reached the investigator in charge of the case, Anton Golyshev, who confirmed that charges had been brought last Wednesday.

Kiselyov, who is currently undergoing medical treatment at an undisclosed location abroad, had also been unaware of the charges against him until Friday.

"The investigators have all my telephone numbers. I have not received a single call," Kiselyov told Ekho Moskvy radio Saturday, speaking by telephone.

The City Prosecutor's Office, which is leading the case, was not available to comment late Friday.

It was unclear Sunday if the charges would lead to an arrest warrant.

The prosecutor's investigation centers on a series of events surrounding the alleged attempted theft of 97 percent of Mikhailovsky GOK, which until last year had been owned by Boris Ivanishvili through his Metalloinvest holding.

The sale of Mikhailovsky GOK, which was bought by metal moguls Alisher Usmanov and Vasily Anisimov for $1.6 billion, was held up by a dispute over ownership raised by the Bahamas-registered Colchester Group.

Colchester Group claimed it had bought the business in November 2004 for 3 million rubles ($106,000) but never received the shares, Vedomosti reported Friday.

In an attempt to block Usmanov and Anisimov's purchase, Colchester had the disputed assets frozen by a Rostov regional court.

Colchester's case came to nothing, allowing the freeze on the shares to be lifted, but the subsequent investigation led authorities to Kiselyov, Vedomosti reported.

A suspect in the case named Kiselyov as the person giving orders at the time the transaction was held up, the newspaper said.

There was no reaction Friday from Usmanov or Anisimov, who now own Mikhailovsky GOK.

Prior to the charges, Kiselyov had been a witness in the investigation.

Kiselyov had been chairman of Ivanishvili's Metalloinvest in 2001-02.

Kiselyov, 52, belongs to a generation of businessmen that took advantage of the commercial opportunities that emerged when small private enterprises were allowed in the Soviet Union at the end of the 1980s.

He worked with billionaire Mikhail Fridman at the inception of what was to become Alfa Group and headed one of the conglomerate's first businesses, Alfa-Eko, until 1992.

In 2003, after resigning from the previous posts he had held, Kiselyov was appointed president of Renaissance Capital.

Kiselyov on Saturday denied any wrongdoing.

"A friend of mine compared it to attempting to steal the Sistine Madonna," he said Saturday. "It's probably possible to steal it, but what next?"

Speaking to Ekho Moskvy, he discussed what his associates thought was behind the charges.

"Many of my colleagues have suggested that I may become a victim not of ... political, but commercial, assault," he said.

The corporations that now run the country's key industries -- including oil, gas and metals -- assumed their current form after years of bitter media and legal battles for control over assets.

"These are the remnants of the corporate wars of the late 1990s," he said.

According to Kiselyov, investigators appeared to have been satisfied with his cooperation as a witness in the case.

"I was treated in a kind manner," he said, noting that no travel restrictions had been placed on him by investigators, who had been aware he was planning to receive medical treatment abroad.

Kiselyov said he intended to return to Russia once his treatment was over. It was not clear Sunday when that would be.

Meanwhile, Renaissance Capital is concerned that the case could damage its reputation.

"Even if an employee is found in the drunk tank, it's not good for the company, and he [Kiselyov] is one of the leading employees of the company," Alexander Shokhin, chairman of the bank's supervisory board, said Friday.

Shokhin, who was recently elected president of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, or RSPP, said Kiselyov had the support of his employer and RSPP.

"We have no reason to think that the charges against him have any justification," Shokhin said.

"There is a tendency in Russia for legal cases to be used in corporate wars, and afterward it turns out there's no convincing argument," Shokhin said.

Shokhin would like to see the case sent to the Prosecutor General's Office in order to have a higher authority look into the matter.

"I can't say that I have any suspicions. But I would like to rule out the possibility," he said.

As an alternative, Shokhin also proposed that the matter be settled through a special commission within RSPP, which helps companies settle similar cases out of court."This does not just concern the interests of one person or company. Kiselyov is a very public figure, as is Usmanov," he said.

Located in the Kursk region, Mikhailovsky GOK controls 18.3 percent of the country's iron ore. It has sufficient reserves to operate for another 300 years and employs around 9,000 people, according to its web site.


(The Moscow Times 24.x.05)

 
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