Russia seeks to seize Berezovsky's Serbian assets

Russia seeks to seize assets in Serbia allegedly owned by late Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky

Associated Press

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) -- Moscow has demanded the seizure of assets in Serbia allegedly belonging to the late Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky in an apparent attempt to claim some of what may be left of the fortune of Vladimir Putin's once bitter foe, Serbian authorities said Thursday.

Acting on the Russian demand, a Serbian court last month quietly froze the assets of several Serbian-based enterprises allegedly partly owned by Berezovsky and valued at about $270 million. But an appeals court that made the case public Thursday announced it has annulled the court's decision and ordered a re-trial.

The appeals court ruled that not enough evidence was presented to prove ownership ties between Berezovsky and the Serbian companies.

Once a member of Russian President Boris Yeltsin's inner circle, Berezovsky fell out with Yeltsin's successor, Putin, and fled to Britain in the early 2000s to escape fraud charges that he said were politically motivated. He was found dead in the bathroom of his London home last March after an apparent suicide.

Russian prosecutors insist that all of Berezovsky's assets from his former business empire must be returned to Russia, and they have tried without much reported success to track them down. He was convicted in absentia in Russia of embezzlement and fraud.

Serbia, a Russian ally, is one of the few countries that has acted on Russian requests regarding Berezovsky's alleged assets. Ukraine also granted a similar request by Russian authorities to freeze Berezovsky's assets.

Berezovsky was reportedly financially ruined when he died, and owed about $150 million in unpaid British taxes.

Russian prosecutors believe Berezovsky had a stake in at least seven Serbian-based companies including a candy factory, a mineral water producer, a dairy and an amusement park.

His heirs are also involved in legal battles over the remains of his estate.

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Associated Press writer Laura Mills contributed from Moscow.

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