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Media Mogul Sought by Russia Leaves Spain

From Associated Press

Vladimir A. Gusinsky, the Russian media magnate battling extradition to his homeland to face criminal charges, flew to Israel from Spain, an associate said Wednesday.

In Moscow, Russian prosecutors vowed that Gusinsky would have to “run like a hare” to avoid extradition on new money-laundering charges, despite a Spanish court’s rejection of an earlier extradition request last week.

“He’s right next to me,” Mark Meerson, the Israeli representative for Gusinsky’s Media-Most empire, said by telephone. Meerson declined to put Gusinsky on the phone.

Gusinsky, who holds Russian and Israeli citizenship, flew to Israel on a private plane, said his Spanish lawyer, Domingo Plazas.

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Russian authorities filed a new arrest warrant Sunday with Interpol, charging that Gusinsky was involved in a money-laundering scheme worth $97 million. It summoned Gusinsky to appear Friday for the formal presentation of charges.

“We want him to face a Russian court,” Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov told reporters in Moscow on Wednesday.

Spokesman Leonid Troshin of the prosecutor general’s office said prosecutors weren’t expecting Gusinsky to show up Friday, but he voiced confidence that the tycoon will be extradited.

“These are grave charges, and we have strong evidence,” Troshin said. “No country welcomes money laundering, and Gusinsky will now have to run like a hare.”

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Plazas said there is no evidence supporting the new charge. The lawyer called it a maneuver aimed at restarting the earlier proceedings.

Gusinsky has said his case was politically motivated, and he said it was evidence that Russian President Vladimir V. Putin intends to stifle media criticism of the Kremlin.

Israeli officials said they were unaware of Gusinsky’s presence in the country. Justice Ministry spokesman Ido Baum said he did not know of any international arrest warrant pending against Gusinsky.

Baum said both Israel and Russia have signed the European extradition treaty. As a matter of policy, he said, he would not comment on whether Russia has asked for Gusinsky’s extradition.

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Gusinsky founded NTV--Russia’s sole nationwide, independent network--as well as the Itogi magazine and the Sevodnya newspaper, all of which were taken over recently by the largely state-owned gas monopoly Gazprom.

Russia at first accused Gusinsky of misrepresenting the assets of his Media-Most holding company to obtain a $262-million loan from Gazprom, and the utility and the Kremlin have insisted that the case was based purely on financial considerations.

But the Spanish court last week rejected Moscow’s request to extradite Gusinsky, saying Russia’s grounds for the case would not amount to a crime in Spain.


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