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Moscow ex-mayor's wife may face embezzlement probe

© RIA Novosti . Sergei Berezin  / Go to the mediabankYelena Baturina
Yelena Baturina - Sputnik International
Yelena Baturina, the wife of Moscow's ex-mayor, Yury Luzhkov, may be questioned as part of a $440 million embezzlement probe, a Russian investigator said.

Yelena Baturina, the wife of Moscow's ex-mayor, Yury Luzhkov, may be questioned as part of a $440 million embezzlement probe, a Russian investigator said.

"Everyone who is involved and who knows something will be 'invited.' If there are grounds to think that Baturina is somehow linked [to the case] we'll invite her," the head of the Russian Interior Ministry's Investigative Committee said.

Alexei Anichin said however it was too early to make any conclusions now as the case "is very complicated."

During the recent financial crisis, Inteco, the property developer owned by Baturina, received support from the Bank of Moscow, the city administration's core bank closely related to Luzhkov.

In the summer of 2009 the company sold 58 hectares of land in the south-west of Moscow for nearly 13 billion rubles ($440 million) to Premier Estate, a little-known company with a charter capital of just 10,000 rubles.

Financial Times said Premier Estate was established especially for buying the land at twice the plot's market value to pay off the debt to the Bank of Moscow. Later the firm was sold and the land is now owned by a U.K. private equity group.

The paper claimed that investigators from the Russian Interior Ministry were now examining whether the city budget funds were in fact used to refinance Baturina's debt.

Inteco, however, has rejected the media reports. The Bank of Moscow also claimed the deal was legal.

Alexander Matveyev, the investigative committee's deputy head said "there will be no untouchables" in the probe. He did not rule out that the former Moscow mayor and Bank of Moscow President Andrei Borodin will be questioned.

In a telephone interview with the Financial Times, Luzhkov, who currently resides in Austria, hit back at critics against him saying: "I will stay in Moscow and fight for my honor and name."

Luzhkov said he planned to apply for a British tourist visa next week to visit his children, who are studying in the country. He said however he will not seek to leave Russia and will later return home.

Some media reports said citing a source close to Luzhkov that the former Moscow mayor had already received a permanent residence in the United Kingdom, opened an account in a local bank and bought an apartment.

The British Embassy has neither confirmed nor denied the rumor.

Media reports said Luzhkov's wife Baturina, dubbed Russia's richest woman by Forbes magazine, purchased the biggest house in London after Buckingham Palace for an estimated $100 million.

The head of Russia's accounting chamber, Sergei Stepashin, said on Wednesday an investigation of the ex-mayor's administration activities has found violations of 230 billion rubles ($7.8 billion).

"These are completely wild numbers. If this amount of money was truly missing it would have been easy to spot. This is nothing but an attempt at political bullying. They are trying to stun the public with such wild numbers," the paper cited Luzhkov as saying.

Speaking on the decision by Moscow's new mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, to review more than 100,000 contracts signed by the Luzhkov administration, he said: "These contracts were all done by competitive tender and all within the law. So if he wants to go back and look at them, no one is going to stop him."

MOSCOW, February 3 (RIA Novosti) 

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