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Moscow court rules to keep Yukos executive in custody

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MOSCOW, May 31 (RIA Novosti) - Moscow City Court ruled Wednesday that the executive vice president of embattled oil company Yukos should remain in custody.

Defense lawyers had appealed an April 7 ruling by a Moscow district court that sanctioned the arrest of Vasily Aleksanyan, who faces charges of embezzlement and money laundering.

The defense said Aleksanyan could not remain in custody because it could have a negative effect on their client's health. They also said prosecutors had given no reasons why custody could not be replaced with bail or house arrest.

Prosecutor Valery Lakthin said Aleksanyan was in a satisfactory condition and that remanding him in custody was legal.

Another district court earlier ruled in favor of trying Aleksanyan, accused of embezzling $460 million from Yukos production unit Tomskneft and funds from other oil companies, and of laundering another $460.8 million through his personal account in a Swiss bank. If found guilty, Aleksanyan faces 10-15 years in jail.

Prosecutors said earlier they urged the arrest of Aleksanyan because they feared he could flee the country, and that he had attempted to do so already. They also said he could try to intimidate witnesses, destroy documents or hinder the investigation in some other way if at large.

Aleksanyan has denied any wrongdoing, and said he had always turned up for questioning in the past two years while head of the Yukos legal department.

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