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Moscow court extends custody of Yukos executive

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MOSCOW, August 23 (RIA Novosti) - Moscow's Basmanny Court has extended the custody of a vice-president of the bankrupt oil company Yukos until December 2, a RIA Novosti correspondent reported from the courtroom Wednesday.

Vasily Alexanyan was arrested April 7 and accused of asset theft and money laundering, charges which he denies.

But defense lawyer Gevorg Dangyan said he did not agree with the ruling and would contest it in the Moscow City Court. "The defendant's health has sharply deteriorated, he is losing his eyesight and cannot get proper medical assistance in pretrial detention," he said.

Dangyan said arguments made by prosecutors that Alexanyan could escape or exert pressure on witnesses if released were groundless.

Earlier, a district court ruled in favor of trying Alexanyan, who is accused of embezzling $460 million from a Yukos production unit, Tomskneft, as well as funds from other oil companies, and of laundering another $460.8 million through his personal account in a Swiss bank. Alexanyan faces 10-15 years in prison if found guilty.

Prosecutors said earlier they wanted Alexanyan's custody extended 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 if released.

They said Alexanyan's associates - Leonid Nevzlin, a principal Yukos shareholder currently living in Israel, and Dmitry Gololobov, head of the Yukos-Moscow legal department - fled and were on the international wanted list. Prosecutors said Alexanyan could coordinate his testimony with Nevzlin and Gololobov, and that he therefore had to be kept in custody.

Prosecutors also said a floppy-disk was found in Gololobov's office that contained instructions on how to behave during an arrest, how to influence witnesses and an investigation, attract press attention and escape punishment.

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

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