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Moscow court finds Berezovsky guilty of Aeroflot fraud - 2

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The Moscow Savyolovsky Court has found tycoon Boris Berezovsky guilty of embezzling over 214 million rubles from flagship air carrier Aeroflot and sentenced him to six years' imprisonment in absentia.
(Adds Berezovsky, lawyer reaction in paras 8-9, 11-12)

MOSCOW, November 29 (RIA Novosti) - The Moscow Savyolovsky Court has found tycoon Boris Berezovsky guilty of embezzling over 214 million rubles from flagship air carrier Aeroflot and sentenced him to six years' imprisonment in absentia.

"The court found that Berezovsky embezzled the money from Aeroflot through a fraudulent scheme," the presiding judge said. The sum concerned is around $9 million at today's exchange rates.

The court sentenced Berezovsky to six years in prison for embezzling millions of dollars from Aeroflot and upheld the airline's suit ordering that the tycoon repay the sum.

The charge of laundering more than 16 million rubles (around $0.6 million dollars today) was dismissed.

Russia has issued multiple arrest warrants for Berezovsky's arrest in his absence and requested that the U.K. extradite him on many occasions, which London has refused to do. Berezovsky has been granted political asylum in the United Kingdom and, reportedly, citizenship. He denies, however, that he possesses U.K. citizenship.

"Following the guilty verdict against Berezovsky, we have stronger chances of having him extradited. We could request his extradition in the near future," said Alexander Kublyakov, state prosecutor in the case against the tycoon.

The businessman is also accused of plotting to stage a coup in Russia, as well as embezzling $13 million from a leading Russian bank. These two cases were opened in the spring and summer of 2007, respectively.

Berezovsky has repeatedly labeled his trials-in-absentia a "farce," which he did again today, saying the verdict will in no way affect his refugee status.

"Of course, it [the trial] has no force for countries following democratic traditions. All this talk of extradition is a regular propaganda campaign in Russia," he said.

Eleven criminal probes have so far been launched in Russia against Berezovsky, a one-time close associate of the late Boris Yeltsin.

Berezovsky's state-appointed lawyer said Thursday he would appeal the verdict. "I totally disagree with today's verdict by Moscow's Savyolovsky Court, I think it is unlawful and ungrounded," Alexander Dudkin said.

Dudkin said investigators had failed to prove that Berezovsky was guilty of fraud.

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