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Berezovsky found guilty of fraud by Russia court

[JURIST] Self-exiled Russian business tycoon Boris Berezovsky [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] was found guilty of fraud in absentia Thursday by a Moscow regional court. The court found [RIA Novosti report] that Berezovsky and his business associate Yuli Dubov embezzled $4.5 million from their LogoVAZ car dealership. The charges [JURIST report], filed last November under the Russian Criminal Code [Article 174 text], stem from a deal arranged between Russian car manufacturers AvtoVAZ [corporate website, in Russian] and LogoVAZ that left 5560 cars unpaid for and resulted in the unauthorized use of approximately $24 million. Prosecutors alleged that Berezovsky and his associates used the money for investments in real estate, stock in media companies, and other expenditures. Berezovsky and Dubov will be sentenced [Moscow Times report] Friday. Prosecutors are seeking a 15-year sentence [RIA Novosit report] for Berezovsky and want him to pay $1.9 million in compensation.

A former associate of Boris Yeltsin and a political opponent of current Russian Prime Minister and former president Vladimir Putin, Berezovsky has been the target of several past criminal proceedings. In March 2008, the Russian Prosecutor General's Office [official website, in Russian] opened an investigation to determine if Berezovsky falsely claimed the country's secret service had targeted him for assassination [JURIST report]. In 2007, he was accused of plotting a coup [JURIST report] against Putin. Berezovsky currently resides in the United Kingdom as a political refugee. Britain has refused Russian extradition requests, leading a Russian court in 2007 to sentence Berezovsky in absentia to six years in prison after he was found guilty [JURIST report] of embezzling 214 million rubles from Russian national airline Aeroflot.

11:50 AM ET: Berezovsky has been sentenced to 13 years.

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