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UK court rejects Moscow request to extradite tycoon

Written by: Staff
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LONDON, June 6 (Reuters) A British judge has turned down a request by Russia to extradite the multi-millionaire tycoon Boris Berezovsky to face charges of planning a coup in Moscow.

A spokeswoman for Britain's Home Office said today that a judge at London's Bow Street magistrates court had decided not to issue a warrant for Berezovsky's arrest.

According to a report by the Press Association national news agency, judge Timothy Workman said Berezovsky was protected from extradition because he has political asylum in the UK.

''Therefore, if this court is to entertain this application, a lengthy process involving great expense to the British taxpayer would be embarked upon which would in effect be futile,'' Workman said.

''This is because it would be impossible for the Secretary of State to order his extradition to the Russian Federation.'' No one was available for comment at the court and the home office spokeswoman refused to give details. ''We cannot confirm or deny details on extradition requests,'' she said.

Berezovsky, 60, helped President Vladimir Putin to power during the last days of Boris Yeltsin's rule but later fell foul of Putin's Kremlin and fled Russia in 2000, becoming a vociferous enemy from his new home in London.

Britain annoyed Moscow by granting Berezovsky asylum status in 2003 and UK courts rejected previous Russian requests for him to be extradited to stand trial on fraud charges. The tycoon says those charges are politically motivated.

Russian prosecutors said in March that they had opened a formal criminal investigation into Berezovsky for planning a forced takeover of power and had again asked for Britain to extradite him.

Berezovsky rose to riches and power under Yeltsin and gained major stakes in oil, metals, airline and media businesses, which he has since sold.

REUTERS CH ND1406

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