- Title: RUSSIA/FILE: Police raid bank part-owned by billionaire Prokhorov
- Date: 9th September 2011
- Summary: MOSCOW, RUSSIA (FILE) (REUTERS) PEOPLE SITTING IN AUDIENCE AT RIGHT CAUSE PARTY EVENT POSTER IN RUSSIAN READING 'RIGHT CAUSE' BILLIONAIRE RUSSIAN MAGNATE AND PARTY LEADER MIKHAIL PROKHOROV ON STAGE WITH OTHERS (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) RIGHT CAUSE PARTY LEADER MIKHAIL PROKHOROV, SAYING: "I propose to exclude the word 'opposition' from our lexicon."
- Embargoed: 24th September 2011 13:00
- Location: Russian Federation
- Country: Russia
- Topics: Crime
- Reuters ID: LVA1R6503UNU1XCMNPRMH8TY2I79
- Story Text: Armed, masked law enforcement officers on Thursday (September 8) raided the International Finance Club bank part-owned by Mikhail Prokhorov, a billionaire Russian magnate who is leading a political party into a December parliamentary election, officials and lawyers said.
A lawyer for the bank, Dmitry Kharitonov, said he could not rule out a link to the Right Cause party, which Prokhorov took charge of in June, making a controversial political debut ahead of the parliamentary vote and a March 2012 presidential election.
Several luxury cars drew up outside the bank on a busy boulevard not far from the Kremlin on Thursday, and law enforcement officers, some wearing masks and carrying guns, entered and ordered employees and clients not to leave, Kharitonov told reporters. The officers put all the employees in one area and kept them there for an hour without explaining what was going on he said .
"After an hour, they said there were no claims against the bank. However, this did not prevent what is generally called a masked-show to take place and to disturb a massive group of people. Because there was information going around that there was a search at the bank," Kharitonov said.
Asked whether the raid could have been related to Prokhorov's involvement in Right Cause, Kharitonov said he couldn't rule it out although he didn't know it for sure.
"The victim here is only the reputation, because no one likes it when people in masks, armed with machine guns, come to your bank. Especially when their appearance is not caused by anything other than a desire to demonstrate something to someone," Kharitonov added.
However, the head of the International Finance Club bank, known by its Russian acronym MFK, said the evening raid on the bank's office in central Moscow had nothing to do with Prokhorov's Right Cause party or even with the bank's operations.
Investigative actions were conducted in relation to one of the bank's borrowers and this had nothing to do with Right Cause or Onexim, the bank's chief, Oksana Lifar, told Reuters by telephone. Onexim is Prokhorov's investment vehicle.
But the raid raised eyebrows in a country where critics of the authorities face harassment and law enforcement officers are sometimes employed to put pressure on opponents in business disputes.
Prokhorov, 46, who sold a one-quarter stake in mining giant Norilsk Nickel just before the 2008 financial crisis, was ranked by Forbes magazine this year as Russia's third richest man, with an estimated $18 billion.
Prokhorov, who owns the New Jersey Nets basketball team, is a founder and the of MFK bank and owns a 27.7 percent share, the largest of several part-owners including tycoons Viktor Vekselberg and Suleiman Kerimov.
Right Cause is one of a handful of parties challenging the dominance of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's United Russia Party, which holds a 315 of 450 seats in the State Duma, the lower parliament house.
However, many analysts say Prokhorov has the tacit approval of Putin, who may want to channel the votes of United Russia critics to a moderate alternative ahead of the presidential election, in which he has said he might run.
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