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Russia Frees Crime Boss Wanted By U.S.

Semyon Mogilevich, undated
MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Russia has released a suspected organized crime boss who is wanted by the United States for alleged fraud and racketeering, the "Financial Times" has reported, citing his lawyer.

Semyon Mogilevich, who the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation says created a powerful crime group in Eastern Europe in the 1990s, was arrested in Russia in 2008 and accused of tax evasion at a major cosmetics retailer.

Mogilevich and alleged associate Vladimir Nekrasov were released because the terms under which they could be held had expired, said Irina Dudukina, a spokeswoman at the Interior Ministry's Investigative Committee, on July 27.

The charges "are not of a particularly grave nature so investigators had no particular reason to keep them imprisoned," Dudukina said.

Mogilevich's lawyers repeatedly said their client was innocent and denied any links to the cosmetics chain Arbat Prestige, where prosecutors said the tax evasion took place.

"There is no evidence against him," Mogilevich's lawyer in Israel, Zeev Gordon, was quoted as saying by the "Financial Times."

"I spoke with him on Friday after he was released. He is happy to be home."

The FBI says on its website that Mogilevich is wanted for racketeering, fraud, and money laundering. Ukrainian-born Mogilevich has denied U.S. allegations that he is a crime boss.

When Mogilevich was arrested, analysts said the real motive could be linked to accusations that he was involved in the multibillion-dollar gas trade between Russia and Ukraine.

Ukraine's Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has accused Mogilevich of being behind RosUkrEnergo, an intermediary firm which sells gas to Ukraine. Mogilevich has previously denied through a lawyer any links to the firm.