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Kremlin Dismisses Any Political Link To Tycoon's Arrest


Ziyavudin Magomedov is escorted to a Moscow courtroom on March 31. (file photo)

The Kremlin said the arrest of a billionaire businessman and his brother were part of government efforts to fight corruption, dismissing speculation that the move was politically motivated.

Ziyavudin Magomedov, whose construction conglomerate has been involved in building World Cup soccer venues, is one of the highest profile, and wealthiest, business tycoons to have been targeted by prosecutors in years.

A Moscow court on March 31 ordered Magomedov, and his brother Magomed, arrested on charges of embezzling billions in state funds.

Another man, Artur Maksidov, who heads a Magomedov-linked company involved in building a World Cup soccer stadium, was also arrested.

The three were ordered held for two months.

President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted on April 2 that the investigation of Magomedov showed Russia’s "very tough, targeted" monitoring of state funds. The arrests were "not a one-off."

Peskov also declined to comment on reports that the arrests were part of a power struggle as Putin enters his fourth presidential term.

"This is the chatter of political analysts," he told journalists. "Let's leave this to political analysts."

Magomedov, who is believed to be part of the inner circle of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, is the co-owner of the Russian investment group Summa and one of Russia’s richest men.

Forbes magazine lists his fortune at $1.25 billion as of March 31.

He has rejected the allegations, which include fraud, embezzlement and forming a criminal network.

Maksidov heads a company in the Summa group that was involved in construction of a soccer venue in the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.

Summa Group said that it disagrees with the court ruling and “intends to appeal it, and is ready to cooperate with the investigators."

Russia is set to hold the World Cup soccer tournament beginning on June 14.

Preparations have been dogged by reports of rampant corruption, particularly in the construction of stadiums throughout the country.

With reporting by AFP and AP

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