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Ex-co-owner of top cell phone retailer appeals indictment


MOSCOW, January 26 (RIA Novosti) - The founder and former co-owner of Russia's top mobile phone retailer Euroset, Yevgeny Chichvarkin, has filed an appeal against being put on the wanted list, his lawyer said on Monday.

Investigators suspect Chichvarkin of authorizing the 2003 kidnapping of Euroset's shipping agent, Andrei Vlaskin, who allegedly stole large quantities of mobile phones from the company and then sold them on through a retail outlet he had set up for the purpose.

"I appealed to Alexander Bastrykin, the head of the Investigation Committee under the Prosecutor's Office, against the decision to place Chichvarkin on the federal and international wanted list and against the charges laid against him," Vladimir Zherebenkov said.

He said Chichvarkin's court-appointed lawyer had also filed a similar appeal citing the violation of the businessman's rights to legal defense. He said neither his client nor he had been properly summoned for indictment.

Zherebenkov said the summons had been sent to the businessman's address "although it was known earlier that he is in Britain to arrange his son's education."

As a result, the charges were officially announced in the absence of both Chichvarkin and his attorney.

RIA Novosti has yet to obtain a comment from the Investigation Committee.

A spokesman for Interpol's Russian office said they had not received a request to start a search for the businessman.

Chichvarkin's lawyers maintains that their defendant could not be involved in the abduction, as he was "in charge of strategic issues" at the company.

Investigators have also accused Euroset's former deputy security chief Boris Levin, his deputy Alexander Yemilin and two members of the company's security personnel of Vlaskin's abduction.

Chichvarkin was supposed to become leader of the Moscow branch of the recently-formed Pravoye Delo (Right Cause) right-wing liberal party. The party leadership is expected to compile a shortlist of candidates for the post on Monday.

Party co-chairman Leonid Gozman said he would insist on postponing discussions on whether to replace Chichvarkin's candidacy until January 28.

He said much depends on whether [Moscow's] Basmanny court sanctions the businessman's arrest in absentia, a decision expected on January 28.

The Vedomosti daily said on Monday citing party sources as saying that Chichvarkin could be replaced by such tycoons as new Euroset owner Alexander Mamut, Onexim investment vehicle head Mikhail Prokhorov or Alexander Lebedev, a major paper and airline business shareholder.

Billionaire Mamut bought 100% of Russia's largest mobile handset retailer and then sold 49.9% of its shares to mobile operator VimpelCom last fall.

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