MINSK, September 2 (R-Sport) - Anzhi Makhachkala football club owner Suleiman Kerimov has been named a wanted man by authorities in Belarus over alleged offences that could carry a 10-year prison term, investigators said Monday.
The billionaire oligarch, who shot to fame when he brought world football stars to previously little-known Anzhi, has been named a suspect in “the abuse of power and official authority” in relation to a collapsed joint venture in the fertilizer industry.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the allegations were "not an issue for the Kremlin" but that the government was monitoring events. "Protecting the interests of Russian citizens" was key for the Kremlin, Peskov told the Kommersant FM radio station.
Kerimov's lawyer Anatoly Kucherena told RIA Novosti his client was "not hiding from anyone," adding: "He's absolutely open and is always ready to give any explanations. There no problems at all."
Kerimov is the largest shareholder in the Uralkali company, which partnered with a Belarusian firm to create BKK, which produced over 40 percent of the world’s supply of potash, a key fertilizer ingredient. The joint venture was ended abruptly last month, a decision accompanied by the sale of Anzhi’s star players and a diplomatic spat between Russia and Belarus.
“The shareholder of the Uralkali open joint-stock company Suleiman Kerimov has been added by the Investigative Committee of Belarus, in the capacity of a suspect, to the already-proceeding criminal case related to officials of the BKK closed joint-stock company,” investigators said in a statement.
The investigators made a point of noting that Belarusian law allowed for up to a decade in prison for those found guilty under the legislation being used against Kerimov. Another Russian businessman, Uralkali chief executive Vladislav Baumgertner, was arrested in Belarus on Friday.
The potash industry is a major source of revenue for the Belarusian government, which depends heavily on trade with Russia.
Last month, Anzhi said the club was to abandon its big-money approach, which saw the team achieve third in the Russian league last season and challenge more established sides in the Europa League.
Since then, there has been a fire sale of big-name players at Anzhi, with forwards Samuel Eto’o and Willian joining Chelsea and defender Christopher Samba leaving for Dynamo Moscow.