Armed police stormed a Moscow bank controlled by the billionaire owner of the Independent and Evening Standard in a dramatic raid yesterday.
Around 30 Russian police carrying Uzis and clad in balaclavas terrified staff as they demanded access to documents. Tycoon and former KGB spy Alexander Lebedev was in the offices of his National Reserve Bank when police investigators arrived.
Lebedev has ruffled feathers in the Kremlin in recent years by funding an opposition newspaper and standing against government candidates in elections
However, a spokesman for Lebedev said he did not believe the raid was political. He said: “This is known as a mask show in Russia: there are 20 or 30 people in masks and carrying automatic weapons” .
High-profile raids by heavily armed agents in masks sometimes signal the onset of an attack on the business empires of Russian businessmen who have fallen out of favour with the Kremlin.
The spokesman said Lebedev was still present at the offices near the Kremlin but refused to speculate on what the raid could be linked to.
A Moscow police spokesman confirmed that agents were at the bank’s offices but gave no further details.
Lebedev is worth $2bn (£1.25bn) and is the world’s 488th richest person, according to the latest global rich list published by Forbes magazine.
Together with former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Lebedev is co-owner of the Russian opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta.