Fugitive tycoon Gusinsky got Spanish passport on special orders

Vladimir Gusinsky, a former Russian media magnate wanted back home on fraud charges, was granted Spanish citizenship by special order of the government in Madrid, the EU nation's Cabinet said Monday.

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MADRID, February 26 (RIA Novosti) - Vladimir Gusinsky, a former Russian media magnate wanted back home on fraud charges, was granted Spanish citizenship by special order of the government in Madrid, the EU nation's Cabinet said Monday.

Spanish media Sunday cited the protocol of a February 9 session of the Spanish Council of Ministers as saying that Gusinsky, 54, had become a Spanish national.

"Spanish authorities use this form of granting citizenship - on 'special instructions' (por carta de naturaleza) - only in special cases," said Russian Yelena Feoktistova, a member of the Madrid Bar Association.

Now Russian authorities cannot seek the extradition of Gusinsky, who also holds an Israeli passport, from Spain. The Spanish citizenship also enables the businessman, who amassed his fortune in the controversial privatization campaign in post-Soviet Russia in the early 1990s, to travel throughout the EU without fearing arrest on a Russian request.

The press service of the Spanish government declined to comment on the decision.

Gusinsky, former head of the Media-Most Group, which set up Russia's once top independent TV channel - NTV, faced fraud charges for the first time in the summer of 2000. The charges were dropped after the businessman signed papers turning over ownership of the media holding to Russia's state-run gas monopoly Gazprom.

The channel did not support Vladimir Putin's first election campaign in early 2000.

Gusinsky left for Spain where he stayed until Russian prosecutors pressed fraud charges against him again later that year. The tycoon was detained following a Russian extradition request in December 2000 in a millionaires' village of Sotogrande, in southern Spain, where he was living. Spanish authorities refused to extradite Gusinsky, calling him "a victim of political purges," and released him a few months later.

Another exiled Russian oligarch, Boris Berezovsky, was granted political asylum in Britain in 2003. He had to give up his ownership of the ORT television channel to another tycoon, Roman Abramovich, in the early 2000s. Abramovich later handed over his controlling stake to the government.