A regional court in Russia has declared the richest woman in the country, Yelena Baturina, a fugitive for failing to appear in court in a criminal libel case, RFE/RL reports.
The slander case against the billionaire widow of former Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov was reportedly launched in September in the Caspian province of Kalmykia. Baturina reportedly did not show up to the trial and is being represented by lawyers.
Russian law allows defendants in minor criminal cases to be represented by their lawyers.
But in the statement required by the court for such approval, Baturina reportedly did not explain why she could not attend the court hearings in the town, which is 1,200 kilometers southeast of Moscow. She also reportedly neglected to date the document.
Lawyers for Baturina called the court’s decision “illegal” and said they would appeal it. Her designation as a fugitive does not mean that she would be arrested, Russian media said.
The lawsuit arose from a decade-old dispute between Baturina and her brother Viktor Baturin, the former first vice president of her company Inteco.
During a hearing in Vienna about their dispute, Baturina said that Erentsen Manzheev, a financial director for Baturin, was under criminal investigation. Manzheev said that was false and filed a lawsuit against her.
Baturina is the wealthiest woman in Russia, having built her fortune during the 1990s and 2000s when her husband dominated Moscow politics. Inteco received sizable Moscow city contracts, raising questions about a possible conflict of interest. Baturina and her late husband repeatedly denied she received any favors from the city.
The billionaire pushed her brother out of Inteco in 2006, giving him a 50 percent stake in one of its subsidiaries and a construction business in Sochi. He later went bankrupt and has filed multiple lawsuits over the years against his sister seeking greater compensation. He has lost all the cases to date.