Billionaire's house arrest sends stocks crashing

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

MOSCOW (AP) — The arrest of a Russian billionaire on Wednesday sent shares in his holding company into a tailspin, wiping away more than $2.5 billion in market capitalization.

Vladimir Yevtushenkov, who is worth $9 billion according to the Russian Forbes magazine, was placed under house arrest late Tuesday in a money-laundering case which has drawn comparisons with a government crackdown on the Yukos oil company in 2003.

Shares in Sistema, a company which Yevtushenkov controls and manages, collapsed by 38 percent in Moscow, cutting the company's market capitalization by over $2.5 billion in less than a day. Earlier in the morning, the MICEX stock exchange had temporarily suspended trading in the shares due to the heavy losses.

Sistema controls Russia's largest mobile phone operator MTS, oil company Bashneft as well as other lucrative assets. MTS was down 9 percent. The stock exchange suspended trading for Bashneft when it dropped 23 percent early afternoon on Wednesday.

The Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, a group which unites Russia's richest men, has petitioned to release Yevtushenkov on bail, dismissing accusations against him as unfounded.