( Reuters ) - A Russian court found self-exiled Russian businessman and Kremlin critic Boris Berezovsky guilty in absentia on Thursday of embezzling millions of dollars from the Aeroflot airline, which he controlled in the 1990s.
Berezovsky, a political refugee living in London, had rejected the charges and refused to cooperate with the court, saying the charges against him were politically motivated.
"The court has established that Berezovsky embezzled Aeroflot funds by way of fraud, being part of an organised criminal group," Judge Igor Sheremetyev said in his ruling in the Savyolovsky district court in Moscow.
He said the ring included top managers of Aeroflot, Russia's national airline.
Investigators said Berezovsky had stolen more than 214 million roubles of Aeroflot funds, of which he had laundered more than 16 million roubles .
The judge was due to sentence Berezovsky later on Thursday. Last month prosecutors asked the court to jail him for nine years.
Britain has rejected Russia's demands to extradite Berezovsky to stand trial in Moscow, one of several irritants that have damaged relations between London and Moscow.
Berezovsky is one of a handful of magnates who made billions of dollars in the turmoil of post-communism market reforms. He was an influential political figure in Russia until he fell out with President Vladimir Putin in 2000 and left the country.
From London, Berezovsky later accused Putin of dismantling democracy in Russia.
The Kremlin, in turn, accuses him of attempting to undermine Russia's political stability and says he has close links with separatist rebels in Chechnya.