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Bryntsalov-A Execs Face Fraud Charges

Four executives at Bryntsalov-A, a pharmaceuticals firm whose practices have been widely blamed for holding up the country's WTO accession, were charged with fraud over copyright violations and illegal sales of medical alcohol, the Interior Ministry said Thursday.

The executives ordered production of various medicines "disguised as products of foreign manufacturers and illegally used their trademarks," the ministry said in a statement. They were also involved in the illegal sale of strong alcohol incorrectly labeled as antiseptic solution, the statement said.

Nadezhda Gritsenko, a spokeswoman for Bryntsalov-A, rejected the accusations and described them as part of an attempt by unidentified businesses to seize the company's Moscow property.

The Interior Ministry said the charges were filed in June 2006 but did not offer any explanation as to why it waited for a year to release the information. Calls to the ministry's press office went unanswered late Thursday.

The announcement could be linked to a fresh round of World Trade Organization accession talks that Russia is currently holding with the trade body's members in Geneva.

The drug maker's previous legal problems also coincided with WTO negotiations. Bryntsalov-A lost a court case in November, just as President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President George W. Bush said they had agreed on a bilateral deal on WTO membership.

The court at the time ordered Bryntsalov-A to pay a $1,500 fine for producing counterfeits of foreign drugs and improper storage of medicine.

The firm had earlier gained notoriety for making cheap substitutes of popular foreign brands and has often had to fight off counterfeiting accusations from international pharmaceutical producers.

The suspects include Tatyana Bryntsalova, who is the sister of company founder Vladimir Bryntsalov. The other suspects are Marat Mikhailov, Oleg Zharov and Sergei Novikov.

Bryntsalov-A's spokeswoman said the four no longer work for the firm.

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