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The day after, raids on Prokhorov companies look more political than criminal

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The scene Thursday out the ONEXIM offices in an upscale neighborhood of Moscow was downright scary.  Inside, dozens of black-clad security service personnel were grabbing documents and computer data.  Mikhail Prokhorov and Dmitry Razumov rushed back to Moscow after watching the Nets lose their finale in Brooklyn.

Now, a day later, there seems to be a sense of "wait and see."  Raids like that on Prokhorov's companies are not out of the ordinary in Moscow, sort a like an IRS audit notice with ski masks. Vladimir Putin often uses oligarchs like Prokhorov as political pawns.

Whether Russian authorities take it further --criminal prosecution-- remains the question.   Some see the fact that the raids were timed to take place after he left for New York as an indication they wanted to avoid maximum embarrassment.  And there's no indication, at least yet, that Prokhorov was targeted as an individual. Nor did Putin reference the raids in his annual Q and A session, where he did discuss tax evasion and off-shore investments.

The Federal Security Service, the main KGB successor agency, said Friday the searches of ONEXIM group were part of a probe into alleged tax evasion. It added that the investigation is continuing.

Meanwhile, there was a great deal of speculation that the raids were political.  Russian press reports noted that RBC, Prokhorov's media company, had been publishing material from the "Panama Papers" that's embarrassing to Putin and his friends. So, the reasoning goes, the searches could have been aimed at pressuring Prokhorov into surrendering control over his media assets.   Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov strongly denied any link between the searches and Prokhorov's media assets.

What might the consequences be if the investigation drags on?  Could it jeopardize Nets off-season spending?  Could it lead to a sale of a minority --or majority-- share in the team and arena being sold?  Like we said, "wait and see."