While Russian media tycoon Vladimir Gusinsky awaits the outcome of extradition hearings in Spain, Moscow tax authorities have moved to liquidate several companies within his Media Most group, using an obscure piece of legislation that has never been used before.

Moscow tax inspectors launched a case in the city arbitrage court on Friday, which is aimed at winding up businesses under the Media Most umbrella, including leading Russian broadcaster NTV. At the same time, the Russian government opened another case to seize Gusinsky's property in Spain.

Gusinsky was arrested in Spain last week at the request of the Russian authorities in connection with fraud charges (ScreenDaily, December 12). A Spanish judge has already been quoted in the local press saying that he sees no reason not to return the prisoner to his native Russia. Gusinsky, whose media outlets have been critical of the existing government, is claiming that he is a victim of political persecution.

According to a Media Most spokesperson, the liquidation suit is a politically motivated attempt to shut down NTV and its direct-to-home NTV Plus satellite service, as well as the Seven Days publishing house which includes daily newspaper Segodnya.

Media Most recently cut a debt relief deal with its major creditor Gazprom which cleared the company of its debts but did not affect the criminal charges against Gusinsky. The agreement called for 25% of NTV to be sold to a foreign investor.