Russian oligarch Prokhorov aims to go into politics

Mikhail Prokhorov Mikhail Prokhorov is reported to be worth $22.7bn (£14bn)

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One of Russia's richest men, Mikhail Prokhorov, has confirmed he plans to enter politics.

Mr Prokhorov wants to lead the Pravoye Dyelo party, or Right Cause.

He owns much of Russia's gold and nickel production, with other interests as diverse as nanotechnology, a hybrid car and the New Jersey Nets basketball club.

The last oligarch to turn politician, Mikhail Khodorkovksy, ended up in prison.

Mr Prokhorov made his money in the chaotic years of Russian privatisation during the 1990s.

His fortune is reportedly worth $22.7bn (£14bn), which puts him among the top three Russian billionaires.

Now he is diversifying beyond business.

Prostitutes allegation

The Right Cause party he has offered to lead strongly supports President Dmitry Medvedev, at a time when there's mounting speculation that Vladimir Putin wants a return to the presidency.

Prokhorov Profile

  • Wealth estimated at $22.7bn
  • Head of Onexim Group
  • Core business is precious metals
  • He also owns New Jersey Nets NBA team

It was founded just two years ago as a pro-business party promoting free-market reforms, the rule of law and an end to what it calls the "arbitrary rule of corrupt officialdom".

Mr Prokhorov's declared aims would be to lead Right Cause to second place in parliamentary elections coming up in December, behind the United Russia party, whose chairman is Vladimir Putin.

United Russia is expected to win the parliamentary elections comfortably, but they are widely seen as a dress rehearsal for the presidential election in March.

Both Prime Minister Putin and President Medvedev are potential contenders for the presidency next time around.

If Mr Prokhorov succeeds in taking over as leader of Right Cause, it will be the first time a Russian business tycoon has taken a prominent role in politics since the imprisonment in 2003 of Mr Khodorkovsky, then head of the Yukos oil giant.

Mr Khodorkovsky's supporters have always insisted this was punishment for daring to oppose Mr Putin.

Based on his statement today, Mikhail Prokhorov appears to be taking care to avoid posturing as a defiant opponent of the Kremlin.

Right Cause has so far struggled to attract heavyweight leaders in its ranks. Liberals have kept their distance from it, seeing it as too close to the government.

Mr Prokhorov's business empire is based on the Onexim Group, which has wide variety of interests, with gold and nickel at their core.

In January 2007, he was arrested on suspicion of arranging prostitutes for guests at a party he hosted in the French Alpine resort of Courchevel.

The case was later dismissed, and Mr Prokhorov was cleared.

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