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German officials search UBS branches linked to Russian oligarch Usmanov

BERLIN/ZURICH (Reuters) -German officials have searched UBS bank branches in Frankfurt and Munich as part of an investigation into suspected money-laundering by a Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov.

The suspected money laundering is in the scale of double digit million euros, a spokesman for the Frankfurt prosecutors' office said on Tuesday. The spokesman said the searches were at banks with accounts connected to Usmanov.

An Usmanov spokesperson categorically rejected the allegations, describing them as unfounded, false and defamatory.

"The businessman is a law-abiding and conscientious taxpayer who has paid taxes in Russia," the spokesperson said. The spokesperson declined to comment on whether the searches were related to Usmanov.

Swiss bank UBS confirmed on Tuesday that its two branches were the subject of the searches and that it was cooperating with authorities. Weekly Der Spiegel first reported the search.

"The subject of the investigation into suspected money laundering is a businessman from the Russian Federation," a spokesman for the Frankfurt prosecutors' office said.

"The investigations are not directed against the banking institution concerned or its employees. The search measures are taking place in the same preliminary proceedings in which searches have already been carried out at the defendant's residence in the district of Miesbach and at his yacht."

German police investigating money-laundering allegations against Usmanov have already searched a luxury motor yacht in northern Germany.

Officers from the general public prosecutors' office in Frankfurt and the Federal Criminal Police, together with the Munich public prosecutors' office, have also searched two properties in Miesbach, southern Bavaria, as part of the investigation.

The accused is suspected of arranging several transactions in the years 2017 to 2022 in order to disguise their origin, the prosecutors' office said.

Usmanov, who is active across a range of business sectors and has a net worth of $14.6 billion, according to Forbes, is at the centre of two separate investigations into his finances in Germany.

(Reporting by John Revill, Tom Sims, Marta Orosz, Noele Illien and Alexander Marrow; Writing by Miranda Murray and John RevillEditing by Paul Carrel and Alison Williams)