Newspaper owner Alexander Lebedev claimed yesterday that a powerful, wealthy enemy had ordered the raid on his Moscow bank that involved 50 armed police and secret service personnel.

Sources said the Russian tycoon had left the country on a pre-planned holiday after masked law enforcement agents entered his National Reserve Bank on Monday and took away documents.

Mr Lebedev, who owns the London Evening Standard, Independent and Independent on Sunday, said: ‘I guess they were fulfilling someone’s special mission. Somebody paid for it, that’s obvious.’

The billionaire said he doubted the raid was undertaken by Russia’s political elite, even though he is a highly visible critic of prime minister Vladimir Putin.

Mr Lebedev, a former KGB spy, also discounted the idea that the seizure of bank documents was revenge for anti-Kremlin articles by an investigative newspaper he owns in Moscow.

He claimed the Russian law enforcement agencies were beyond the control of Mr Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev, who had vowed to stop such high profile raids.

He claimed the operation may have been linked to his strong criticism of ex-Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov and his wife Yelena Baturina, a construction magnate who is the wealthiest woman in Russia.