MOSCOW, November 15 (Itar-Tass) — The lawyer of former Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov said his statements about his client's plans to become a Federation Council member were a joke. Henry Reznik said so to the journalists who had asked to comment on these remarks.
"I'm just joking. Can't I joke?" he said.
Reznik unveiled Luzhkov's "FC membership bid" before the former mayor was questioned at the investigation department of the Interior Ministry as a witness in the case over embezzlement at the Bank of Moscow. The FC membership remarks caused bewilderment as Reznik's statement seemed out of the context.
Luzhkov was questioned for more than four hours. Reznik underlined that the former mayor cannot be a defendant in the case over theft of money from the Bank of Moscow. "It does not concern Luzhkov, it is the case of the Bank of Moscow, so how can he be named a defendant?" the lawyer said.
Reznik claimed Luzhkov's actions had been aimed at rescuing the bank in the interests of the Russian capital.
After the questioning which lasted more than four hours, the lawyer said the mayor had answered all the questions. "I can honestly tell you that Yuri Mikhailovich had answered all the questions. He has not evaded a single question."
The former mayor is a witness in the case over theft of Bank of Moscow money. Specifically, the investigator is looking into the issues related to the city government buying an additional issue of the bank's shares in 2009. Later, the bank used the bulk of this money (some 13 billion rubles) to extend a loan to the Premier Estate private company.
Reznik confirmed that the investigator had focused on additional issue of bank of Moscow shares, but refused to elaborate. "Yuri Mikhailovich and I are on a written pledge not to divulge the information voiced during the questioning," Reznik said.
He underlined that even without the written pledge he would not be more talkative.
"I'm not the supporter of taking the criminal probes from investigator's office to the press," Reznik said. The lawyer made it clear that this policy does not apply to the events where prosecutors give distorted or defaming information about his clients. "In this case, it is not happening," Reznik said.
If necessary, Luzhkov will appear before the investigator on the dates coordinated in advance, the lawyer went on to say.
Luzhkov's status in the case has not changed: he is a witness. The investigator who conducted the questioning is a professional. Speaking about why Luzhkov did not come out to talk to the press, the lawyer explained that "he was tired with the questioning," so he let his lawyer do it for him.
When asked why Reznik represents Luzhkov's interests, the former said they have been linked with long-standing sympathy, which was not clouded by business relations.
Reznik said there had been no pressure on him whatsoever in connection with the case.
Luzhkov was to have been questioned on October 28, but at that time, he was abroad. The former mayor had notified investigator Dmitry Pisarevsky about his staying outside of Russia in an official letter. He said he was ready to turn up at the investigation department on any date upon his return to Russia, from November 11 through November 22.
Earlier, the Interior Ministry warned that in case of another failure to appear before the investigator, harsher measures might be applied.
The investigation department had repeatedly summoned Luzhkov's wife Yelena Baturina as a witness. It summoned her to testify in the case on February 25, March 4 and April 8, but she never turned up as she was abroad.
"In case of Baturina's further non-appearance for questioning, preliminary investigation bodies will take complete measures including Interpol opportunities," an official at the investigation department earlier underlined, adding that the department might send inquiries to the British and Austrian authorities.
In 2009, more than 12 billion rubles were transferred to the accounts of the INTEKO company. The money came as a loan to the Premier Estate company. The investigator believes "the loan was taken on the basis of unauthentic information about the subject and cost of the collateral - a 58-hectare land plot "Ramenskoye Territorial Directorate," belonging to three INTEKO employees, including Baturina, who had a 90-percent stake.
INTEKO has changed owners by now. Baturina has been staying abroad.
In late 2010, a criminal case was opened against former Bank of Moscow president Andrei Borodin and his former first deputy Dmitry Akulinin. They were accused of fraud and Interpol issued notices for their arrest.
Luzhkov said he saw "politics" behind the case. But chief of the Kremlin staff Sergei Naryshkin said there were two reasons behind the president's decision to dismiss Luzhkov. "Firstly, it's extremely ineffective city management, and, secondly, runaway corruption under Luzhkov and his associates," Naryshkin said.
Luzhkov was Moscow mayor for 18 years. On September 28, 2010, President Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree on early termination of his powers. The document said the mayor had been dismissed because of "the loss of trust."