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MOSCOW, November 6 (Itar-Tass) — Investigators do not rule out that former Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov may be questioned in the Oboronservis case.
"If there are grounds, he /Serdyukov/, too, may be questioned in the criminal case over large thefts at Oboronservis bodies," Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin told Itar-Tass.
Anatoly Serdyukov has been Russian defence minister since February 2007. On Tuesday, the Russian president replaced him with Moscow region governor Sergei Shoigu.
Earlier, the main military investigation department opened five criminal cases over fraud in the sales of real estate, land plots and shares belonging to the Oboronservis company which is subordinate to the Defence Ministry. The cases were opened under the penal code articles on fraud and exceeding and abusing office powers.
According to the investigators, Defence Ministry officials selected the most liquid and prestigious facilities, land plots and shares from the Oboronservis inventory. Then, tremendous budget funds were invested into these assets and the property was sold at very understated prices to the commercial bodies affiliated with Oboronservis.
Many facilities were bought with the money stolen from Oboronservis.
According to preliminary estimates, the damage from the sale of eight real estate facilities exceeds three billion roubles.
On November 1, a court sanctioned the arrest, within the framework of this case, of former head of the "Expert" legal support centre Yekaterina Smetanova, and her husband, entrepreneur and former director general of an Air Force storage facility in the Moscow Military District Maxim Zakutailo.
Meanwhile, chairman of the committee for security and combating corruption under the State Duma lower house of the Russian parliament Irina Yarovaya said Serdyukov's resignation would help carry out an objective an unbiased investigation into the Oboronservis case.
"Regardless of the results of the probe, the fact of the corruption scandal makes the reason for raising the issue of the head of the ministry's stepping down," Yarovaya said.
She underlined that appointing Sergei Shoigu the new defence minister would enable the ministry to successfully resolve the complex tasks it was facing. She praised Shoigu, who holds the title of Hero of Russia, as a person well-known for his character, will and courage.
Deputy Secretary General of United Russia's General Council Alexei Chesnakov stressed that Serdyukov's resignation was a serious signal to officials.
"By sacking Serdyukov, President Putin showed that there are no "untouchables" in government. This case might be viewed as a signal to the officialdom and the society, that not only the fight against corruption, but also serious suspicions of corruption /implying both persons and departments/ should be followed by real moves," Chesnakov noted.