MOSCOW, February 8 (Itar-Tass) – Lawyers of Moscow region’s former prosecutor, Alexander Ignatenko, who had been extradited from Poland to Russia in the ‘gambling case,’ said on Friday they would challenge today’s Moscow City Court ruling to extend his arrest term till July 1.
“We thinks this court ruling is unlawful and ungrounded, and, of course, we are going to challenge it,” Ignatenko’s lawyer, Alexander Asnis, told journalists after the court session.
He also stressed that “Igantenko does not admit his guilt and is not going to do so.” According to Asnis, his client will be kept at the Lefortovo detention centre.
Meanwhile, a representative from the Russian prosecutor general’s office, Sergei Bochkarev, noted that the court “revealed violations that cast doubts on the Ignatenko case’s further referral to court.” He did not rule out that the oversight authority would “take prosecutor’s actions, in case there are grounds for that.”
In the course of the court session on Friday, Ignatenko asked to be released from detention. “I have never tried to evade responsibility, I was forced to leave, since I had serious liver and spine problems, and I lost all my teeth,” he said and added that he had planned to return to Russia voluntarily. “I was prepared to testify but I had no idea of what I was accused of, my lawful rights were infringed upon.” He vowed he had no intention to hid away and would prove his innocence.
His lawyers asked the court to release Iganenko from custody and place his under home arrest instead. According to his lawyer Sergei Denisov, Ignatenko “was forced to leave Russia not to hide away but to evade ungrounded arrest.”
Investigators requested the court to extend the detention term till June 1.
Prosecutors were against Ignatenko’s arrest. “Extradition terms have been violated, the investigator has violated the right of the accused to protection,” said Sergei Bochkarev of the Russian prosecutor general’s office. He asked the court to impose home arrest, which “will satisfy both the defence and the prosecutors.”
After hearing the parties, Judge Nikolai Tkachuk ruled to satisfy the investigator’s request and extend the term of arrest till July 1. According to the court ruling, the court has found no circumstances why he cannot be kept in the detention ward. “The prosecution’s request to extend the arrest term is justified,” the document says.
Over this period, investigators plan to organize “several face-to-face interrogations with witnesses and with another accused, Dmitry Urumov, former chief of a Moscow region prosecutor office’s department.” It is not ruled out that the pre-trial investigation against Igantenko will be completed.
Earlier on Friday, Russia’s Investigations Committee brought official charges against Ignatenko. According to well-informed sources, the former prosecutor is charged of a group’s bribe-taking to a sum of over 33 million roubles (part 4, article 290 of the Russian Federation’s Criminal Code).
“The criminal case underarticle 159 of the Russian Federation’s Criminal Code, related to a land plot (on which charges were brought in absentia), was closed,” the source said. “That was a requirement from Poland’s side over the issue of his extradition.”
“He used the right as per article 51 of the Constitution, and refused to testify, saying he would do so later. He pleaded not guilty,” the source added.
Interpol issued a wanted notice for the former first deputy prosecutor of the Moscow region, Alexander Ignatenko, over charges of fraud and taking 47 million roubles in bribes from suspected masterminds of illegal gambling business in the Moscow region. On January 1, 2012, the former prosecutor was detained by Poland’s security agents as he was leaving the Zakopane resort where he had arrived several days before for reunion with his family. He spent a year in a Polish prison awaiting a ruling on his extradition.
In late October, 2012, Poland's justice minister said he had decided to extradite Ignatenko, but that the latter could only be tried on charges of corruption, and that Poland was not extraditing the suspect under the fraud charges.
Under international norms, the extraditing country can impose such restriction if it doubts the correctness of the charges against the suspect.
Alexander Ignatenko became the last suspect in the high-profile criminal case opened in 2011, accused of taking bribes in exchange for covering up illegal gambling business in the Moscow region.
In February 2011, the Federal Security Service reported that it had exposed an illegal gambling network in 15 towns of the region. It brought an estimated five to ten million dollars a year in revenue. The network had operated for some three years.
Law-enforcement bodies said Ivan Nazarov, together with Alla Guseva and Marat Mamyev, were the masterminds of the illegal business. Initially, they were charged with fraud, but later the charges were changed to illegal entrepreneurship. The suspects signed plea bargain agreements and were released on recognizance in June 2011.
Nazarov said there were 300 gaming clubs in the regions, including 15 he controlled personnally. After the gambling ban, police suggested he pay them bribes. Nazarov said they had collected 80 percent /of earnings/ as bribes - prosecutors, police, etc, in order to turn a blind eye to the operation of gambling parlors.
The Prosecutor General's Office, after checking prosecutor's office personnel for connections to Nazarov, did not find facts of corruption. Specifically, it found no proof that Nazarov had funded prosecutors' trips abroad. However, after the check, Moscow region prosecutor Alexander Mokhov was relieved of his duties for shortcomings in the work with his subordinates and appointed deputy of the Moscow region transport prosecutor. His first deputy Alexander Ignatenko and head of department # 15 of the regional prosecutor's office Dmitry Urumov were fired. Prosecutors of the towns of Noginsk and Klin, Vladimir Glebov and Eduard Kaplun were fired too, for breaching the rules of prosecutor’s conduct.
Alexander Ignatenko and Eudard Kaplun were put on the wanted list. In August 2012, Kaplun turned himself in and was questioned as a suspect.
Practically all the suspects were released from custody, and the cases against them did not go courts. Prosecutors denied the plea bargain request to two suspects and returned the cases against six other suspects to the investigators.