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MOSCOW April 18 (Itar-Tass) - Former Deputy Agriculture Minister Alexei Bazhanov was charged with large-scale embezzlement on Wednesday.
Bazhanov is believed to have stolen 1.1 billion roubles from Rosagroleasing, the Interior Ministry told Itar-Tass.
“Investigators of the Investigative Department of the Interior Ministry read the original arraignment statement to Bazhanov,” it said.
On April 11, Moscow's Tverskoi court sanctioned Bazhanov's arrest. Earlier, his two suspected accomplices were put in custody: former top manager of the Masloprodukt company Roman Malov and former director general of Masloprodukt-BIO Sergei Dudenkov.
"The case concerns the theft of budget bunds allocated to Rosagroleasing to develop and maintain agriculture in the Voronezh region," the Interior Ministry reported earlier.
The scheme was implemented in 2008 through 2009 by signing contracts to supply high-tech sunflower oil production equipment to agribusinesses that were under suspects' control. "The budget funds were transferred to settlement accounts of affiliated organizations and cashed. Simultaneously, the wrongdoers drew fictitious documents on alleged supplies," police said.
The Interior Ministry's main department for economic security and combating corruption /GUEBiPK/ said "the former deputy agriculture minister played the key role in the group's activity. He agreed on allocation of funds, and helped draw documents on transactions and conceal the fact that the equipment was missing."
More than 30 searches were simultaneously carried out in the Moscow and Voronezh regions. Police said they had retrieved items and documents that had significance for the investigation.
The Interior Ministry said it would ascertain the identity of other members of the criminal group and expose additional episodes of their criminal activity.
Rosagroleasing signed contracts of lease with commercial organizations founded by former head of the company's regional department, head of the Lipetsk region agriculture department Oleg Donskikh. "He used his personal ties among high-placed Rosagroleasing officials to lobby the allocation of funds with the view of stealing them," investigators said, adding that directors of commercial firms in the Lipetsk region Sergei Burdovsky and Igor Konyakhin were involved in the scheme.
Alexei Bazhanov was deputy agriculture minister in 2009-2010. Earlier, he was a Voronezh region legislator and owned the Masloprodukt group of companies.