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Ex-Defense Minister refuses to testify in St. Petersburg gardener's house sale case

July 24, 2013, 11:54 UTC+3

The gardener's house in St. Petersburg is part of the Tavrida Palace architectural complex

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MOSCOW, July 24 (Itar-Tass) - Former Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov has refused to give evidence in the new criminal case over violations in sales of Defense Ministry facilities - this time over the sale of a gardener's house in St Petersburg, which is part of the Tavrida Palace architectural complex, his lawyer Genrikh Padva told Itar-Tass on Wednesday.

Padva confirmed that investigators had tried to question Anatoly Serdyukov on Tuesday within this criminal case and also "on other issues." "He refused to give evidence citing Article 51 of the Russian Constitution," the lawyer said.

In his opinion, the attempts to prove criminal intent in the transactions that occurred several years ago are absurd.

"The investigators are looking into transactions that happened four or five years ago. It's absolutely absurd, because they were perfectly open, with the publication of notices; sometimes, the trade was electronic, the /cost of property/ was evaluated and the parties agreed on all terms including the price. Everything was open; the supervisory bodies and the prosecutors were aware of it, and now they suddenly have claims," Padva noted.

He reminded that Russia has civil law which provides "freedom of contracts." "The parties come to terms as they see fit. Nobody made any claims. Nobody bothered. They didn't even think it was illegal, and now they have questions alleging that it's a historical building," the lawyer said. He reminded that the building was handed to the Defense Ministry by decision of the Rosimushchestvo Federal Agency for State Property Management.

Commenting on Anatoly Serdyukov's position, he noted that "he does not wish to offer any more explanations in principle." He was a minister then; he had little to do with it at that time," Padva said.

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