It became known on Tuesday that the Investigation Department of the Russian Interior Ministry brought charges of commercial bribery to Russia’s former top representative at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) Yelena Kotova. In late 2010, Kotova came under investigation of a corruption scandal, first by the bank, and then by Scotland Yard. The further investigation of the case in Russia was conducted in close interaction between Russian and British detectives. According to law enforcement officials, the Russian director solicited a kickback in the amount of nearly 1.5 million US dollars from a Canadian company for helping it get a major EBRD loan. Former Senior Vice President of VTB Igor Lebedev acted as an intermediary. The defendants have pleaded not guilty, and Kotova says she is a victim of political intrigues.
The Russian Interior Ministry reported on Tuesday that the former Russian director at the EBRD, Yelena Kotova, and former VTB Senior Vice President Igor Lebedev are charged under Article 30 and Article 204 of the RF Criminal Code (attempted commercial bribery), the Kommersant daily reports. The police department explained that according to the case materials, the defendants, using their official position and authority, as well as connections in business structures, “intentionally committed actions aimed at getting illegal remuneration from representatives of a Canadian oil and gas company.” The investigators believe that the defendants planned to get illegal remuneration helping the company get a loan of 95 million US dollars from the EBRD.
The corruption scandal in the EBRD broke out in December 2010, the newspaper recalls. As it turned out, former member of the Russian Public Chamber, now a Canadian citizen Sergei Chernikov – the owner of CanBaikal Resources, which develops the Kulunskoye and Untygeiskoye fields in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area, turned to the bank’s internal security service. He complained that Russia’s representative in the EBRD demands from him money for helping to get a loan. The bank passed the materials of its internal check to Scotland Yard, after which the story, in fact, became known. Yelena Kotova and three staff members of the Russian directorate at the EBRD who had immunity were sent home.
The Vedomosti newspaper writs that Kotova’s lawyer Sergei Mirzoyev said there is no objective evidence in the case materials – only Chernikov’s testimony; and the EBRD internal audit materials are not enough for criminal prosecution: they deal with the violation of ethical standards. One of the reason for which the case appeared could be Kotova’s professional conflict with the bank’s high-ranking representatives, he believes. The British police also conduct an investigation, which create a legal case – two investigations on the same materials.
Just recently, Russia has almost ignored international corruption cases, says Chairman of the National Anti-Corruption Committee Kirill Kabanov – take at least kickbacks to officials (including Russian) from Germany’s Daimler and Siemens. However, in 2012 Russia joined the Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials other anti-corruption conventions – and so it becomes more and more difficult for it to ignore such things, he said.