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Oboronservis key suspect released from custody, becomes main witness

February 05, 2013, 11:29 UTC+3

Smetanova was among the first to be detained when the probe was launched into the case

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The Investigative Committee /SK/ unexpectedly released from a remand ward Yekaterina Smetanova, one of the key suspects in the criminal case over property fraud at affiliates of the Oboronservis company and the Defense Ministry. She was the first among other suspects to sign a plea bargain agreement with prosecutors, and she testified against her friend, former director of Defense Ministry's property deparmtent Yevgenia Vasilyeva. This enabled investigators to bring charges against Vasilyeva and zero in on former Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov. Smetanova will be a witness for the prosecution in the main case under the witness protection program. As for her crimes, special procedure will apply to her punishment.

The Rossiiskaya Gazeta, citing SK spokesman Vladimir Markin, notes that Smetanova, former director of the Expert legal support center, has been released on recognizance. Smetanova was among the first to be detained when the probe was launched into the case. The next day, Moscow’s Khamovniki district court met the investigators' petition to select custody as the measure of restraint for her. She was subsequently charged with grand fraud and commercial bribery.

Smetanova was released from custody thanks to the plea bargain agreement she signed with deputy chief military prosecutor Alexander Arutyunyan, the Kommersant writes. Sources told the newspaper that Smetanova, within the framework of plea bargain, had been unable to supply detailed and authentic information about former Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov's involvement in large thefts of military property. The thing is that businesswoman Smetanova, hired by the Defense Ministry to implement the program to sell its non-core assets, did not have direct contacts with the minister. But the former director of the Expert legal support center was closely acquainted with former head of the Defense Ministry's property department Yevgenia Vasilyeva, Serdyukov's girlfriend, who had instructed Smetanova and her center to sell this or that facility.

The newspaper notes that the decision to "turn over" her friend was hard for Smetanova, who her family said had been brought up on "spiritual landmarks of classic Russian literature." Smetanova, a mother of two small children, kept hearing about the freedom her alleged accomplice Vasilyeva was enjoying in her 18-room apartment in central Moscow, waited upon by a staff of servants, while she herself was in a remand prison. Taking into account the fact that Smetanova's husband Maxim Zakutailo, a participant in military property transactions, was also in custody, the burning sense of justice finally triumphed over moral principles and the striving to keep her friend out of it.

Therefore, by the time the trial of the Oboronservis case begins, Smetanova will have already had her sentence meted out, so nothing will prevent her from testifying at substantive hearings as a witness for the prosecution. The sources close to the investigation say her testimony helped the investigators focus on Vasilyeva and clarify the role played in the fraud by Anatoly Serdyukov who is still a witness in the high-profile case.

The Komsomolskaya Pravda writes that Smetanova, though no longer in custody, might not find life easy. Admittedly, the accomplices who are still at large can try to find out from her to what extent she "turned them over" or exposed the schemes. So the investigators assumed that "due to a possible threat to Smetanova's life and health," it is necessary to provide state protection to her, simultaneously with changing her measure of restraint. The former property appraiser will be guarded by personnel of a secret service.


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