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Moscow region’s former minister arrested in France

July 08, 2013, 10:03 UTC+3
Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office promises to address France for extradition of Kuznetsov
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The Moscow region’s former Finance Minister Alexei Kuznetsov, who was two years earlier arrested in absentia on charges of embezzlement of over ten billion roubles of the budget funds and who was put on the international wanted list, was detained at France’s Saint Tropez resort on the Cote d'Azur. Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office promises to address France for extradition of Kuznetsov.

As Kuznetsov was detained, the police found several faked passports which he owned, the Moskovsky Komsomolets reports. The Investigative Committee issued an order to present charges to Alexei Kuznetsov on "Fraud", "Legalization of money laundering" and "Embezzlement". The maximum possible punishment for the mentioned crimes is a ten-year term.

Spokesperson of the Russian Investigative Committee Vladimir Markin said on Sunday that the investigation would present charges to Alexei Kuznetsov as soon as he is in Russia, the Rossiiskaya Gazeta writes. Markin said that from November of 2005 through to November of 2008 an organised group headed by the Moscow region’s former Finance Minister Alexei Kuznetsov by fraud and abuse of trust bought from several house maintenance companies the calls to the Moscow region’s municipal settlements worth over 3.5 billion roubles.

The calls’ rights were legalised by selling them to a commercial bank, which in its turn required funds from the municipal settlements. As there was no money to pay off, the municipal settlements’ authorities had to take loans from the bank. At the same time, investigators say, Kuznetsov ordered to settle the loans taken by the settlements by moneys from the Moscow region’s budget.

Members of the criminal group, the Investigative Committee says, also embezzled the property from the MOITK Company worth 7.2 billion roubles, the Kommersant reports. The company had been organised for design and implementation of the regional investment programmes.

The newspaper writes that Alexei Kuznetsov was the Moscow region’s finance minister between 2000 and 2008, in the time of Boris Gromov’s government. In 2008, Alexei Kuznetsov resigned and left Russia. In a month’s time after his departure, the law enforcement authorities began looking into his activities as the finance minister, and the criminal case was opened. The investigation was complicated and emerged several scandals.

The Moscow region’s former Governor Boris Gromov disclaims any forgery with the budget he controlled. Immediately after the decision of the Bassmanny Court to arrest Alexei Kuznetsov in absentee, he said the former minister had not been involved in the forgery, or if he did steal, the theft was only outside the region, which, the governor claimed, was “his personal business.”

Andrei Vorobyov, who replaced Boris Gromov, confirms the fraud. “This story is very painful for the region. The region lost great money, and, surely, our objective is to return the money to the budget,” he said on Sunday.



Presidential administration introduces anti-corruption monitoring of authorities

The presidential administration requested for the first time ever from state authorities the information on the officials, who had not undertaken inspections on correspondence between expenses and incomes, the Izvestia writes.

In early June, the Ministry of Economic Development sent to all federal authorities /the total number of 59/ letters demanding reports on the anti-corruption activities over six months, the newspaper reports. This time, the ministry expanded the questionnaire by having introduced the items on correlation between expenses and incomes, as well as the item on corruption information sources. The officials, who fail to prove the correlation between their incomes and expenses, may be fired.

The anti-corruption monitoring, which was initiated by the presidential administration back in 2010, is organised every six months. The questionnaires’ items are suggested by the administration. The ministry of economic development only sends out the unified questionnaires to other authorities, and the filled in forms are sent back to the Kremlin, where the data is included into a big table for further analysis of the year’s dynamics.

Like previously, the officials will have to report how many verifications their ministry or authority had organised to check truthfulness and completeness of the information and incomes and property, how many applicants for the official positions failed the tests and how many present officials were punished or fired for the violation.

This year, the questionnaire contains items on the inspections to prevent corruption. The change was caused by the law adopted from January 1 on control over correlation between expenses and incomes of officials and their families: now, they have to report purchase of any real estate objects, cars or shares, if the price is above their three-year cumulative income. Besides, the state authorities should have special anti-corruption controlling divisions, cooperate with law enforcement authorities, offer standards of honest work and official’s ethics code.

The problem remains that human resources’ officials do not enjoy extra responsibilities - for example to surf the Net for foreign real estate, like non-governmental activists are doing, Pavel Kudukin of the Higher School of Economics says.

“If there is a purpose to hide some expenses, it is not a problem,” he said. “The easiest way is to invest money into assets which are not obligatory for declaring: antique, valuables. They are not that liquid, of course, but do capitalise anyway.”

If an discrepancy in the official’s correlation between incomes and expenses is revealed, the official may be fired.

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