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Investigative Committee detains Russian ex-minister Abyzov

Abyzov has pleaded not guilty
Mikhail Abyzov Donat Sorokin/TASS
Mikhail Abyzov
© Donat Sorokin/TASS

MOSCOW, March 26. /TASS/. The Russian Investigative Committee detained former Open Government Affairs Minister Mikhail Abyzov and charged him with setting up a criminal group and embezzling 4 billion rubles (about $62 million at the current exchange rate), committee spokeswoman Svetlana Petrenko said on Tuesday.

"The Investigation Committee’s Office for the investigation of particularly important cases has filed charges against former Open Government Affairs Minister Mikhail Abyzov. He is charged with committing crimes stipulated by Article 210, part 3 (Creation of a criminal community (criminal organization) committed by a person through his/her official position) and Article 159 part 4 of the Russian Criminal Code (swindling on an especially large scale)," she said.

"Abyzov has been detained, the investigation is set to settle the issue of choosing a pretrial restraint measure for him within the shortest possible timeframe," she added.

The former official has pleaded not guilty, his lawyer Alexander Asnis told TASS.

"Abyzov pleads not guilty. Investigators notified us that the measure of pretrial restraint for him will be chosen tomorrow, after 10:00 Moscow time, at Moscow’s Basmanny Court," he said.

A source familiar with the situation told TASS that Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) and investigative bodies would also look into Abyzov’s activities at the ministerial post. 

"The investigation, among other things, would look into information suggesting that Abyzov, after being appointed minister for Open Government affairs, had an opportunity to control the operations of several companies and could be behind the withdrawal of multibillion loans from those companies, which were later channeled to offshore zones," the source said, without disclosing the names of the companies.

According to investigators, in the period between April 2011 and November 2014, Abyzov, together with Nikolai Stepanov, Maxim Rusakov, Galina Fraidenberg, Alexander Pelipasov and Sergei Ilyichev, stole 4 bln rubles ($62.1 mln) from OJSC Siberian Energy Company and OJSC Regional Power Networks through fraud of their shareholders and channeled money abroad.

"All stolen money were channeled abroad. The unlawful actions, committed by the accomplices, put at risk the sustainable development and energy security of some of the country’s regions," Petrenko said.

A source familiar with the case earlier said that investigators would seek to place Abyzov under arrest and the request may be filed on Wednesday or Thursday. The source also said that other episodes and suspects may emerge in the case.