Russian police have broken up a criminal ring whose suspected members, including a senior Agriculture Ministry official, are accused of stealing up to 500 billion rubles ($17 million) from the state budget, the Interior Ministry said on Tuesday.
The embezzled funds belonged to Rosagrolizing, Russia’s largest state-owned agro-industrial leasing company, the ministry’s Main Directorate for Economic Security said. The theft was a result of “non-existent supplies of equipment for Rosagrolizing’s ethanol plants and livestock farms” between 2007 and 2009.
Police are also looking into reports about companies owned by the suspected criminals receiving more than 4 billion rubles ($135 million) from Rosagrolizing in the same period.
The head of the Russian Agriculture Ministry’s Administrative Department, Oleg Donskikh, has been indicted in the case, the report said. He is believed to have played a key role in organizing the theft.
When police arrested two of his suspected accomplices, Donskikh submitted a resignation letter and has since dropped out of investigators’ view. He has been put on a wanted list.
An unregistered pistol was discovered as police searched Donskikh’s house in the western Russian Lipetsk region.
The suspects face up to 10 years in jail if found guilty.