MOSCOW (Reuters) – French authorities have detained a former Russian politician who has been on an Interpol wanted list since November, accused of fraud worth 3.5 billion roubles ($105 million), Russia’s Interior Ministry said on Saturday.
Alexei Kuznetsov was arrested at Russia’s request, the ministry’s website said, as President Vladimir Putin continues an anti-sleaze campaign to cement his grip on power.
Putin is a little more than a year into his third term as president, but his campaign for election was marked by widespread protests against official corruption and he has responded by barring holders of high office from keeping their wealth abroad.
Elections are being held for the mayor of Moscow and governor of Moscow Region this autumn, in a test of whether Putin’s efforts have made an impression on voters.
The Russian Prosecutor General’s office said it is preparing an extradition request for Kuznetsov, who it accuses of fraud, money-laundering and embezzlement while he was finance minister for the Moscow Region local government.
State news agency RIA Novosti and other Russian media have reported that Kuznetsov left Russia in 2008, having served as Moscow Regfion finance minister since 2000.
No one at the French Interior and Justice ministries was immediately available for a comment on Saturday.
($1 = 33.3212 Russian roubles)
(Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Addtional reporting by Gerard Bon in Paris; Editing by David Goodman)