Russian investigators probing the embezzlement of about 160 million rubles ($5.5 million) in Russian humanitarian aid to the breakaway Transdnestr Region of Moldova will search several banks in the republic, Kommersant business paper reported on Wednesday.
Moscow’s Basmanny Court has already issued a warrant for the searches, which will be held at the Transdnestr Central Bank and the local Biznesinvestbank, which had previously functioned under the name of Gazprombank, the paper said.
Russian investigators also plan to interrogate former Transdnestr Central Bank head Oksana Ionova who was recently detained in Tiraspol, the capital of the breakaway republic.
The new Transdnestr leadership has pledged assistance to Russian investigators in their investigation.
Transdnestr’s recently elected President Yevgeny Shevchuk has said the republic’s authorities are ready to consider extraditing Oleg Smirnov, the son of the former Transndestr leader Igor Smirnov, to Russia to question him over possible involvement in the affair.
Russian investigators suspect Oleg Smirnov and his associate, former Transdnestr Central Bank Deputy Chairman Oleg Brizitskiy embezzled $5.5 million between 2008-2009 which Russia had allocated for humanitarian aid to Transdnestr retirees.
A criminal case against Smirnov and his associate was opened in Russia in late October 2011, but neither of the men appeared for the inquiry. The Russian Investigative Committee says the embezzled money was transferred from the Transdnestr Central Bank to Biznesinvestbank, which was controlled by Oleg Smirnov at that time.
Oleg Smirnov has Russian citizenship and several properties in Moscow. He also owns several companies, police say.
His father Igor Smirnov has been the president of the Transdnestr Republic for the last 20 years. In September 2011, he announced plans to seek a fifth consecutive presidential term but lost the poll to Schevchuk.