MOSCOW, November (RIA Novosti) – Former Agriculture Minister Yelena Skrynnik plans to sue journalists of a state-run television channel over a smear documentary linking her to a 39-billion-ruble ($1.3 billion) theft.
The show, aired on Rossia 1 channel on Tuesday night, alleged that Skrynnik was involved in embezzlement of state funds when heading Russia’s largest state-owned agro-industrial leasing company Rosagrolizing, where she worked before becoming a minister in 2009.
“What Rossia 1 TV channel said is slander,” Skrynnik, who is currently an aide to President Vladimir Putin on agriculture policy, told Komsomolskaya Pravda in an interview published Wednesday. “We will go to court,” she said.
Skrynnik, 51, chaired Rosagrolizing from 2001 until 2009. She was Agriculture Minister from 2009 until last May.
The documentary alleged that the embezzled money was listed as debts of agricultural enterprises for leasing equipment.
But at the time of Skrynnik’s departure, the debt stood at only 1 billion rubles ($32 million in 2008 prices), what was confirmed by a report of the Audit Chamber, Skrynnik said in an interview.
In April, the investigators reported an alleged embezzlement of 500 million rubles ($17 million) of Rosagrolizing funds.
At that time, the Interior Ministry investigators blamed it on a criminal group led by the Agriculture Ministry’s senior official Oleg Donskikh, who allegedly organized the theft between 2007 and 2009. Two were arrested, while Donskikh remains at large.
In her interview Skrynnik said that she was once questioned as a witness, but was never implicated in the Donskikh’s case.
According to the documentary, Skrynnik is currently staying in France. She said she was not hiding, but took a maternity leave to take care of her three-month-old babies.
The documentary was part of the Special Correspondent show on Rossia 1. Skrynnik is not the first ex-minister targetted by the show. In mid-November another documentary detailed on the investigation into an alleged embezzlement at the Defense Minstry under its previous head Anatoly Serdyukov.