Strip Fraud Scandal Politicians of Immunity

MOSCOW, December 25 (RIA Novosti) – Two opposition lawmakers in Russia should be stripped of parliamentary immunity, paving the way for their criminal prosecution on fraud charges, a member of the ruling party said on Tuesday.

“I believe that deputies Mikheyev and Shirshov should be stripped of immunity…There is no place for crime in politics,” said Irina Yarovaya, who heads the Duma’s anti-corruption committee.

Konstantin Shirshov of the Communist Party tried to sell a seat in the State Duma to an unnamed businessman for 7.5 million euro ($10 million) in 2011, the Investigative Committee said.

Reports said at the time that Shirshov was caught accepting the money, but could not be charged because of his immunity.

The other Duma lawmaker, Oleg Mikheyev of the leftist A Just Russia, is suspected of real estate fraud and trying to embezzle 2.1 billion rubles ($69 million) from Promstroibank, the committee said on its website.

Neither lawmaker was available for comment as of Tuesday evening. Mikheyev has previously denied the allegations.

The Duma may vote on the issue in January if the investigators file all the required paperwork, said the head of the lower chamber’s rules committee, Sergei Popov.

In September, United Russia and its occasional ally the Liberal Democratic Party, removed A Just Russia’s Gennady Gudkov from parliament on accusations of running an illegal business.

Gudkov, a former KGB officer and prominent leader of the ongoing anti-Kremlin protests, called the case – which never reached court – political retribution for his activism, an allegation United Russia denied.

The Kremlin launched a broad anti-corruption campaign in November, which already saw one active and one retired federal minister implicated in graft cases. No lawmakers were targeted so far as part of the campaign.

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