MOSCOW, March 26 (RIA Novosti) – A Russian senator has handed in his resignation following allegations that he has Israeli citizenship and undeclared foreign real estate, a Federation Council official said on Tuesday.
Vitaly Malkin, one of the richest Russian state officials and a Federation Council member, asked to be relieved of his post as of Monday, regulations committee chairman Vadim Tyulpanov said.
“Senator Malkin has submitted his resignation; it’s sad but true,” Tyulpanov told the committee, which is expected to make its decision on the letter of resignation on Wednesday.
Whistleblower opposition blogger Alexei Navalny released documents earlier this month that appear to show that Malkin, a senator with the ruling United Russia party, secretly holds an Israeli passport and failed to declare 111 condominiums in Canada.
Moskovsky Komsomolets daily has appealed to the Federation Council, Russia’s upper house of parliament, to investigate the claims. As of Tuesday, the senators had neither denied nor confirmed the reports.
Malkin denied that he has foreign citizenship, calling the allegations a media smear campaign that might be connected to his trip to Washington last year. In the summer, the senator headed a delegation of Russian officials to Washington that lobbied against the so-called Magnitsky Act, named after the Russian lawyer who died in custody in 2009 after allegedly being beaten and denied medical treatment. The law will see a US visa ban for Russians accused of human rights abuses, as well as the freezing of their US assents.
“This dirty campaign in the mass media was most likely paid for by someone. I will get to the bottom of the matter,” Malkin said on Tuesday.
He suggested that it might have been ordered from abroad by those running his business, who “have stolen a large sum of money.” As a senator, he cannot run a business himself, but can pass the reins to trustees.
He said that he had relinquished his Israeli citizenship in 2007, while the property in Canada has been a subject of court litigation since 2005.
He added that an apartment in New York, also listed in Navalny’s report, belongs to his son.
Malkin explained his decision to resign by saying that he didn’t want the accusatory reports “to mar the image of the Federation Council.”
According to a report last fall by Kommersant business daily, Malkin was one of eight Russian senators to be included in Forbes magazine’s list of the country’s richest people, taking 163rd place with a net worth of $600 million.
Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matvienko said earlier that if the allegations are confirmed, Malkin will have to leave the council. Russian law doesn’t recognize dual citizenship and bars foreigners from holding state offices.
Malkin’s decision to step down follows a string of resignations of State Duma lawmakers over reports accusing them of owning undeclared property abroad and being involved in illegal business activity.
Kommersant and Forbes reported that Malkin is a former president of Rossiisky Kredit (Russian Credit) bank, which he cofounded together with Georgia’s current prime minister, Bidzina Ivanishvili.
Canadian National Post reported earlier that Malkin had unsuccessfully applied for residency and citizenship, having invested millions in Toronto real estate for almost two decades.
The Toronto-based publication reported in 2009 that Canada’s immigration authorities had denied Malkin a visa, alleging that he was involved in “money laundering, the international arms trade and trade in banned Angolan conflict diamonds.” Malkin denied the accusations.