Novgorod Official Refuses to Testify in Fraud Probe

NOVGOROD, April 8 (RIA Novosti) -A high-ranking official in Russia’s Veliky Novgorod Region, charged as part of a probe into misappropriation of state funds intended for road maintenance, has refused to testify during his first interrogation, a spokesman for the region’s investigative committee said late on Monday.

Investigators opened several criminal cases last week against nine suspects thought to have embezzled more than 35 million rubles ($1.15 million), including Veliky Novgorod Region’s First Deputy Governor Arnold Shalmuyev, as well as two local lawmakers, Anatoly Petrov and Nikolai Zakaldayev.

Shalmuyev, who was a key suspect in the case until officially charged on Monday, was first questioned on Friday.

Filing official charges is an important procedural step in Russia made only when investigators believe they have sufficient evidence to prove the suspect’s involvement. Once charged, a suspect becomes a defendant and a court is entitled to start hearing his or her case.

“The official was to undergo his first interrogation as a defendant in a criminal case on Monday in St. Petersburg. It will be known only on Tuesday whether he gave his testimony or was silent again,” the spokesman said.

According to investigators, Shalmuyev and eight executives from the Novgorodavtodor state company, and other state-run and private companies, are suspected of systematic embezzlement in 2011-2012. He is currently in hospital in St. Petersburg, where he was taken last Tuesday, following a search.


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