Russian court sanctions arrest of senior police officer over illegal gaming

A Moscow court on Thursday sanctioned the arrest of a high-ranking police officer accused of receiving kickbacks from illegal gambling operators, approving a request from investigators just hours after prosecutors said the official had no case to answer.

Investigators believe that Farit Temirgaliyev, chief of the Interior Ministry’s telecommunications crime department, and his deputy, Mikhail Kulikov, have helped a number of regional prosecutors, including Moscow Region Deputy Prosecutor Alexander Ignatenko, hush up illegal gaming operations. The underground casinos are thought to have generated up to $10 million a month in revenue.

Earlier on Thursday, Deputy Prosecutor General Viktor Grin overturned a decision to bring charges against the two men, without disclosing the reason for such a move.

The prosecutor’s decision to drop the case is not a reason to stop the investigation, Basmanny Court Judge Olga Solopova said in ordering Temirgaliyev’s arrest until at least July 4, 2011.

“Temirgaliyev, if he is at large, may flee investigators, destroy evidence or put pressure on witnesses,” she said.

Some observers view the Temirgaliyev and Kulikov case as the latest episode of a behind-the-scenes turf war between the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Investigative Committee.

Underground casinos have mushroomed across Russia since a law came into force in July 2009 banning gambling everywhere except in four remote zones.

The Kremlin announced plans in April to merge the Prosecutor General’s Office with the Interior Ministry, a move that would trim its authority.

Prosecutor General Yury Chaika said there was a “lack of balance” between his office and investigators but denied rumors of a “war.”

President Dmitry Medvedev said in April the prosecutors were the target of an “unacceptable” smear campaign by the Investigative Committee.

“Using the media to exert pressure on the investigation is unacceptable,” Medvedev said. “Those caught doing this will be sacked.”

MOSCOW, June 9 (RIA Novosti)

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