Russian Former Deputy Minister Held in Graft Probe

MOSCOW, April 10 (RIA Novosti) – Russia’s former deputy agriculture minister and two suspected accomplices have been detained over alleged embezzlement of 1.1 billion ruble ($35.5 million) from a ministry-owned firm, the Interior Ministry reported on Wednesday.

Former Deputy Agriculture Minister Alexei Bazhanov and two former agriculture company heads were held in the Voronezh region in connection with a fraud they allegedly organized in 2008 and 2009, the police said.

According to the investigation, Russia’s largest state-owned agro-industrial leasing company Rosagrolizing loaned the money to an agricultural company for leasing sunflower oil refining equipment but the funds were stolen instead. The police said they will seek the formal arrest of the three on embezzlement charges.

Russian investigators began a major investigation into corruption in the ministry last year, accusing the Agriculture Ministry’s Oleg Donskikh, who headed Rosagrolizing in the Central Federal District, of organizing large-scale embezzlement between 2007 and 2009 with two accomplices.

In November, Russian state television broadcast a documentary accusing former Agriculture Minister Yelena Skrynnik of possibly being involved in embezzlement of state funds when heading Rosagrolizing, which she chaired from 2001 until 2009. She has denied the allegations and no charges have yet been brought against her.


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