More Russian officials detained as nationwide anti-corruption drive gains momentum

Russian law enforcement has launched criminal investigations targeting several high-ranking regional officials with charges including embezzlement, theft, bribery, and extortion.

The main news of the week was the arrest of Russian Minister of Economic Development Aleksey Ulyukayev for allegedly accepting a $2 million bribe, but more investigations have been initiated all over the country in just the last two days.

The Federal Security Service has arrested two deputies to the governor of central Russia’s Kemerovo Region, Aleksey Ivanov and Aleksandr Danilchenko, on charges of extorting a 51-percent stake in a coal mining company from a local businessman. The media estimated the minimum price of the securities in question to be about 1 billion rubles, or well over $15 million. Besides the two deputy governors, FSB operatives also detained a group of agents working in the regional directorate of the Investigative Committee – a Russian federal agency responsible for pursuing especially important crimes – including the head of its investigative department. They all have been charged with complicity in extortion.

In Moscow, the Investigative Committee arrested a former deputy governor of St. Petersburg, Russia’s second largest city, and launched a criminal investigation into large-scale embezzlement of state funds that had been allocated for the construction of a football stadium. Investigators have told reporters that the suspect, Marat Oganesyan, allegedly arranged for a friendly company to win the tender to supply a special screen for the stadium and received an advance payment of over 50 million rubles (about $770 000) that was later laundered through shell companies and stolen. Oganesyan is currently in custody and awaiting transfer to St. Petersburg, where he will be investigated and tried.

On Wednesday the Investigative Committee reported that it had also opened a criminal case against the mayor of the central Russian city of Pereslavl-Zalessky, Dmitry Koshurnikov, who is suspected of large-scale misuse of funds belonging to the state hi-tech corporation Rusnano through the local pharmaceutical firm NT-Pharma. Several senior managers of NT Pharma have also become suspects in this case.

Also on Wednesday, Interior Ministry officers searched the office of the director of the state property agency for the republic of North Ossetia, Alan Tsabiyev, who is suspected of abusing his office and committing large-scale theft in 2013 during the privatization of land plots belonging to one state-owned enterprise. Tsabiyev has been placed under house arrest.