Ex-Economy Minister Ulyukayev calls bribery case ‘set-up,’ trial adjourned till September
Former Russian Economy Minister Aleksey Ulyukayev has pleaded not guilty to extorting a $2 million bribe, claiming that the case against him is the result of a set-up by security services on the basis of false accusations.
“The FSB [Federal Security Service] has attempted to provoke me into receiving a bribe on the basis of a false report made by the chief executive officer of the Rosneft corporation, [Igor] Sechin, and the head of Rosneft security department [Oleg] Feoktistov,” Ulyukayev said Wednesday at a session of the Zamoskvoretsky District Court in Moscow.
“This report was the basis behind the unfounded instigation of the criminal case against me. I disagree with the charges and consider myself not guilty.”
Ulyukayev added that Sechin had personally called him and convinced him to visit Rosneft headquarters, where he was detained.
“All this had been planned ahead by FSB agents who had waited for several weeks hoping that I would voice some demands on passing the bribe, and naturally their expectations were never fulfilled. Eventually Sechin himself called me and convinced me to come to the Rosneft company,” the ex-minister was quoted as saying by Interfax.
Rosneft spokesman Mikhail Leontyev told RIA Novosti that the company had no intention of commenting on Ulyukayev’s defense statements, but said that the events described in the criminal case against the former minister had taken place.
“The court has been presented with exhaustive evidence that allows to prove the fact of the crime,” Leontyev said.
“Considering that Ulyukayev is now in a complicated situation, we will not comment on the type of defense that he has chosen. However, a fact remains a fact: Ulyukayev personally demanded illegal compensation for performing his duties, he personally came to collect the money and personally left the meeting place with the money. What else can be added to this?”
Earlier, the prosecutor in the case had said that Ulyukayev personally requested the $2 million bribe from Sechin in October 2016, when they both attended the 8th BRICS summit in Goa, India.
Ulyukayev was detained in mid-November 2016 on charges of allegedly receiving a $2 million bribe in return for his ministry’s support for a positive assessment that allowed state oil company Rosneft to complete a deal on purchasing the government's stake in another Russian oil major, Bashneft.
At the time of his arrest, Ulyukayev occupied the post of Russian economy minister, which makes him the highest-ranking Russian official ever to face corruption charges.
According to investigators, Ulyukayev was caught red-handed and the FSB had been monitoring his actions for over a year before the incident that led to his arrest.
Soon after the detention, Ulyukayev was placed under house arrest and President Vladimir Putin dismissed him from his post due to loss of trust.
If convicted, Ulyukayev faces up to 15 years behind bars and a fine of up to 100 times the sum of the bribe. In addition, he could be stripped of the right to serve in certain state positions or engage in certain activities for eight to 15 years.
The next hearing on Ulyukayev’s case is scheduled for September 1.