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20 Feb, 2013 13:30

Russia investigates 25 cases of Defense Ministry fraud - Prosecutor General

Russia investigates 25 cases of Defense Ministry fraud - Prosecutor General

Authorities are investigating 25 separate instances of fraud in the so-called Oboronservis case involving the illegal sale of the Russian Defense Ministry’s property, Prosecutor General Yury Chaika said on Wednesday.

Following the investigations, prosecutors filed criminal charges against a number of officials at the Defense Ministry property department and the Oboronservis property company. They are accused of selling underpriced property Chaika told lawmakers during a meeting at the State Duma.

Preliminary estimates suggest the fraud lost the government 5 billion roubles ($166 million).

The Prosecutor General said officials were able to prevent 2.3 billion roubles ($76.5 million) in additional losses, while around 1 billion roubles ($33mln) have been recovered in the course of the investigation.

The investigation, which penetrated into the highest echelons of the Defense Department, led to the sacking of Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov last November.

According to investigators, Serdyukov, who remains a witness in the case, has been summoned for questioning several times, but refused to answer questions.

Oboronservis carries out a variety of services relating to Defense Ministry property, including repair and upkeep of equipment and real estate.

Yury Chaika told lawmakers that Russia’s perennial battle against corruption intensified in 2012.

"We have discovered over 49,000 [corruption] violations, which is almost a quarter more than was registered in 2011,” he noted.

The number of people guilty of corruption has increased by 13 percent, the Prosecutor General added.

"The damage has reached almost 21 billion roubles ($693mln)," he said. 

Meanwhile, the number of registered crimes committed by organized groups has tripled, and the number of [misappropriations] in large and especially large amounts increased by 80 percent. 

Alexander Bastrykin, the head of the Investigations Committee, said in his report to the State Duma on corruption that these figures do not reflect the full picture of corruption in the country.

"In 2012, the number of corruption crimes involving the Investigations Committee increased considerably, despite the general 4% decrease in crime,” Bastrykin noted, as quoted by RIA Novosti.. “Some 10,000 incidences of bribe-taking were registered.”

Bastrykin said the Investigations Committee made over open charges against 800 officials in 2012.

Some 600 elected officials around the country - heads of municipal entities and local bodies - were the subject of criminal charges.

"Among them are 19 deputies of the legislative assemblies of the Russian regions, 29 members of elections commissions, 6 judges, and 100 investigators from various agencies, of which, unfortunately, 15 were Investigations Committee officials," he said.

Robert Bridge, RT