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25 Feb, 2014 09:51

Former Defense Minister Serdyukov seeks amnesty - report

Former Defense Minister Serdyukov seeks amnesty - report

Anatoly Serdyukov, currently on trial over suspected criminal negligence that allegedly enabled multi-million-dollar embezzlement schemes in the Defense Ministry, is reportedly seeking amnesty from law enforcers.

Yes, this is true, he has asked for amnesty. He has state decorations, including ones for the combat service in 2008,” an unnamed source told the ITAR-TASS. The mentioned combat is the brief war that broke out in August 2008 when Russia had to repel the Georgian aggression against the republic of South Ossetia. The agency source reminded that Serdyukov was defense minister at that time and emphasized this as a sufficient factor in favor of amnesty.

A source in military police confirmed the news to Interfax, adding that Serdyukov had a private agreement with investigators that he would lodge his amnesty appeal directly after the Olympic Games in Sochi.

A short time earlier Interfax quoted Serdyukov’s lawyer, Genrikh Padva, who refuted the report but refused to elaborate.

The statement contains the lie that he personally submitted the amnesty appeal,” Padva said commenting on the article in mass circulation daily Izvestia that stated the opposite. Izvestia, however, wrote that the appeal originated from Serdyukov’s lawyers, not from the ex-minister himself.

The press service of Russia’s federal law enforcement agency, the Investigative Committee, has so far refused to comment on the reports.

Russia declared a broad amnesty in December last year in connection with the 20th anniversary of the modern Russian Constitution. It applied to first-time convicts tried for crimes not connected with violence against representatives of authority and sentenced to terms up to five years.

Those already freed within the 2013 amnesty include two former members of the notorious punk band Pussy Riot, Greenpeace activists held for boarding Russian arctic oil platform and eight suspects in the so called Bolotnaya Square case – the probe into street violence that took place in Moscow in May 2012.

Anatoly Serdyukov has been sacked from the Defense Minister’s post after investigators uncovered that the defense minister’s subordinates were running a huge embezzlement scheme with state owned real estate and other assets. According to law enforcers, the overall damages to the state amounted to about $215 million. Serdyukov was first questioned as a witness, but after some time himself faced charges of criminal negligence over the episode in which he allegedly ordered government contractors to build a road to a privately-owned sanatorium in South Russia. The damages to the state budget amounted to 56 million rubles (over US$2 million).

Serdyukov is pleading not guilty in the case.

The high-profile nature of the case and the amount of embezzled funds have prompted the Russian State Duma to seek an independent parliamentary investigation into Serdyukov’s activities. The move was initiated by leftist parties Fair Russia and Communists, but the parliamentary committee objected, saying that such move could be seen as putting pressure on the judicial system. On Wednesday the lower house will hold a vote on the issue.