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Published: Wed, November 16, 2016
Economy | By Melissa Porter

Russian Minister Detained Over Alleged $2 Million Bribe


Moscow's Investigative Committee, the country's main anti-corruption establishment, said the minister was attempting to extort money from Rosneft officials as well.

However, he does not belong to the rival camp of economic liberals either.

Ulyukayev has headed the ministry of economic development since 2013.

Rosneft boss and close contact of President Putin, Igor Sechin, lobbied hard to buy Rosneft, according to the Reuters news agency. "This suggests that there could be some political motive".

Russian Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev speaks during United Russia party congress in Moscow, Russia, February 5, 2016.

Such infighting risks triggering potentially destabilizing clan infighting in the run-up to a presidential election in 2018 when Putin is widely expected to run for a fourth term.Ulyukayev, who a Moscow court ruled should be put under house arrest for two months until January 15, faces up to 15 years in jail if found guilty.Wearing a blue suit, Ulyukayev told a Moscow court he did not accept his guilt. 'These are serious allegations, ' Peskov said.

But the suspect may instead face from eight to 15 years behind bars and a fine of 70 times the sum of the bribe. It wasn't immediately clear if he had a lawyer. He was questioned for hours Tuesday before being taken to court, where the judge put him under house arrest for two months.

State television was quick to present his detention as part of the authorities' fight against corruption. Storchak was detained on corruption charges in 2007 and was under investigation for a long time but eventually the charges were lifted and he returned to the cabinet. "Ulyukayev was caught red-handed as he received a bribe", she added. Putin named Ulyukayev, at the time a first deputy governor of the Bank of Russian Federation, economy minister in June 2013.

At least three regional governors have been arrested on bribery charges since Russia's recession started in 2014. Serdyukov was later amnestied after a conviction for criminal negligence.

"The Minister [of Economic Development Alexey Ulyukaev] has been monitored by FSB agents for more than a year". Storchak has remained in his post since his release.

Pavlovsky pointed out how odd it was that Putin apparently knew his minister was under investigation for months, but let him stay in office instead of simply firing him.

Rosneft refused to comment on the investigation of the Russian Economy Minister and stressed the legitimate nature of the deal with Bashneft, Rosneft representative said Tuesday.

"You would have to be insane to threaten Rosneft and extract a $2 million bribe from Igor Sechin, one of the most influential people in this country, a month after the deal was given legal and political clearance", Alexander Shokhin, head of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs said, told Business FM Radio.

"No one, neither experts nor officials, expressed any doubts that the price for Bashneft, 329 billion roubles (RM21.8 billion), was a market one", Shokhin was cited as saying by the Gazeta.ru news site.

"Neither experts nor officials doubted the sale price of Bashneft being the market one, thus taking a bribe for the market valuation is a odd accusation", Shokhin added, reminding of Rosneft's influence on the decision-making in the case.

There had been a widespread consensus that the Bashneft stake was sold to Rosneft for a market price, meaning it was "insane" to extort a bribe from one of the most powerful men in Russian Federation when everyone agreed on the valuation, he added. As a result of that review, the state-owned company Rosneft acquired a 50% share of Bashneft.

The minister is the head of state-owned VTB's advisory board.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, meanwhile, said he does not believe the detention of Ulyukayev will affect the ongoing negotiations over the territorial dispute.

Vladimir Milov, a former deputy energy minister turned opposition activist, said in an opinion piece on the respected RBC news website that Rosneft could be behind the Ulyukayev case.

"It's impossible to call the sale of one state company to another state company privatisation", Vedomosti said.

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