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Russia deputy finance minister charged with fraud, embezzlement

[JURIST] Russian Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak was charged Friday with fraud and attempting to embezzle $43.3 million in state funds, according to his lawyer. After an initial investigation [JURIST report] the Russian Prosecutor General's Office [official website, in Russian] accused Storchak of working with Sodexim [corporate website] head Viktor Zakharov and Interregional Investment Bank [bank website] chairman Vadim Volkov to take funds from a Russian bank for Sodexim business expenses. Storchak was arrested November 15, just before his scheduled departure to South Africa with Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin. Kudrin has insisted on Storchak's innocence [St. Petersburg Times report], and has petitioned the court to release Storchak on his personal guarantee. Storchak has been denied bail and Russian prosecutors have said his confinement is necessary to prevent him from leaving the country, destroying evidence, or intimidating witnesses.

Storchak previously oversaw Russia's oil windfall fund and served as Russia's chief liaison to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank [official websites]. He was also instrumental in negotiations which paid off billions in Soviet-era debt. Russian media sources see the arrest as an effort by elements in the Kremlin to control Kudrin's economic policies, particularly those dealing with Russia's oil wealth. AP has more.

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