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Former Russia Defense Ministry official charged with fraud

The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation [official website] on Friday charged Yevgeniya Vasilyeva, former head of the Russia Defense Ministry's [official website] property department, with fraud, claiming that she stole over 360 million rubles ($11 million) in a real estate scheme. Vasilyeva is currently under house arrest [AP report] and her request for bail was dismissed, although her laywers intend to appeal the dismissal. A raid on her house last month [Reuters report] revealed valuable paintings, rare antiques and more than 100 expensive rings. While Vasilyeva was head of the department, one of its firms created a loss of at least 3 billion rubles ($96 million) allegedly by selling properties to insider companies [AP report]. Russian President Vladimir Putin also fired [Reuters report] Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov earlier this month because of corruption investigations in the ministry, but Serdyukov has not come under investigation himself. Besides Vasilyeva, two others have been charged [RIA Novosti report] in the investigation. If convicted, Vasilyeva could be sentenced to six years in prison.

Russia recently dealt with another corruption case involving oil executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky [defense website; JURIST news archive], who was convicted [JURIST report] of fraud, theft and money laundering last year. Earlier this month his business partner, Platon Lebedev [defense website; JURIST news archive], received a three-year reduction [JURIST report] to his sentence. Khodorkovsky and Lebedev are each serving prison sentences for fraud, theft and money laundering that should last until 2016. In July, a senior Russian judge ordered a court to review [JURIST report] Khodorkovsky's appeal. Opposition leaders and other groups have shown skepticism about the validity of Khodorkovsky's sentence. Last year, former Russian prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov testified [JURIST report] that former president and current prime minister Vladimir Putin ordered Khodorkovsky's arrest for political reasons, indicating that Khodorkovsky had funded the Communist Party without first getting approval to do so from the president.

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