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Former Russian Cabinet Minister Detained, Charged With Large-Scale Fraud

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Mikhail Abyzov (file photo)

Russia's Investigative Committee says a former cabinet minister and ally of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has been detained for allegedly embezzling $62 million from a Siberian energy distribution company.

The committee said Mikhail Abyzov was taken into custody by Federal Security Service agents on March 26.

Committee spokeswoman Svetlana Petrenko said Abyzov was allegedly involved in a criminal group that embezzled 4 billion rubles, or about $62 million, from the Siberian Energy Company and Regional Electric Grid in Novosibirsk.

Investigators alleged that Abyzov and five accomplices stole the money and transferred the funds abroad.

Defense lawyer Aleksandr Asnis told the state-run TASS news agency that Abyzov would appear in a Moscow court March 27 for a pretrial hearing, and would plead not guilty.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that President Vladimir Putin had been informed in advance about Abyzov.

Abyzov served as a cabinet minister between 2012 and 2018, and is considered a close associate of Medvedev, who was president between 2008 and 2012.

After Putin resumed the presidency in 2012, Medvedev returned to become prime minister. Abyzov retained his position in Medvedev's government until last year.

Investigators alleged that Abyzov founded the criminal enterprise in April 2011 -- a year before he was appointed as Minister for Open Government Affairs, whose duties included trying to make the Russian government transparent and accountable.

Abyzov also held several executive positions at major Russian energy firms since the mid-1990s, including a role on the board of directors at the electric power holding company EES.

In 2017, anticorruption activist Aleksei Navalny reported that Abyzov owns a mansion in Italy worth about $11.7 million.

Navalny reported that Abyzov amassed his wealth through his energy-sector connections in Novosibirsk.

With reporting by The Moscow Times, Meduza.io, Interfax, and TASS
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