Russia targets Vekselberg associates in graft probe
Russian investigators on Monday named senior associates of billionaire Viktor Vekselberg as suspects in a bribery probe after masked officers raided offices of his Renova conglomerate.
The powerful Investigative Committee said in a statement it had detained two men as suspects in a probe dating back several years into corruption involving regional power generation.
It named them as the chief managing director of Renova group Yevgeny Olkhovik and Boris Vainzikher, currently CEO of T Plus Group, which is part of Renova.
FSB security service officers in black balaclavas raided the offices of Renova and T Plus Group on Monday, Russian news agencies reported.
Tycoon Vekselberg is listed by the Russian edition of Forbes as the country’s sixth richest person with a fortune of $11.3 billion.
Investigators also said they were locating another suspect Mikhail Slobodin, the head of Russia’s division of VimpelCom telecoms group — controlled by Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman.
Slobodin told Vedomosti business daily that he is in France, saying he was ready to answer any questions. Contacted by AFP, VimpelCom declined to comment.
The suspects are alleged to have bribed top officials in the remote Komi region for a total of more than 800 million rubles ($12.28 million at the current exchange rate) between 2007 and 2014 to get better conditions for doing business.
The case concerns a now-defunct energy company KES. The Investigative Committe says T Plus, which owns power plants, became its legal successor after reorganisation.
In August, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered ministers and the head of the FSB security service Alexander Bortnikov to investigate problems with power generation in Komi, saying that “swindling and slackness must be brought to a stop.”