MOSCOW, January 11 (RIA Novosti) – Former Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov refused to testify on Friday when investigators questioned him over a massive fraud case at a state defense firm, citing his Constitutional right not to testify against himself.
Serdyukov instead provided a written statement on the sale of the ministry's assets.
The Investigative Committee said the former minister's failure to answer their questions could mean his current status as just a witness could change as a result of his refusal to testify.
“It is quite possible that Serdyukov’s status in the case will change” as his refusal might be considered as an intention to impede the inquiry, Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said.
"Serdyukov has left the Investigative Committee. He retains his status as a witness," he added, after the former minister appeared for questioning at Investigative Committee headquarters in Moscow accompanied by his lawyer Genrikh Padva on Friday morning.
Markin said investigators will continue the inquiry into the case and plan to question more witnesses.
Serdyukov was fired on November 6 after he became embroiled in a scandal over alleged real estate fraud involving state assets of about $130 million at Oboronservis, a firm controlled by the Defense Ministry. Three people have been charged in the case so far.
This was the second time since his ouster by President Vladimir Putin last November that Serdyukov has appeared before investigators. He previously turned up on December 28 and refused to answer investigators’ questions in the absence of his lawyer, who was reportedly ill at the time.