MOSCOW, February 13 (RIA Novosti) – Former Agriculture Minister Yelena Skrynnik is considered as a witness, not a suspect in a major fraud case after she was questioned by investigators on Wednesday, a police spokesman said.
“The questioning is over, it had lasted for more than five hours,” the spokesman said adding, “[Skrynnik] remains in a status of a witness.”
Skrynnik, 51, who headed Russia’s largest state-owned agro-industrial leasing company Rosagroleasing since 2001 before becoming Russia’s agriculture minister in 2009, was at the center of a fraud scandal last November, when a show, aired on Rossiya 1 channel, linked her to a multi-billion ruble theft.
Police estimate the fraud cost Russia 600 million rubles ($20 million). Investigators blamed it on a criminal group led by the Agriculture Ministry’s senior official Oleg Donskikh, who allegedly organized the theft between 2007 and 2009. Donskikh is now in hiding.
“During the questioning, Skrynnik expressed readiness to cooperate with investigators in future,” the spokesman said.
The Kommersant Daily wrote on Thursday that the key question was to determine whether it was Skrynnik who signed documents that investigators suspect were forged.
“I didn’t sign the documents, there is the facsimile of my signature,” she told Kommersant.
The ex-minister added that if she knew about the violations committed by Donskikh, then she “would have punished him personally.”
Skrynnik is not the first ex-minister targetted by the show. In mid-November another documentary detailed on the investigation into an alleged embezzlement at the Defense Minstry under its previous head Anatoly Serdyukov.
Updates with details from Kommersant’s Thursday article, including Skrynnik’s statement, in paras 6-8