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    Russia dep. finance minister remains in custody, faces new probe-2

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    MOSCOW, December 3 (RIA Novosti) - The Moscow City Court has remanded in custody a deputy finance minister, Sergei Storchak, accused of attempting to embezzle $43 million, while prosecutors launch a new investigation against him.

    A key figure in Russia's Paris Club debt talks, Storchak was detained in Moscow along with two businessmen on November 15. Russia's Investigation Committee said his arrest was related to the settlement of Soviet-era debts and that the measure was based on prosecutors' concerns that he could destroy evidence or intimidate witnesses. Stochak pleaded not guilty.

    Prosecutors said Storchak, in his post since November 2005, had been denied bail despite personal guarantees from Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, who petitioned for his release.

    A spokesperson for prosecutors said a new probe had meanwhile been launched against Storchak. "Storchak is facing a new probe related to his duties," she said at the Moscow City Court, which has rejected an appeal against the arrest.

    Russia's Investigation Committee said the new probe was based on abuse of office charges during debt settlement talks between the former Soviet Union to Kuwait. The talks were held in Moscow on January 27-28, 2005.

    Under the agreement, which was signed in May 2006, Russia was set to pay $600 million of the debt in goods, and the remaining $1 billion in a cash payment.

    The Investigation Committee said earlier the arrest was related to debts to the Sodexim company and that Storchak had been arrested along with Sodexim general director Viktor Zakharov and the president of the Moscow-based Interregional Investment Bank, Vadim Volkov. They face five to ten years in prison.

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