MOSCOW, January 30 (RIA Novosti) – Russia's Investigative Committee has asked prosecutors to seek the lifting of lawmaker Vadim Bulavinov's immunity from prosecution, in an unprecedented legal move against a ruling party member.
Bulavinov, a deputy in the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, is suspected of financial mismanagement causing losses of 600 million rubles ($20 million) to the budget of the city of Nizhny Novgorod, of which he was mayor until 2010, the committee said in a statement on Wednesday.
According the committee statement, Bulavinov abused his office back in June 2005 by issuing a decree allotting two companies a land plot to construct a shopping mall. The companies, Start-Stroi and Delta-Stroi, were allegedly exempted from providing the required 7 percent share of the finished building to the city administration. The 600 million rubles cash represented by that share was supposed to be spent on upgrading substandard housing.
Bulavinov also helped his son Yevgeny to become a 22.25 percent shareholder in Start-Stroi and Delta-Stroi. Nizhny Novgorod invesvestigators opened a criminal case into the affair back in 2010, but it was soon dropped.
The lawmaker on Wednesday dismissed all the allegations as fabrications.
“It’s a completely falsified case, I don’t consider myself guilty,” Bulavinov told RIA Novosti. “It’s an old story that has been pending for four years already,” he added without elaborating.
As a lawmaker, Bulavinov has immunity from prosecution and cannot be charged while he holds it. However, if prosecutors agree with the investigators, they are likely to ask the Duma to vote for lifting his immunity.
"We will recommend [he] gives all the necessary, detailed explanations relating to the claims which have emerged," said senior United Russia member and Duma Deputy Speaker Sergei Neverov.
Bulavinov is a longtime Duma lawmaker, serving his fourth term, with his first dating back to 1993. He was Nizhny Novgorod's mayor from 2002 to 2010, after which he returned to the Duma.
The Investigative Committee’s move against Bulavinov is a rare case of law enforcement targeting a member of United Russia, Russia's ruling party.
Last year, the State Duma stripped opposition A Just Russia party lawmaker Gennady Gudkov of his immunity over his alleged business activities, but he has not been charged. His supporters claim he was punished for his role in supporting the anti-government protest movement of 2011 and 2012 in Russia.
Only four other Duma lawmakers have ever been stripped of their immunity in response to criminal investigations.