MOSCOW, July 24 (RIA Novosti) – Lawyers acting for former Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov have criticized media leaks about an investigation into their client, as investigators questioned him yet again Tuesday over a major corruption scandal involving real estate sales, the RAPSI legal news agency reported Wednesday.
Serdyukov was questioned as a witness by Russia’s Investigative Committee in connection with a new criminal case opened this week into the Defense Ministry’s 2011 sale of part of St. Petersburg’s 18th century Tauride Palace, according to a report in the Kommersant newspaper Wednesday.
The Tuesday questioning was confirmed by Konstantin Rivkin, Serdyukov’s lawyer, who told Kommersant his client had refused to answer many questions, citing his constitutional right to remain silent.
Serdyukov’s legal team of Rivkin and lawyer Genrikh Padva said later in a joint statement that leaks about the questioning of Serdyukov in the media violate their client’s constitutional right to a presumption of innocence, according to RAPSI news agency. They also claimed that the amount of negative reporting about their client had increased in recent months.
“Regular accounts in the media, of information generally considered to be investigative secrets, are often accompanied by distorted facts, silence about important context, and unnecessary and baseless hysteria that is clearly not in keeping with the goal of ascertaining the truth,” Rivkin and Padva said, RAPSI reported.
The Investigative Committee said in a statement Tuesday that the Tauride Palace property, reportedly the subject of Serdyukov's latest questioning, was sold by Defense Ministry property agency officials for at least 75.8 million rubles ($2.3 million) below market value. Rivkin said Wednesday that Serdyukov did not see anything illegal in the deal, according to RAPSI.
Serdyukov has been questioned at least three times by the Investigative Committee since he was fired as Defense Minister last November.
The criminal cases being probed by the Investigative Committee are linked to alleged corruption at Oboronservis, a Defense Ministry holding company dealing with the repair and maintenance of ministry installations, equipment and real estate. Several of Oboronservis' top executives have been arrested on charges related to fraudulent property deals.
Dmitry Mityaev, a former head lawyer at construction company MIRA who investigators accuse of offering to "speed up" directives issued by Serdyukov whilst he was Defense Minister in return for bribes, was found guilty by a Moscow court Wednesday, RAPSI reported. Also a witness in the Oboronservis case, Mityaev was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison.
Updated with new headline, and Mityaev's sentence