MOSCOW, September 27 (RIA Novosti) – A dramatic new corruption scandal seems to be unfolding in Moscow, with a senior Russian auditor detained on suspicion of taking a bribe from a federal senator – who denies wrongdoing – and the auditor’s wife committing suicide upon learning of her husband’s detention, a prominent daily newspaper reported Friday.
Alexander Mikhailik, who oversees spending on sports facilities as part of his duties at the federal Audit Chamber, was detained on Wednesday near his downtown Moscow home shortly after accepting 3 million rubles ($90,000), the Kommersant daily reported.
Investigators say the money was a bribe for Mikhailik to initiate an unscheduled inspection into Sport Inzhiniring (Sports Engineering), a company constructing and restoring Russian arenas for the 2018 Football World Cup.
But Mikhailik’s lawyer told the newspaper that the money was actually a loan from the senator, a longtime friend, for Mikhailik to buy a 12 million ruble ($370,000) apartment.
Mikhailik’s wife, Natalya, hung herself after hearing that her husband had been detained. Mikhailik’s lawyer, Murad Musayev, said the wife was in shock after spending the whole night frantically searching for her husband in morgues and hospitals before finally being informed that he was in police custody and facing a lengthy prison sentence.
The sensationalist Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper reported that the wife had asked her husband to buy the family a more spacious apartment as a present for her 56th birthday, which would have been Friday. When she found out about the supposed bribe, the daily said, she “could not cope with the guilt.”
The lawyer, Musayev, said in a Facebook post that his client had been caught in a tug-of-war between senior officials and “framed” by the senator, identified in media reports as Alexander Korovnikov of the Novgorod Region. The lawyer said Mikhailik had known the senator for 20 years.
It was not immediately clear whether the senator was also under investigation. He told Kommersant that he had not been implicated in any crime and added, “Let the investigators look into the matter.”
The lawyer said Mikhailik did not have the authority to initiate or prevent an Audit Chamber inspection. According to investigators, checks at Sport Inzhiniring are conducted every year. Mikhailik faces 15 years behind bars if convicted of bribe-taking.
The case comes just two weeks after President Vladimir Putin nominated presidential aide and former health minister Tatyana Golikova to head the Audit Chamber.