22 Aug 2019 20:37

Court lifts freeze on over 55.5 mln rubles, around 11 mln euros in ex-minister Abyzov case

MOSCOW. Aug 22 (Interfax) - Moscow's Basmanny district court has refused to extend the freezes imposed on 19 bank accounts of Mikhail Abyzov, the former Open Government minister, as part of a criminal inquiry.

"Essentially, the court thus cancelled the arrest of those financial assets," his lawyer Sergei Drozda told Interfax on Thursday.

The investigator's request to extend the freeze on 30 million rubles in Abyzov's son's account, 25 million rubles on Ru-com's deposit accounts, and 171,500 rubles and 184,000 rubles on the accounts of Besta Holdings Limited and Kullen Holding Limited, respectively, has been rejected, judge Yevgeniya Nikolayeva ruled.

The court also refused to extend the freeze of over 10 million euros in the accounts of the Lisento Investments Ltd.

In addition, over 92,000 euros and 114,000 rubles on Vantroso Trading Ltd.'s bank accounts have been effectively unfrozen.

According to court papers, Abyzov has been charged with stealing an estimated four billion rubles in assets from the state jewelry exporter, Almazuvelirexport. The judge pointed out to the investigator that, by law, the freeze amount may not exceed the maximum fine and must be correspond to losses.

"The investigator failed to comply with this requirement, and the material filed with the court shows a clearly disproportionate amount of the material damage and value of seized assets, which is why it does not appear possible for the court to recognize that the investigator's decision was lawful and substantiated, and the court lacks legal grounds for satisfying the investigator's petition and extending the seizure of the assets," the ruling reads.

Abyzov has been charged with the organization of a criminal network and especially massive fraud. He was detained on March 26, and Moscow's Basmanny Court sanctioned his arrest the next day.

According to investigators, Abyzov established and headed an organized criminal group in the period between April 2011 and November 2014 as a beneficial owner of a number of offshore companies.

Abyzov is suspected of having conspired with other defendants and having defrauded shareholders of the Siberian Energy Company (Sibeco) and Regional Power Grids, which generate and transmit electricity in the Novosibirsk region, of 4 billion rubles and of transferring all illegal earnings abroad.

The investigation insisted that the activities by "Abyzov's organized criminal community" did not relate to business and were aimed exclusively at "criminal racketeering."

The investigation also concluded that the group's activities threatened "sustainable economic development and energy security of the Novosibirsk region and the Altai territory."

None of the accused has pleaded guilty.

Abyzov himself said that various assets, including his, worth over 20 billion rubles, had been seized as part of the criminal inquiry.