19 Jul 2019 19:09

Reports of ex-minister Abyzov's confession fake - lawyer

MOSCOW. July 19 (Interfax) - The defense team of former Open Government Minister Mikhail Abyzov has denied reports that he had allegedly pleaded guilty to the establishment of a criminal organization and massive fraud and made incriminating statements.

"Several media reported that Abyzov had allegedly pleaded guilty to everything and is making incriminating statements, it is a fake. Today, an investigator of the Investigative Committee has questioned Abyzov for the first time since his arrest; the questioning took place at a request of Abyzov himself. My client's stance on the charges remains the same, he denies any wrongdoing," Alexander Asnis, one of the ex-minister's lawyers, told Interfax.

According to Asnis, Abyzov said during the questioning that despite his numerous requests, the investigator still has not explained the charges to him and it hinders his efficient defense.

"He still pleads not guilty and is confident that the charges of a grave crime under the Article 210 of the Russian Criminal Code [the establishment of a criminal community] brought against him are motivated by the investigators' desire to pressure him so that he would incriminate himself and other people and also serves as the reasoning for the court motions on the extension of his arrest and the seizure of the assets owned by Abyzov, as well as other people," Asnis said.

At the same time, Abyzov reiterated that he is ready to provide a detailed testimony, if the charges brought against him are explained to him, the lawyer said.

In his testimony, Abyzov provided the investigators with "irrefutable evidence that he did not establish a criminal organization, did not head it and could not objectively be engaged in the crime he is charged with while being the minister of Russia's Open Government," he said.

Abyzov has been charged with the organization of a criminal community 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 defrauded shareholders of Siberian Energy Company (Sibeco) and Regional Power Grids, which generate and transmit electricity in the Novosibirsk region, of 4 billion rubles and transferred all illegal earnings abroad.

The Basmanny District Court also sanctioned the pretrial arrest of five other defendants in the case; namely, former Sibeco Director Alexander Pelipasov, REMiS CFO Galina Fraidenberg, Novosibirsk Regional Sambo Federation President and former member of the Sibeco Board of Directors Nikolai Stepanov, RU-COM Deputy General Director Maxim Rusakov, and former Regional Power Grids General Director Sergei Ilyichev. None of the defendants has admitted any wrongdoing.