21 Dec 2023 21:58

Moscow court sentences ex-minister Abyzov to 12 years in high-security penitentiary

MOSCOW. Dec 21 (Interfax) - Moscow's Preobrazhensky District Court has sentenced former Minister for Open Government Affairs Mikhail Abyzov to 12 years in a high-security penal colony as part of a case involving a criminal group and fraud, an Interfax correspondent reported.

"Abyzov is ultimately sentenced to 12 years' imprisonment [and will] serve his sentence in a high-security penal colony," the court panel said in its sentence pronounced on Thursday.

The court also fined Abyzov 80 million rubles and banned him from holding positions "involving the performance of organizational, administrative and managerial functions in state bodies" for three years. The court also deprived the former minister of the Order of Friendship.

"The defense team will study the sentence and will make a decision on filing an appeal against it in agreement with the defendant," lawyer Alexander Asnis, who is representing Abyzov, told Interfax.

The court sentenced two of Abyzov's accomplices, who were considered by the investigators to be organizers of the crime ring along with the former minister, namely, former Ru-com CEO Nikolai Stepanov and his deputy Maxim Rusakov, to eight years in a high-security penal colony with a two-million-ruble fine and to 12 years in a high-security penal colony with an 80-million-ruble fine, respectively.

Another seven defendants in the case were sentenced to terms ranging from five years in a standard security penal colony to nine years in a high-security penal colony. Two defendants, Yana Balan and Oksana Rozhenkova, were fined four million rubles each.

Depending on the role of each of them, the defendants were found guilty of setting up and involvement in a crime ring, especially large-scale fraud, commercial bribery, illegal engagement in entrepreneurial activity, and the legalization of money or other property obtained in a crime.

At the same time, the court relieved Abyzov of liability for the charge of illegal entrepreneurship due to the expiration of the statute of limitations.

The investigators found that in 2012 Abyzov and his accomplices set up a crime ring to embezzle funds from the companies Siberian Energy Company (Sibeco) and the Regional Power Grids (RES), which produce and transmit electricity in the Novosibirsk region.

According to the indictment, the criminal organization consisted of two functionally and territorially separate groups located in Novosibirsk, Moscow and abroad.

Members of the crime ring had embezzled four billion rubles from the companies' shareholders between 2012 and 2014 by defrauding them, the prosecutors said.

According to prosecutors, the members of the crime ring carried out illegal financial transactions with the embezzled funds in 2014, converting them into U.S. dollars in order to make their possession, use and disposal look legitimate.

Abyzov and his accomplices gave a 78-million-ruble bribe to Sibeco general director and his deputies in exchange for gathering and systematizing information about corporate financial and economic operations, the Russian Prosecutor General's Office said.

Abyzov, acting together with other parties, engaged in the business activity of Cypriot companies under his control and the deal they concluded in February 2018 to sell JSC Sibeco stock. Illegal revenue stood at 32.5 billion rubles, including 18.9 billion rubles laundered through currency conversion and taken abroad, it said.

None of the defendants pleaded guilty during the investigation, but defendant Stepanov pleaded partially guilty of fraud and commercial bribery in court. At the same time, as Abyzov's defense team said, Stepanov incriminated himself and did not give any testimony indicating the guilt of the other defendants.

Abyzov was detained in March 2019 and has been held in the pre-trial detention facility since then.

In October 2020, the court granted a lawsuit filed by the Russian Prosecutor General's Office and recovered over 32.5 billion rubles from Abyzov and five foreign legal entities, which, according to the supervisory authority, the former minister received as income in violation of anti-corruption laws. The enforcement proceedings in this case are still ongoing, but as the former minister's defense team said at the end of the trial in the criminal case, Abyzov "has now repaid over 20 billion rubles at the expense of his own property."