Russian Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev has been detained over a $2 million bribe in return for his ministry’s support for a major oil company deal on Tuesday. Ulyukayev is the highest-ranked statesman in Russia to be arrested since 1991.
Russia’s main anti-corruption body, the Investigative Committee (SK) has said that the necessary investigative actions concerning Ulyukayev are underway, reported RT.
The circumstances of the crime are connected with Ulyukayev receiving $2 million on November 14 for the positive assessment provided by the Economic Development Ministry that allowed Rosneft – an integrated oil company majority owned by the Government – to complete the deal on purchasing the government’s 50% stake in Bashneft – a Russian oil company formed by the transfer of the oil related assets of the Soviet oil ministry.
Svetlana Petrenko, deputy head of the Investigative Committee, in an official statement said that Ulyukayev was caught red-handed when receiving a bribe.
RT reported that a criminal case has been opened against Ulyukayev under part 6 of Article 290 of the Russian Criminal Code, which covers “large-scale bribery.”
It is said that the minister has been monitored by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) agents for more than a year. The apparent sting operation came after months of electronic surveillance, including phone-tapping. The Investigative Committee, which directly reports to President Vladimir Putin, said the investigation would put forward charges soon.
Ulyukayev can face a maximum penalty of a fine ranging from 80 to 100 times the sum of the bribe. In addition to this, if found guilty, he would be stripped of the right to serve in certain state positions or engage in certain activities for eight to 15 years.
In October this year Kremlin-controlled Rosneft had bought 50% of Bashneft for 330 billion roubles ($5 billion). Due to fall in crude prices Russia has been facing economic slump after which the country lined up several state companies for privatisation to replenish state coffers.