4th Suspect Facing Charges in Storchak Embezzlement Case

A fourth suspect has been charged in connection with the prosecution of Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak on suspicion of attempting to embezzle $43 million, his lawyer said Monday.

Storchak's arrest last month has politically harmed Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, the country's top economic policymaker, and cast light on a struggle between Kremlin factions for supremacy before a presidential election in March.

Igor Kruglyakov, a board member at Interregional Investment Bank, was charged with attempted embezzlement under the same articles of the Criminal Code that were used against Storchak, said Genri Reznik, his lawyer.

"Kruglyakov said he did not understand the accusations against him. They are subjective in character and are not concrete," Reznik told reporters.

Reznik added that his client had declined to testify because he felt unwell and that he had appealed against a detention order. He also denied that Kruglyakov had committed any fraud.

Kruglyakov is the second executive from Interregional Investment Bank to be charged in the case, along with the bank's president, Vadim Volkov, and Viktor Zakharov, head of a company called Sodexim.

The case revolves around a failed attempt by Sodexim to recover a $26 million debt, plus interest, owed by Algeria.

Storchak, the country's top foreign debt negotiator and supervisor of a $150 billion stabilization fund, has denied any wrongdoing. Kudrin has vouched for his close aide, and was granted a meeting with Storchak on Thursday.

Storchak faces up to 10 years in jail if convicted.

Analysts say the case reflects a power struggle between different factions within the Kremlin and the security services veterans.

Reuters, MT