Records Tie Bastrykin to Czech Firm

Information indicating that Investigative Committee head Alexander Bastrykin owns a business in the Czech Republic — putting him in violation of Russian law — is readily accessible on the Czech Justice Ministry's web site.

Bastrykin this week denied accusations that he or his family members operated any business in Russia or abroad.

But a quick search of a database of locally registered companies on the Czech ministry's web site (www.justice.cz) shows that a Russian citizen named "Alexandre Bastrykine" is registered as the co-owner of a company called LAW Bohemia.

The other co-owner is listed as Olga Alexandrova, also a Russian citizen.

The date of birth listed for "Bastrykine" on the trade-registry entry is the same as that publicly given for Bastrykin, whose wife's name is Olga Alexandrova.

Under Russian law, state servants are not allowed to own or operate businesses. Before assuming their posts, they are required to hand ownership of a company to an entrusted individual.

According to the Czech Justice Ministry registry, LAW Bohemia was set up in 2000, with "Bastrykine" as its director until early 2003. Bastrykin — reportedly a friend of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin — has been a state official since 1998, when he began working at the Justice Ministry's Legal Academy.

In 2001 he became a department head in the ministry, and in 2006 he was appointed head of the Interior Ministry's Central Federal District branch. He was appointed head of the newly created Investigative Committee last year.

The committee's press office declined to comment on the Czech trade registry Thursday.

In an interview published Wednesday in the Argumenty i Fakty weekly, Bastrykin denied a report published last week in Moskovsky Komsomolets accusing him of owning the Czech company. Bastrykin called the report, written by muckraking journalist and State Duma Deputy Alexander Khinshtein, a "crude lie that deceives the reader."

In an article published Thursday in MK, Khinshtein repeated his call for Bastrykin to either resign or file a libel suit against him. "If you don't do this in the near future, I and the whole country will believe that you fully agree with the accusations," Khinshtein wrote.

A semiautonomous body created last year, the Investigative Committee took over many investigative powers held by the Prosecutor General's Office, under whose auspices the committee formally operates. The committee has taken over numerous high-profile criminal cases and launched investigations widely believe to be connected to bitter competition between powerful clans close to Putin. Bastrykin has publicly clashed with Prosecutor General Yury Chaika over several high-profile investigations.