Suspect in Storchak Case Released

In an unusual demonstration of leniency for ailing suspects, investigators on Monday released from custody a businessman implicated in the controversial criminal case against Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak.

Igor Kruglyakov, a director of the Interregional Investment Bank Board who was arrested in December 2007, was released after submitting a written pledge not to leave Moscow, his lawyer, Yevgeny Martynov, said Monday.

Kruglyakov, who is suspected of colluding with Storchak and others to embezzle tens of millions of dollars from the government, underwent heart surgery in June and had his pacemaker replaced, Martynov said.

The Investigative Committee cited his poor health in allowing his release, Martynov said, adding that his client had been in the hospital since December.

The Storchak case is believed to be a byproduct of a fierce power struggle between the so-called St. Petersburg economists, led by Finance Minster Alexei Kudrin, and the siloviki, or people with close ties to the security services -- the two main groupings associated with the country's two main political figures, President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

The fierce competition between the groups intensified during Putin's handover of power to Medvedev, who was widely seen as more liberal than his mentor, a former KGB officer.

The decision to release a key figure in the Storchak case could mean that the warring factions are trying to reach a compromise, political analysts said.

Storchak, Kruglyakov and two other suspects are accused of attempting to embezzle $43.4 million from the state budget.

Martynov said the Investigative Committee had rejected requests to release Kruglyakov from custody because of his poor health. Moscow's Basmanny District Court in August extended his detention until Oct. 9.

Martynov suggested that the reversal was linked to a medical evaluation by state doctors certifying that Kruglyakov's health precluded him from participating in the probe.

His release from custody means the guards who have been watching him around the clock in his hospital room will now be called off, Martynov said.

The Investigative Committee declined to comment Monday on either the Kruglyakov or the Storchak case.

Authorities have consistently rejected leniency requests for several high-profile prisoners.

Former Yukos executive Vasily Aleksanyan remains under the watch of prison guards while being treated for AIDS-related lymphoma in a Moscow hospital, despite his lawyers' repeated requests for leniency.