16 Notaries Lose Jobs In Nepotism Lawsuit

Sixteen Moscow notaries, including relatives of senior officials, have lost their jobs and more heads could roll this week as a court considers a lawsuit alleging nepotism and corruption in the awarding of lucrative notary public licenses.

Alexander Pronin, son of Moscow police chief Vladimir Pronin, and Alexei Kuzovkov, son-in-law of Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu, are among those who have lost the right to work as notaries in the city, the Simonovsky District Court ruled Friday in a lawsuit filed by Moscow lawyer Inna Yermoshkina.

On Thursday, the court will consider additional notaries, including Ksenya Platonova, daughter of Moscow City Duma Speaker Vladimir Platonov, a member of United Russia.

"I would be happy if I could change the system, but I'm afraid that these people will be given their jobs back," Yermoshkina said Tuesday.

Yermoshkina, who was passed over in several tenders for notary permits, sued the commission that organizes the tenders earlier this year, accusing it of illegally helping the relatives of senior officials obtain Moscow permits while denying them to lawyers like herself.

After filing the complaints, Yermoshkina said, she was targeted by authorities. She spent two months in detention on fraud charges, and her husband, also accused of fraud, is currently being held in the Butyrskaya jail in northern Moscow.

Yermoshkina did not attend last week's hearing after being hospitalized with high blood pressure. She said several police officers beat her lawyer Andrei Muratov earlier in the week, causing her to fall ill.

"It was done on purpose, to prevent me from attending the hearing," she said. "If there are no other provocations, I'm planning to go to the court on Thursday."

A city police spokesman refused to comment on the attack allegation or on the court's decision to revoke the license of the police chief's son.

No one was available for comment at Shoigu's and Platonov's offices.

The eight-member tender commission, appointed by the Justice Ministry, includes four people from the Federal Registration Service and four from the Federal Notary Chamber, a nongovernmental organization that functions like a bar association. Spokespeople for the Federal Notary Chamber, the Federal Registration Service and the Justice Ministry refused to comment Tuesday.

In one complaint, Yermoshkina accused the commission of awarding a notary permit in 2005 to Irina Buksman, wife of First Deputy Prosecutor General Alexander Buksman. The Investigative Committee in June tried to open up a criminal case against Alexander Buksman for purportedly illegally assisting his wife, but Buksman's boss, Prosecutor General Yury Chaika, issued an order forbidding the investigation.

Moscow notaries can make up to $100,000 a month, and the government keeps strict control over the number of notaries legally allowed to open offices. Yermoshkina and two other lawyers said the huge income has attracted the family members of federal and city officials to the notary business.