Duma Deputy Investigated For Stint as Customs Chief

State Duma Deputy Valery Draganov is suspected of negligence and abuse of office during his tenure as chief of the State Customs Committee from 1998 to 1999, Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said Tuesday.

A Supreme Court-ordered investigation has found evidence that Draganov abused his authority by ordering the customs' accounts be transferred to a bank that was not authorized by the government to perform such operations, Markin said, Interfax reported.

Draganov has filed an appeal with the court. If he loses, the Investigative Committee will ask the Duma to strip Draganov of the immunity that he enjoys as a deputy in order to prosecute him, Markin said.

If convicted, Draganov faces up to 10 years in prison.

Draganov, a member of United Russia, defended his actions as customs chief a decade earlier. "During all of my government service I acted and now act completely within the framework of the law and also in the national interest," Draganov said, Interfax reported.

The investigation comes amid a Kremlin-led campaign to root out corruption. But the case could embarrass both the government and the 450-member Duma, which has seen several deputies accused of criminal wrongdoing in recent months.

Spanish authorities this week issued an arrest warrant for Vladislav Reznik, head of the Duma's Financial Markets Committee and a United Russia member, in connection with an investigation into Russian organized crime on the island of Mallorca. Spanish police said he is suspected of receiving money from a criminal group purportedly led by Gennady Petrov, who was arrested on the island in June. Few details about the case have been released.

Last year, British police asked the Prosecutor General's Office to extradite Andrei Lugovoi to face murder charges in the poisoning death of former security services officer Alexander Litvinenko in 2006. In defiance of the charges, Lugovoi ran for the Duma in December and won a seat on the Liberal Democratic Party ticket.

Russian authorities have refused to extradite Lugovoi and shown no intention of handing over Reznik. Both men deny wrongdoing.