Investigators Wrap Up Case Against Bulbov

The Investigative Committee said Monday that it had wrapped up its case against senior Federal Drug Control Service officer Alexander Bulbov, who faces corruption charges widely seen as linked to a battle for influence between powerful clans connected to the country's security services.

Bulbov will stand trial on charges of abuse of authority, accepting and paying hefty bribes, ordering illegal wiretaps and legalizing money purportedly obtained in criminal activities, a committee spokesman said.

Investigators accuse Bulbov of having paid $50,000 per month to Interior Ministry officer Mikhail Yanykin to tap the telephones of powerful businessmen, senators and prominent journalists, as well as accepting $4,000 per month in bribes from private companies in exchange for official protection, Interfax reported.

If convicted, Bulbov could face up to 10 years in prison, the Investigative Committee spokesman said.

Bulbov and his lawyers maintain that he is innocent, and political analysts believe that his continued pretrial detention is linked to a power struggle between feuding clans close to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

The Moscow City Court on Monday began hearing an appeal to release Bulbov from detention pending his trial, and the hearing was to continue Tuesday, Interfax reported. A representative of the Prosecutor General's Office, headed by Yury Chaika, asked the court to free Bulbov on bail, saying investigators had no proof that he had committed any crimes, Interfax reported.

Chaika has publicly sparred with Investigative Committee chief Alexander Bastrykin over several high-profile cases, and the two are believed to be close to powerful competing clans.

The Supreme Court last week annulled a lower court's previous ruling to keep Bulbov behind bars.

In another case widely seen as one of the most blatant manifestations of a power struggle between Kremlin clans that plagued the final months of Putin's presidency, Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak was released on bail last month after spending 11 months in jail pending trial on charges of attempted fraud and abuse of office.

Bulbov and two other drug enforcement officers were arrested in October last year at Domodedovo Airport as they returned from a trip abroad. Bulbov called the arrests -- conducted by the Investigative Committee and the Federal Security Service, or FSB -- revenge by the FSB for his investigation into Tri Kita, a Moscow furniture store accused of evading million of dollars in import duties and smuggling Chinese goods through FSB storage facilities.