No Jail For Lawyer Targeting Notaries

The Tverskoi District Court on Friday refused to arrest a Moscow lawyer for fraud charges that she says are revenge for a campaign against nepotism and corruption in the awarding of lucrative notary public licenses.

The court rejected a request by investigators to take lawyer Inna Yermoshkina into custody as she awaits trial on several counts of fraud involving purported illegal privatizations of apartments, Yermoshkina said by telephone after Friday's hearing.

The ruling was the latest in a series of small court victories for Yermoshkina, whose repeated lawsuits have shed light on the frequency with which relatives of senior federal and city officials are awarded the right to work in Moscow as notaries.

"I'm happy, even if at the moment I'm so stressed," Yermoshkina said.

A spokesman with the Moscow city police, which is handling the investigation, declined to comment on the case.

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.

Since 2005, around 70 Moscow notaries have lost their jobs because of Yermoshkina's lawsuits, including Alexander Pronin, son of Moscow police chief Vladimir Pronin, and Alexei Kuzovkov, son-in-law of Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu.

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 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.

Experts say 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.

City police investigators are expected wrap up their investigation of Yermoshkina within a week and charge her with nine criminal counts involving the fraudulent privatization of apartments, her lawyer, Vladimir Zherebenkov, told Interfax.

Yermoshkina says the charges against her are fabricated. If convicted, she faces up to 10 years in prison.