Moscow Ad Chief Investigated

The head of the Moscow Advertising Committee is being investigated on suspicion of embezzling more than 130 million rubles ($4 million), the Investigative Committee said Friday.

The Moscow Advertising Committee is the municipal authority that controls the sale of city advertising space.

Makarov denied the charge. "We are absolutely sure that these suspicions are not grounded, and if any charges are filed against us, we will prove that we acted according to Russian legislation," he told The Moscow Times.

The Investigative Committee said Makarov was being investigated on suspicion of abuse of office, including the use or threat of violence or use of weapons. If charged and convicted he faces up to 10 years in jail.

Makarov said investigators were reviewing a deal that his committee made with a company in 2004. He declined to name the company.

An unidentified investigator told Komsomolskaya Pravda that Makarov signed deals with "friendly companies" that were not the highest bidders.

The investigation comes shortly after the Moscow Advertising Committee removed street hoardings from the area around the Kremlin under orders from City Hall. Around 400 ads have been removed, Makarov said. Asked whether the investigation is connected with the removal of the lucrative advertisements, Makarov declined to comment, referring to this as a "delicate question."