Shoe Manufacturer Detained in $120M Fraud Probe

Vadim Stepanov, head of leading Russian shoe manufacturer Tervolina, has been detained on suspicion of defrauding the government out of more than 3 billion rubles ($120 million) worth of land along the elite Rublyovo-Uspenskoye Shosse, the Interior Ministry said Monday.

Moscow's Tverskoi District Court will decide Tuesday whether Stepanov should remain in custody during an investigation of the cases, the court's press office said.

The court issued a warrant for his arrest Friday, and Stepanov turned himself in Saturday.

Investigators also carried out a search of Tervolina's offices near the Polezhayevskaya metro station from 7 p.m. Friday to 11 a.m. Saturday, confiscating "several boxes of documents," a law enforcement source said, Interfax reported.

Tervolina's press office and sources within the company refused to comment on the case Monday.

If charged and convicted, Stepanov could face up to three years in prison.

Sergei Brovchenko, Stepanov's lawyer, said he "had been expecting this course of events since last year," when a fraud investigation was opened in October, Kommersant reported.

That investigation was opened after an inventory of state-owned forestland by the Federal Inspection Service for Natural Resources Use near the elite settlement of Nikolina Gora found that more than 26 hectares of forestland near a dacha cooperative had been transferred to private ownership illegally, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

The ministry said that after the co-op, which was still state-owned, took over the forestland in 2003, it turned to Stepanov to help privatize the property in exchange for part of the land.

Stepanov arranged to have the property transferred to a group of retirees and ex-soldiers, some of whom were entitled to receive such lands according to federal legislation.

On the same day, he filed documents registering their sale of the same property for a sum of $400 each, the Interior Ministry said.

Tervolina operates more than 100 shoe stores in major Russian cities and some former Soviet republics and employs more than 1,200 people.