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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow official loses immunity

In a step toward formally charging a city official suspected of accepting a bribe, Moscow City Council voted Monday to remove the immunity of People's Deputy Vladimir Smyshnikov.

City police are now free to arrest Smyshnikov, 39, Krylatskoye regional sub-prefect and City Council deputy who allegedly took a 500, 000-ruble bribe in exchange for building rights to a commercial firm.

Smyshnikov denies the charges calling the matter "a frame-up".

Smyshnikov was apprehended on May 6 after police received a tip that he was about to collect a bribe, Moscow City Prosecutor Grigory Ponamaryov told the session. He added that Smyshnikov made a full confession at city police headquarters at night of his detainment.

"This is a provocation", Smyshnikov told The Moscow Times. "I'm not guilty of anything".

Ponomaryov said that police found out about the deal and apprehended Kurochin and Mozhaitseva on May 6 as they were about to deliver the first installment of 500, 000 rubles.

Police marked the bills in a special invisible ink that shows up on objects fingered by anyone who touches the ink. They then had a collaborator from the firm that was trying to get the building license to deliver the money to Smyshnikov, as scheduled, in a case of mineral water.

Police entered Smyshnikov's apartment after the money was delivered and located the marked bills with Smyshnikov's fingerprints on them.

Police brought Smyshnikov in for questioning, where the former deputy says he was threatened with a death sentence and forced to confess.

Smyshnikov said in his statement that the money was planted in his house by "people who had already been caught red-handed and were trying to make it easier on themselves by helping to supposedly catch me".

In an appeal to city and federal prosecutors, the Moscow City Council and the Russian Supreme Soviet, Smyshnikov said last week that the investigators who entered his house on May 6 neither counted the money nor checked the case of mineral water where the money was found. The statement also declares that the investigators did not have a proper search warrant and refused Smyshnikov his right to call a lawyer. Smyshnikov also accuses Yevgeny Savostyanov, Moscow chief of the Ministry of Security, of "a lack of objectivity". In his May 7 television announcement about the detainment of Smyshnikov, Savostyanov stated that the authorities had enough proof to strip Smyshnikov's immunity and prosecute him immediately.

"Such proclamations by the authorities are aimed not only at prejudicing public opinion in this affair", Smyshnikov's appeal read, "but also preparing the grounds for conducting 'show trials'".