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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Mavrodi Received Into State Duma

For MMM president Sergei Mavrodi, this was just the ticket -- far better than one from his moribund pyramid scheme. In a brief ceremony marked by cheery flowers and flowery language, Mavrodi officially received the small, white card that makes him a deputy of the State Duma.

In a room bursting with clicking cameras and menacing microphones, Mavrodi clutched the card close, rose to his feet and fulfilled his first role as a bureaucrat.

"I want to thank everyone very much," he said. "My promises were not empty words."

The man who weeks ago left a jail cell to run for Duma deputy went on to make a few more promises. He would put a permanent press representative in the Mytishchi region, his new constituency northwest of Moscow. He plans to hold frequent press conferences.

Mavrodi also promised the return of Lyonya Golubkov, star of MMM's television commercials, as well as a return of MMM shares to the market after Jan. 1.

As a fawning press corps tossed the newly-minted deputy softballs, Mavrodi announced his number one task: "I will dedicate all my strength to working on new laws," he said. "But first and foremost are the interests of the voters, who elected me and showed me their trust."

The voters are not the only people who showed Mavrodi their trust. Millions of Russians invested billions of rubles in Mavrodi's MMM, but the company's high-flying return on investments crashed at the end of July, when Mavrodi announced that he could no longer honor his company's shares.

Days later, police stormed Mavrodi's apartment and arrested him on charges of massive tax fraud. While in Matrosskaya Tishina (Sailor's Rest) Prison, Mavrodi declared his candidacy for the Duma seat left vacant when Andrei Aizderdzis was murdered in April.

Deputies in the Duma are immune from prosecution, and Mavrodi never hid the fact that he preferred a career as a legislator to a career as an inmate. He was elected Oct. 30.

"I didn't say that was my only goal," he said Wednesday of legislative immunity, responding to skepticism over his new-found concern for his constituents. "I said it was my most important goal. The two are not mutually exclusive."

Whether or not parliamentary immunity will in fact protect Mavrodi from prosecution remains uncertain. There was no doubt, however, about his decision to suspend trading in MMM shares just one day after being elected.

Candidate Mavrodi had promised the people of Mytishchi he would make their region a "flowering land." And as he scrambled into his black Mercedes S600 on Wednesday, hulking bodyguards gathering close, he again promised to deliver.

Local politicians are not holding their breath. "We're not concerned with his behavior as a dealer of shares," said Anatoly Astrakhov, chief administrator of the region. "We're concerned with his behavior as a deputy."

And, he hastened to add, Mytishchi has done pretty well without Mavrodi. "We have free public phones and free public transportation without his help," Astrakhov said.