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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Duma Refuses to Approve Mavrodi

The State Duma on Thursday refused to approve Sergei Mavrodi's election to the chamber, making the architect of the MMM financial empire the only deputy without the right to speak or vote in the parliament to which he was elected.

The situation is without precedent in Russia's brief parliamentary history. Mavrodi, owner of the notorious MMM investment fund which cheated millions of Russians out of their savings by running a giant pyramid scheme, was elected to parliament in September.

When he ran for a vacant seat in the Duma in the district of Mytishchi, just north of Moscow, Mavrodi made no secret of seeking parliamentary immunity from the tax evasion charges he was facing. But the legislature's failure to accept him makes it unclear whether he now enjoys immunity.

Since the election, observers have pointed out that the 28,000 people who voted Mavrodi into power could well have been the 28,000 MMM shareholders who lived in the constituency. Mavrodi promised to redeem all MMM shares if elected, but as soon as the vote results were announced he declared the shares "suspended" until next year.The election sparked enough controversy for the runner-up, Konstantin Borovoi, to accuse Mavrodi of falsifying the ballot results. The charges sparked off a criminal investigation, due to be finished by Dec. 31. Pending the investigation results, the Duma's Mandate Commission failed to recommend that the legislature accept Mavrodi as its member.

The matter was put to the vote, with only 88 people supporting Mavrodi, 21 people voting against him and most of the approximately 300 deputies present declining to express an opinion.

Half the chamber, or 226 votes, would have been required to make Mavrodi a fully-fledged deputy.

Most of those who voted in Mavrodi's favor were members of Vladimir Zhirinovsky's ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party. They had actively helped Mavrodi campaign while he was in jail on tax evasion charges. Even after he was freed due to his status as a candidate, he was not allowed to leave Moscow because of his indictment.

Right after the vote results appeared on the computer screen, Zhirinovsky sprung to his feet and flew into a rage.

"The people elected him," he shouted. "It's not up to us to confirm or not confirm whom the people elect!"

But he was promptly reminded by liberal deputy Gleb Yakunin that all the other deputies, including Zhirinovsky, had gone through the confirmation procedure.

Duma speaker Ivan Rybkin said the situation was legally tricky and assigned his deputy, the prominent lawyer Mikhail Mityukov, to find out what the legal implications were. Mavrodi's situation is not covered by the Russian constitution, but the temporary Election Statute, according to which the Duma was elected, requires parliamentary approval for new deputies.

***Svetlana Vinogradova contributed to this article***