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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kemerovo Set to Try Mayor for Graft

Prosecutors in the Kemerovo region said this week they are ready to try Gennady Konyakhin, the mayor of a Siberian mining town arrested last year after President Boris Yeltsin dubbed him a criminal.

The Kemerovo region prosecutor's office has formally charged Konyakhin with embezzlement and tax fraud and submitted the case documents to the regional court, Itar-Tass reported Monday. It was not clear when the trial would take place.

Supporters of Konyakhin, who was elected mayor of the western Siberian town of Leninsk-Kuznetsky last spring, say that he has been made the victim of a show trial organized by the Kremlin in a bid to show that it is serious about its pledges to crack down on organized crime.

Konyakhin has been in jail awaiting trial for seven months. His supporters claim the delay is a sign that there is no hard evidence of criminal impropriety against him.

Prosecutors now say Konyakhin is to be charged with causing 800,000 rubles ($130,000) worth of damage to the state through his business activities. The charges include the misappropriation of 235,000 rubles of budget funds and the nonpayment of 55,000 rubles in taxes, Itar-Tass reported.

If found guilty, Konyakhin faces five to 10 years in jail, the news agency quoted Sergei Irodov, chief investigator on the case, as saying.

In September last year, the Izvestia newspaper published an article alleging that Konyakhin was involved in organized crime. Days later, a furious Yeltsin was shown on national television ordering that an investigation be launched into Konyakhin's business activities.

A team of investigators drawn from the top ranks of the Federal Security Service, the Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor General's Office was dispatched from Moscow to Leninsk-Kuznetsky. Konyakhin was arrested soon after on embezzlement charges.

Investigators on the case have denied that they are under political pressure to convict the mayor.

Konyakhin, a former boxer, was convicted in the 1980s of petty offenses including reselling cars at over the official price. He served only short or suspended sentences.

Later, he founded a successful commercial empire in Leninsk-Kuznetsky. At the time of his arrest, he owned 14 minimarts, two guarded parking lots, four gasoline stations, a supermarket, a sports complex and the town's main market -- which he named after himself. His worth was unofficially estimated at more than half a million dollars.