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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Former Yabloko Deputy Arrested




Viktor Gitin, a prominent member of the Yabloko party and a former State Duma deputy, has been detained on suspicion of taking bribes and sent to face charges in his native Krasnoyarsk, officials said Tuesday.


Gitin, 38, is believed to be the first former Duma deputy to be arrested in connection with alleged corruption dating from his tenure in parliament.


He is accused of taking bribes from a bank in exchange for arranging for transfers of federal funds, but police would give few details about the allegations.


His Yabloko colleagues in Moscow and Krasnoyarsk say the arrest looks more like a political order than a thoroughly investigated criminal case. But with charges still to be filed against Gitin, they were unwilling to point the finger at anyone.


Gitin has been a harsh critic of Krasnoyarsk region Governor Alexander Lebed. And as deputy head of the previous Duma's budget committee, he was aggressive in getting his hands on government data revealing Russia's foreign debt arrangements.


Alexander Vorobyov, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry's economic crimes unit, which handled the arrest, said Tuesday that Gitin is suspected of arranging for federal funds to be transferred through a Krasnoyarsk-based bank from 1996 to 1998 in exchange for kickbacks. The kickbacks were transferred to the personal accounts of Gitin's relatives, he said.


Vorobyov said corruption charges will be filed against Gitin within the next 10 days. If found guilty, he faces up to 12 years in prison under Articles 290.3 and 4 of the Criminal Code.


But the police spokesman would not name the bank, explain why the money was transferred or give figures either for the amount transferred or the amount Gitin is accused of taking in kickbacks.


Kommersant newspaper reported Tuesday that the bank involved in the transfer of budget funds was called Raduga and collapsed two years ago, while its head, Natalya Petrova, was arrested last year.


Sergei Don, a member of Yabloko's Duma faction who sits on the budget committee and who worked with Gitin in the previous Duma, called the news of his arrest shocking.


"Viktor was the most meticulous professional I ever knew. The story [of the reasons for his arrest] contradicts any logic and was made up," Don said in a telephone interview Tuesday.


He confirmed that while a deputy, Gitin pushed for the federal government to help fund a program to develop natural resources - oil, gas and gold - along the Angara River in the Krasnoyarsk region.


"When he was lobbying for this program he did not conceal it," Don said. He added that, knowing Gitin well, he could not believe he had agreed to arrange for the money to be transferred through a Krasnoyarsk bank in exchange for kickbacks.


Nadezhda Tityakova, Yabloko coordinator in Krasnoyarsk, also said that Gitin's arrest appeared politically motivated.


"Viktor Vladimirovich was a very active deputy, and he had cooperated with the previous [Krasnoyarsk] administration, plus he was a very well-informed person," she said in an interview from Krasnoyarsk.


As a Duma deputy, he could ask any government agency, including the Finance Ministry and the Central Bank, for information, and they could not refuse.


Gitin was said to have cooperated with Valery Zubov, who was the Siberian region's governor until unseated by Lebed in 1998. Lebed proceeded to jail some of Zubov's deputies on corruption charges.


There has been no love lost between Gitin and Lebed, the Yabloko members said.


"Lebed has an animal-like hatred for Gitin," who has publicly criticized the governor for his failures in running the region, Don said.


Gitin was detained in Moscow on Friday, but no charges were filed within three days as stipulated by the law, and he was flown to Krasnoyarsk on Monday, Vorobyov said.


Yabloko faction spokesman Sergei Loktionov said Tuesday the party had sent a lawyer to Krasnoyarsk to look into Gitin's case, but he was cautious in making any comments before formal charges have been filed.


Vorobyov did not say when his agency started investigating Gitin, but implied that it was last year, or earlier, saying that "Russian laws do not allow the prosecution of lawmakers but do not forbid investigating them."


Duma deputies enjoy immunity from prosecution during their four-year terms. Gitin failed to get into the current Duma when Yabloko lost seats after the December elections. He was on the party's regional list.


But Don said the case does not look like it was planned long ago. If police had investigated the case and were waiting for Gitin to lose his immunity, Don said they should have been able to present the charges against him immediately.


"It is not surprising that they could not charge him immediately after his arrest in Moscow. The plan was to seize him in Moscow and takehim to Krasnoyarsk and once there figure out what to do with him," he said.


Kommersant quoted Krasnoyarsk prosecutor Nikolai Sarapulov as saying that "it was unknown when he will be charged and with what."


Gitin is being held in a pre-trial detention center in Krasnoyarsk.