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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Web Site Plays a Joke On Prosecutor's Office

The Prosecutor General's Office and at least one media outlet fell victim to a practical joke Wednesday when a web site claiming to be the official site of the Prosecutor General's Office opened.

Anyone looking at the web site at on Wednesday was greeted with the news that investigators have opened an inquiry into Roman Abramovich's sales of a 50 percent stake in Russian Aluminum and a 26 percent stake in Aeroflot. The statement said investigators suspected the deals were designed to cover up for murky acquisitions conducted in the past.

The Prosecutor General's Office vigorously denied any connection to the web site and said it had opened an investigation into who was behind it.

"We officially declare that this site has no relation to the Prosecutor General's Office and the information on it in large part does not reflect reality," the Prosecutor General's Office said in a statement.

Reached by telephone, a Prosecutor General's Office spokeswoman could not say whether any law had been broken in setting up the site.

The launch of the web site was announced in faxes sent to a number of media outlets, including The Moscow Times. The letter arrived on what looked like the Prosecutor General's Office official letterhead.

Interfax ran a story Wednesday announcing the opening of the site. Later in the day it ran a follow-up story saying prosecutors had denied that the site was theirs.

The site, topped with a coat of arms and decorated with the tricolor of the Russian national flag, contains text from the Constitution and laws regulating the activities of the Prosecutor General's Office.

It also has a lot of fictitious material, such as an offer for civilians to assist investigators. Under a section titled "We Invite You to Cooperate," civilians are offered cash rewards for establishing contacts with organized crime groups, troubled businesses and oligarchs or for just tipping off prosecutors about property conflicts.

The rewards range from $300 for a simple tip to $2,000 for establishing contacts with active members of rebel groups in the Northern Caucasus.

"We can also help most active freelancers receive 'an aide to the prosecutor general' ID and a special pass for their cars," the web site said.

The site also claims that the Prosecutor General's Office accepts donations from businesses and individuals and prides itself for "defending the honor" of some of Russia's high-ranking law enforcement officials by never closing or quietly burying investigations in which those officials are suspects.

Despite the discomfort that the appearance of the site caused prosecutors Wednesday, it looked like there was little they could do to shut it down. The site is hosted on a server in the United States.