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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tver Governor Cited In $16M Fraud Case

VedomostiTver Governor Vladimir Platov
Regional prosecutors are investigating the role of Tver Governor Vladimir Platov in a financial scheme that cost his region's budget almost 500 million rubles ($16 million) last year, and plan to charge him with abuse of office.

Platov, however, called the case a provocation arranged by his opponents in the upcoming gubernatorial election.

After searching Platov's office, apartment and dacha as well as the apartments of several of his relatives Thursday, prosecutors demanded that the governor report to the regional prosecutor's office to be formally charged, spokeswoman Natalya Zhigulyova said Friday.

Platov refused to come, saying that his lawyer was not available to accompany him.

He was given until Wednesday to show up with a lawyer, Zhigulyova said by telephone from Tver.

She said the governor would be charged in the case, which local prosecutors have been investigating since April.

In spring 2002, Platov's administration issued bonds worth 500 million rubles to cover the regional budget deficit, Zhigulyova said.

According to a report published in Kommersant on Friday, Platov's deputy Alexander Kotlyar arranged on behalf of the Tver administration for the bonds to be sold through a Moscow-based firm, Ortodox-Plus.

The firm sold the bonds but returned only 37 million rubles to the Tver budget, with the rest of the funds vanishing together with the firm, Kommersant said.

If found guilty of abuse of office, Platov could face up to 10 years in prison.

Although Kotlyar, who is the first defendant in the case, has been in custody since April, Zhigulyova said prosecutors had not planned to detain the governor Thursday.

Zhigulyova dismissed reports that charges against Platov surfaced because of information Kotlyar had given prosecutors while in jail.

Olga Oleinikova, a legal expert with the Tver regional election commission, said the ongoing investigation would not affect Platov's bid in the gubernatorial election, which is scheduled to coincide with parliamentary elections on Dec. 7. She said that by law he could run and win an election even if charged.

Platov denounced the case in a statement posted on the official Tver administration web site.

"I have no doubts that all these actions are an organized provocation," Platov said.

"It is quite obvious that in this way some contenders for the post of the head of administration are trying to discredit me in the eyes of the voters.

"Among these candidates there are former senior Interior Ministry officials. Using their vast financial, business and administrative connections, they have possibilities to organize such provocations," he said.

Although campaigning in the gubernatorial election has not officially started, former Deputy Interior Minister Igor Zubov has been tipped as Platov's main rival in the race.

Zubov, a former vice president of AFK Sistema, a financial-industrial group believed to be linked to Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, could not be reached for comment Friday.

Dmitry Zelenin, a deputy chairman of the State Sports Committee and a former executive with Norilsk Nickel, is another potential gubernatorial candidate, Vedomosti reported Friday.

Platov did not show up at his office Friday and failed to warn his staff that he would not be in, his staff said.

Later Friday, Platov's spokeswoman Lyudmila Romitsina said in a telephone interview that the governor was in Moscow on business.

"It is an outrageous provocation, and we will have to think of a way to defend ourselves," she said.

Deputy Interior Minister Vladimir Vasilyev will soon resign from his post to run for a State Duma seat from the Tver region, Vremya Novostei reported Thursday.

The paper said Vasilyev has already started preparing his campaign.