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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Senator in Transaero Bribe Case

The Federal Security Service caught a Federation Council senator carrying $300,000 in marked bills as he left the office of the head of the Transaero airline, Channel One television reported Sunday.

The senator, Levon Chakhmakhchyan of the republic of Kalmykia, denied wrongdoing and called the incident a provocation by the Transaero head, Alexander Pleshakov.

It was unclear Sunday what charges, if any, might be filed.

Transaero officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

Channel One said security agents searched Chakhmakhchyan's briefcase despite his objections that as a senator he was immune to criminal prosecution.

Another $1.2 million was wired to a bank account for the senator, making the total amount of the suspected bribe $1.5 million, Channel One and Gazeta.ru reported. The security service said the sting operation was part of a wider investigation into whether officials were accepting bribes to remove information about corporate violations from Audit Chamber reports.

Chakhmakhchyan, whose son-in-law works in the Audit Chamber, said he had never touched the briefcase, which he said was not his, Interfax reported. He said his assistant might have "touched" the briefcase.

An Audit Chamber spokesman said several chamber officials had recently been fired after being linked to an organized-crime group, Interfax said. The spokesman said the group that was detected by the chamber's internal security department during an investigation ordered by the chamber's head, Sergei Stepashin.