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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ex-Finance Official Given 10 Years

Itar-TassFrom left, Teimuraz Karchava and Denis Mikhailov sitting in the defendants' box Thursday at the Moscow City Court.
Former high-ranking Finance Ministry official Denis Mikhailov was sentenced to 10 years in a maximum-security prison Thursday on charges of accepting a bribe, abusing his post and leaking state secrets.

Moscow City Court also sentenced businessmen Teimuraz Karchava and Alexander Kirzhnyov to prison terms of 1 1/2 years and 4 1/2 years, respectively, on charges of bribing Mikhailov with an 87,000 euro ($110,670) Mercedes to receive a classified document, Interfax reported Thursday.

Georgy Satarov, head of the Indem anti-corruption think tank, called Mikhailov's sentence "virtually unprecedented." It is the harshest court ruling against a government official in a corruption case that comes to mind, he said.

Mikhailov, who served as deputy director of the ministry's international financial relations department until his December 2004 arrest, pleaded not guilty.

"The case has all the markings of being rigged," Mikhailov's lawyer, Vladimir Zherebyonkov, said Thursday by telephone. He suggested that the investigation was initiated as an indirect attack on Mikhailov's ex-boss, former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov.

Kasyanov, a prominent opposition figure, could not be immediately reached for comment because he was away on vacation, his spokeswoman said.

A spokesman for the Prosecutor General's Office declined to comment on Mikhailov's case Thursday, saying the investigation was handed over to the Federal Security Service in April 2005.

The FSB could not provide any immediate information on the case, the service's spokesman said Thursday.

Zherebyonkov denied allegations that in summer 2004 Mikhailov received a luxury Mercedes as a bribe for handing over classified information on debt repayment to Russia by Vietnam and several countries in Africa.

Zherebyonkov said Mikhailov and Kirzhnyov -- a prominent financier and an adviser to president of International Investment Bank -- were close friends.

International Investment Bank once handled the accounts of COMECON, the Soviet council set up to promote economic integration with socialist countries.

"A private relationship is being presented as a criminal one," Zherebyonkov said.

Kirzhnyov stored the Mercedes in Mikhailov's garage while away on frequent business trips and gave Mikhailov the power of attorney to drive it, Zherebyonkov said. Mikhailov never became the car's owner, the lawyer said, so nothing more than intent to transfer property, carrying a prison sentence of up to four years, could be proven.

The information on the sovereign debt of Vietnam and several other countries, which Mikhailov allegedly leaked to Kirzhnyov and Karchava, was not classified, according to Zherebyonkov.

"Disclosing confidential information [unlike classified information] does not carry criminal charges," Zherebyonkov said. Over 60 people at the ministry had access to it, including a slew of individuals at various banks and private companies involved in debt repayment, he said.

Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin testified in Mikhailov's trial earlier this month, saying the disclosed information did not constitute a state secret, Zherebyonkov said.

The hearings were held behind closed doors.

The Finance Ministry could neither confirm nor deny this information on Thursday, the ministry's spokeswoman said.

Zherebyonkov plans to file an appeal of Thursday's sentence with the Supreme Court on Monday, he said.