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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Vavilov Case Reopened on Eve of Deadline

ReutersAndrei Vavilov
The 10-year criminal case against Senator Andrei Vavilov has been reopened by authorities.

The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that Vavilov's involvement in a $231 million MiG-29 fighter-jet deal with India entailed wide-scale fraud and gross abuse of office, court spokesman Pavel Odintsov said Thursday.

Each of the two charges carries up to 10 years behind bars.

In early 1997, then-deputy Finance Minister Vavilov ordered federal funds transferred to buy bonds that were then to be deposited in a Unikombank account held by MAPO, which manufactures MiG fighter jets.

The money never arrived in MAPO's account, then-Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin said at the time. Instead, Dubinin said, it was diverted into other commercial accounts, including one at MFK, a Uneximbank affiliate.

Vavilov left the Finance Ministry to become president of MFK in May 1997. Later that year, the Prosecutor General's Office opened a criminal case into the alleged embezzlement.

Alexander Bezrukov, the former general director of MAPO, which was renamed MiG in 1999, was arrested in 1998 but released and cleared of all charges the following year.

In 2000, prosecutors closed the inquiry into Vavilov, too, citing a lack of evidence.

But in December 2006, with the statute of limitations in the Vavilov probe nearing its deadline, the General Prosecutor's Office sent the case to the Supreme Court, requesting that the court reassess everything, Odintsov said.

The General Prosecutor's Office declined to comment Thursday.

Vavilov could not be reached for comment Thursday. He denied any wrongdoing in a statement Wednesday, saying the state funds had, in fact, been deposited in MiG's account and were spent appropriately.

Vavilov called the accusations against him baseless. He suggested that nothing new had transpired since the case was originally thrown out, saying prosecutors were simply trying to make a final go at it before the statute of limitations expires in April of this year.

Vavilov's lawyer, Alexander Muranov, said in an interview Thursday that Vavilov would file an appeal to the Supreme Court. Citing the interests of his client, Muranov declined to elaborate, but he did say the court's move to postpone consideration of the case -- ostensibly so Vavilov, recovering from surgery, could attend the hearing -- had made his preparations harder. "I was also left with just 2 1/2 days to read the case," he said, adding that it runs several hundred pages.

The Vavilov case offers the Kremlin a good opportunity to portray itself as taking a stand against corruption. "Vavilov ... is an ideal scapegoat," said Nikolai Petrov, a political analyst at the Moscow Carnegie Center.

Vavilov was charged in 2001 of involvement in a separate $330 million embezzlement case. That case, which involved the sale of gas to Ukraine and the Russian Defense Ministry, was eventually dropped against Vavilov.