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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Court Sanctions Ex-Senator's Arrest

Itar-TassLevon Chakhmakhchyan arriving at Basmanny District Court on Thursday.
The Basmanny District Court on Thursday issued an arrest warrant for former Federation Council member Levon Chakhmakhchyan, who was detained Thursday morning on suspicion of accepting a $300,000 bribe while in office.

Chakhmakhchyan was expelled from the upper house and stripped of immunity from prosecution last June after security agents claimed to have caught him with the bribe during a sting operation.

The former senator from Kalmykia has consistently maintained his innocence.

Under the ruling, Chakhmakhchyan can be held in police custody for up to two months. "Chakhmakhchyan's health and family situation do not prohibit his confinement in a pretrial detention facility," the judge said, Interfax reported.

The judge further motivated his decision by saying that if Chakhmakhchyan remained at liberty, he "could influence witnesses and incline them to testify in his favor."

The law states that if charges are not filed against Chakhmakhchyan within 10 days, he should walk free.

Police took Chakhmakhchyan into custody at a Moscow hospital where he had been undergoing treatment, his lawyer, Boris Kuznetsov, said Thursday.

The judge agreed with prosecutors' contention that Chakhmakhchyan had extended his medical treatment in order to avoid facing prosecution, Interfax reported.

The ex-senator called his lawyer at around 8:30 a.m. and passed the telephone to Rafail Kmet, a major case investigator from the Prosecutor General's Office. Kmet announced that Chakhmakhchyan had been detained, Kuznetsov said.

The lawyer maintained that both the detention of his client and the arrest warrant were illegal, and said he would appeal the judge's ruling.

"A person ... against whom a criminal investigation has not been opened cannot be detained. It's not that the court should not have issued this ruling; it had no right to consider the case," Kuznetsov told Interfax.

Chakhmakhchyan was first detained along with two other suspects at a Transaero office in early June 2006, but was released because he then enjoyed immunity from prosecution.

Prosecutors claimed that his two associates -- Igor Arushanov, chief accountant of the Association of Russian-Armenian Business Partnership, and Armen Oganesyan, an Audit Chamber official -- received the $300,000 from a businessman in exchange for the promise of quashing a negative Audit Chamber report on his company's activities.

Chakhmakhchyan was the president of the association. Oganesyan is his son-in-law. Chakhmakhchyan said the incident was a set up.