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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Investigators Raid Elite Restaurant

MTThe Praga restaurant is a Moscow landmark. Investigators sought documents related to Cherkizovsky Market.
The Investigative Committee searched Telman Ismailov’s Praga restaurant on Thursday as part of the ongoing investigation into illegal activities at one of his other major properties, Cherkizovsky Market.

Investigators are looking for rental agreements for the land occupied by Cherkizovsky, where Ismailov’s AST Group was the biggest tenant, Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for the committee, told Interfax.

The market was ordered closed by the Investigative Committee in June amid an investigation into the sale of smuggled goods there.

The land belongs to the Russian State University of Sports and Physical Fitness, whose former dean Oleg Matitsyn is accused of illegally renting the land to AST, with payments going to the school’s bank account and bypassing the federal budget. A criminal case was opened against him in June.

Praga, one of Moscow’s most expensive restaurants, has existed for 150 years on Arbat Square in central Moscow. It has been part of Ismailov’s AST since the 1990s.

“We have evidence that the documents could be in AST’s offices on 2/1 Arbat Ulitsa,” Markin said, referring to the address where Praga is located.

Restaurant staff and management said they had not been allowed into their work places since 11 a.m. Thursday, reported.

Investigators have confiscated accounting documents for all firms in AST Group and other companies owned by Ismailov, while masked operatives have “not very politely” gathered staff in one of the restaurant’s rooms, AST group’s lawyer Olga Natapova told Interfax.

“It seems that they are not just interested in [Cherkizovsky rental documents], as they were already confiscated in similar searches two years ago,” she said, adding that the searches were ongoing at 6 p.m.

“Obviously, we’re going contest these illegal actions,” Natapova said.