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Former Russian minister sentenced to 12 years for embezzlement

Mikhail Abyzov (Vitaly Belousov/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/WikiCommons)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

A district court in Moscow has sentenced former Russian government minister Mikhail Abyzov to 12 years in a maximum security prison following his conviction on charges of embezzlement and other crimes related to an alleged organized crime group.

Abyzov was minister for open government affairs from 2012 to 2018 in the cabinet of former Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

The prosecutor in the case on December 4 asked the Preobrazhensky district court to sentence Abyzov to 19 1/2 years and his four co-defendants, former top managers of the Novosibirsk region’s energy supplying companies, to prison terms between seven and 18 1/2 years.

Abyzov was arrested in March 2019 by officers with Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) at the business terminal of Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport as he tried to leave Russia. He was living in Italy at the time and had traveled to Russia for his birthday.

His co-defendants, Nikolai Stepanov, Maksim Rusakov, Galina Fainberg, and Aleksandr Pelipasov, were arrested at the same time.

As a minister in Medvedev’s cabinet, Abyzov’s duties included trying to make the Russian government more transparent and accountable.

But Russia’s Investigative Committee accused him of being a member of a criminal organization that embezzled 4 billion rubles ($43 million) from the Siberian Energy Company and Regional Electric Grid in Novosibirsk.

Investigators alleged that Abyzov and his accomplices stole the money and transferred the funds abroad. They accused Abyzov of founding the criminal organization in April 2011 before he became a government minister. They also accused him of fraud, illegal entrepreneurship, and commercial tampering.

Abyzov denied all the charges and called the indictment “an arbitrary essay on the topic of the Criminal Code.”

Prior to joining Medvedev’s cabinet, Abyzov held several executive positions at major Russian energy firms, including a role on the board of directors at the electric power holding company RAO UES.

Before his arrest he was listed by Forbes magazine as one of Russia’s richest citizens with an estimated fortune of $600 million.