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Construction boss accused of bribing Russian minister as scandal widens

The court service said Alexander Fomin was suspected of paying bribes to Deputy Defense Minister Timur Ivanov, who was detained Wednesday.
Russia Red Square Moscow
Some analysts see the affair as a sign of tensions in the elite as Putin prepares to name a new government.Natalia Kolesnikova / AFP via Getty Images
/ Source: Reuters

A third man has been detained in a bribery investigation centering on Deputy Russian Defense Minister Timur Ivanov, the Moscow court service said on Thursday.

The widening scandal is the worst to hit the defense ministry since the start of the war in Ukraine, and has gripped the political and media establishment in the run-up to a government reshuffle that President Vladimir Putin is expected to announce next month.

The court service said Alexander Fomin, the co-founder of a construction company called Olimpsitistroy, was suspected of paying bribes to Ivanov, who was detained on Tuesday, and Sergei Borodin, a close associate of Ivanov who is also in custody.

The court service said Fomin, “being in a relationship of trust with Ivanov”, was suspected of providing free services to him, Borodin and others.

“Also, Fomin and other persons, acting as an organized group, contributed to Ivanov’s receipt of a particularly large bribe in the form of the illegal provision of property-related services to him,” it said.

Business newspaper Kommersant said investigators suspected Ivanov of receiving kickbacks from Fomin in return for helping his company win contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Moscow's court service says a third man has been detained in a major bribery case involving a Russian deputy defense minister.
Russian businessman Alexander Fomin at the Basmanny District Court in Moscow on Thursday.AP

Ivanov, who maintains his innocence, was arrested at work on Tuesday by the Federal Security Service, the main successor to the Soviet-era KGB. He faces 15 years in jail if convicted.

There was no immediate comment from Fomin and Borodin on the matter.

Ivanov was a close ally of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who risks being damaged by the scandal. State news agency TASS quoted a source as saying that Shoigu had fired Ivanov since his arrest. TASS said investigators had seized all the bank accounts and property of Ivanov and his family.

Ivanov, a top Russian military official, was arrested on suspicion of accepting a bribe,  The Investigative Committee, Russia's top law enforcement agency, reported Ivanov's detention on Tuesday without offering any details of the accusations against him, saying only that he is suspected of taking an especially large bribe.
Timur Ivanov, Russia's deputy defense minister, at the Basmanny District Court on Wednesday.Basmanny District Court press service via AP

Some analysts see the affair as an attempt to weaken Shoigu and a sign of tensions and rivalries in the elite as Putin prepares to name a new government next month after being re-elected in March for another six-year term.

Shoigu, however, is expected to keep his job. Under his direction, Russian forces have regrouped and regained the initiative in Ukraine and have recorded a series of gains in the past two months.

Ivanov, who has served as deputy minister since 2016, was in charge of property management, housing, construction and mortgages at the defense ministry, whose spending has spiraled since the war began.

He had long been the subject of journalistic investigations.

Russia’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, headed by late opposition leader Alexei Navalny, had alleged that Ivanov and his family lived a life of luxury including yachts, helicopters, visits to the French Riviera, purchases of diamonds and a 19th century mansion in Moscow.

Forbes magazine listed Ivanov as one of the wealthiest men in Russia’s security structures. Other investigations have alleged corruption in Russia’s reconstruction of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol now controlled by Russian forces.