Russian investigators charge Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev with bribery

MOSCOW (AFP) – Russian authorities said on Tuesday (Nov 15) they have charged Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev with bribe-taking after he was detained on suspicion of taking a two-million-dollar payoff over a deal involving state oil giant Rosneft.

The Investigative Committee, the country’s main federal investigative body, said in a statement it had charged the minister with “receiving bribes” after he “illegally demanded” that a Rosneft representative pay him to endorse its acquisition of a majority stake from the state in Russian oil company Bashneft.

Investigators accused Ulyukayev of “threatening, using his ministerial powers, to create obstacles to the company’s activities in the future.” 

“Thanks to a timely report of the minister’s illegal activities by representatives of Rosneft to law enforcement, Alexei Ulyukayev was caught red-handed as he received a two-million-dollar bribe,” the statement said.

The Investigative Committee also reiterated that the acquisition of the Bashneft shares was not the subject of the criminal investigation.

Ulyukayev is expected to appear in court later Tuesday for a ruling on his possible detention. The large-scale bribe-taking charge could see him face a jail term of between eight and 15 years.

The sale of the 50.07 per cent stake in Bashneft, Russia’s sixth-largest oil producer, came after months of wrangling that saw Rosneft – headed by Igor Sechin, a powerful ally of President Vladimir Putin – face down opposition from some in the government.

Ulyukayev had originally opposed the sale but later endorsed it after President Vladimir Putin said it could help fill state coffers.