* Kotova suspected of seeking $1.4 mln kickback
* Defence lawyer says case politically motivated
* Ex-banker faces up to seven years jail if convicted
By Douglas Busvine
MOSCOW, Jan 15 Russia's former executive
director at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
was charged with bribery on Tuesday in a case that has raised
wider concerns over possible corruption at the multilateral
Yelena Kotova was charged with soliciting $1.4 million from
representatives of a Canadian oil company, along with former
banker Igor Lebedev, in return for ensuring the approval of a
The charges were filed two years after Kotova was removed as
Russia's most senior representative at the EBRD, which was
created in 1991 to help countries in eastern Europe make the
transition from communism to the market economy.
"The perpetrators planned to receive money in return for
working to approve a loan of $95 million to the foreign
company," the Russian Interior Ministry said in a statement.
Kotova, who returned to Moscow after leaving the bank, has
repeatedly protested her innocence. The 58-year-old ex-banker
has since launched a career as a writer, recently publishing her
third novel, entitled "Women's Corporation".
In an interview in June 2011 with Russia's Nezavisimaya
Gazeta, Kotova said she had been the victim of a politically
motivated internal probe led by a former criminal investigator
from the U.S. Department of Justice.
The goal of the investigation, said her lawyer Sergei
Mirzoyev, was to rule Kotova out of contention for a position of
vice president at the EBRD that had been due to fall vacant.
Mirzoyev also dismissed the charges as baseless, saying
investigators were relying on the testimony of one witness only
and lacked documentary evidence to back their charges.
"They have been working on the case for a year and a half
and they haven't found any convincing evidence of guilt," he
Kotova, who was previously a vice president at
state-controlled bank VTB, was appointed by the
government as its executive director to the London-based EBRD in
The senior position, in which she represented the interests
of Russia and the former Soviet states of Belarus and
Tajikistan, put her in a position to influence decisions by the
24-member EBRD board to award development loans.
She left the bank under a cloud at the end of 2010 and her
legal immunity was lifted, opening the way for Russian and
British law enforcement authorities to open investigations.
The City of London Police's own investigation continues,
with two people charged in Britain with corruption and money
laundering, three others on bail and further suspects abroad, a
The EBRD takes note of, and has "fully cooperated" with, the
Russian investigation, said spokesman Jonathan Charles.
Kotova and Lebedev face fines or jail terms of up to seven
years if convicted, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry's
investigative department said. They have not been arrested but
are not allowed to leave Russia.