World News

Russia anti-graft chief busted for extorting $46 mln

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Moscow court ordered the arrest of a top anti-corruption police chief and his accomplice on Friday on charges of extorting $46 million from a businessman.

The case was the latest reminder of the scale of corruption in Russia where graft is seen as a key obstacle to foreign investment into its commodity-fuelled $1.2 trillion economy.

“Alexander Bokov... (and) his accomplices...convinced a businessman of their ability to assist him in acquiring a majority stake in a transportation firm,” Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin told Interfax news agency.

State television showed a black-clad Bokov being led into a central Moscow courtroom, where the charges were read out.

Media said his registered annual income in 2009 was 1 million roubles ($33,390).

President Dmitry Medvedev made tackling graft one of his top priorities when he was steered into the Kremlin three years ago by his mentor and former president, Vladimir Putin.

Medvedev has recently acknowledged however that his administration has made little progress in fighting corruption.

Bokov received at least $4.5 million of the amount extorted, Markin said, commenting on the charges brought by the Federal Security Service (FSB), and spent the money to buy real estate in the Moscow region and Europe.

As head of a Moscow-based bureau tasked with fighting organised crime, Bokov led top investigations into criminal groups operating across much of the former Soviet Union.

Anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International ranked Russia 154th out of 178 countries in its corruption perception index last year, putting it on a par with Cambodia and Kenya.

The price of an average bribe has been on the rise in Russia, surging by more than 30 percent last year compared to 2009, to an average of 30,500 roubles ($1,018), the Prosecutor General’s Office said last October.