(Releads, adds new details)
By Anastasia Lyrchikova and Polina Devitt
MOSCOW, June 22 (Reuters) - Russian investigators charged the former head of a major state power generator on Wednesday with fraudulently giving himself a bonus of about $10 million, in the highest-profile official corruption case in years.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has traditionally brushed aside corruption allegations against top officials but that stance has become harder to maintain since an economic crisis slashed the incomes of ordinary Russians and fuelled public indignation about official graft.
The charges were brought against Yevgeny Dod, who is chairman of regional power generator Quadra and until last year was chief executive of Rushydro, a state-owned generator of hydro-electric power.
Dod, who was born in 1973, was detained by law enforcement officials, two sources familiar with the situation told Reuters.
Russia’s investigative committee, the state body that investigates crime, said Dod and the chief accountant at Rushydro, Dmitry Finkel, had been charged with defrauding the company of large sums of money.
Investigators believe Dod personally signed a resolution awarding himself a bonus for his work at Rushydro in 2013 of 353 million roubles, which exceeded the amount to which he was entitled, the committee said in a statement.
At the end of 2013, that sum was worth about $10 million, though it is now worth $5.4 million, because of the sharp decline in the value of Russia’s rouble currency.
Calls to a mobile telephone that Dod had given as his personal number were not answered on Wednesday. It was not known if Dod had a lawyer representing him.
Last week, Dod was at an investor conference in St Petersburg where he spoke to a Reuters reporter, giving no hint of any impending problems. He was in upbeat mood, and described how he was trying to get fit and spend time away from work.
On Tuesday, Dod’s successor at Rushydro, Nikolai Shulginov, met Putin. They talked about financial problems Shulginov had inherited at the company, according to a transcript released by the Kremlin.
In 2013, Putin had given Dod a public dressing-down, saying he was not doing enough to recover money that Rushydro had overspent on contractors.
“You’ve still not sorted this out and don’t believe you need to defend the interests of the company,” Putin told an ashen-faced Dod at a meeting on the power sector. “Do you understand what you’re saying?” Putin asked when Dod tried to justify his actions.
Dod was fired from Rushydro last year without an official explanation. His dismissal came soon after Putin let go of another powerful lieutenant, Vladimir Yakunin, who for years had been the boss of state railways.
Kremlin watchers said at the time that Putin — who has a reputation for loyalty to his associates — was feeling the pressure of the economic crisis and needed to send a signal to the elite that they could not misspend public money.
Soon after he was fired from Rushydro last year, Dod was elected chairman of Quadra, a company controlled by Mikhail Prokhorov, the Russian billionaire who owns the Brooklyn Nets basketball team in the United States.
Businesses owned by Prokhorov have come under intense official scrutiny in the past few weeks. Officials in ski masks searched some of their offices in Moscow in April as part of a tax fraud investigation.
Another of Prokhorov’s assets, the RBC media holding, has reported on Putin’s inner circle and their financial interests - a taboo subject for much of Russia’s media. The Kremlin denies that the investigation is politically motivated.
Onexim group declined to comment on Dod’s case. A spokesman for Quadra said that law enforcement officers had visited the company’s offices on Wednesday.
“The press service does not have complete information about the law enforcement actions, but one can say that they’re not linked to Quadra and its owner and are not affecting the operation of the company.” (Reporting by Polina Devitt, Anastasia Lyrchikova, Maria Tsvetkova and Elena Fabrichnaya; Editing by Christian Lowe and Gareth Jones)