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Russia Warns Ex-Defense Minister After Questioning in Graft Case

Jan. 11 (Bloomberg) -- Russian investigators said the country’s ousted defense minister refused to cooperate with their corruption inquiry, warning this may change his status as a witness in the case.

Anatoly Serdyukov appeared for questioning today for the second time over a case involving the alleged fraud of 4 billion rubles ($132 million) at OAO Oboronservis, a contractor supplying goods and services to the military. Serdyukov provided written testimony and declined to give further evidence, the Investigative Committee said in a statement published on its website today.

“The former defense minister’s position could be interpreted as an effort to hinder the investigation,” the Moscow-based law-enforcement agency said. “It’s perfectly feasible that Serdyukov’s status may change during the course of the inquiry.”

President Vladimir Putin fired Serdyukov as defense minister in November, the most senior official to be ousted over corruption by the Russian leader. Three of his former subordinates have been charged over the alleged Oboronservis graft, which involved the sale of property, and another three ministry officials have been charged over a separate $13 million fraud.

Genrikh Padva, Serdyukov’s lawyer, said his client denies any wrongdoing and criticized the committee’s threat to charge him with the crime as “unacceptable.” The former minister had replied to investigators’ questions at today’s meeting, Padva said by phone.

Serdyukov may face criminal charges over illegal construction of an 8-kilometer (5-mile) road that connected to a property owned by the former minister’s relative, an episode over which he was also questioned today, Interfax reported, citing unidentified people close to the investigation.

To contact the reporter on this story: Henry Meyer in Moscow at hmeyer4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at bpenz@bloomberg.net

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