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Russia to keep former minister Abyzov in jail on fraud charges

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Russia to keep former minister Abyzov in jail on fraud charges
Russian Minister for Open Government Mikhail Abyzov attends the congress of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RSPP) in Moscow, Russia, December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov   -   Copyright  Maxim Shemetov(Reuters)
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MOSCOW (Reuters) – A court in Russia on Wednesday ruled that former government minister Mikhail Abyzov, an ally of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, be held in pre-trial detention for two months ahead of his trial for fraud and organising a criminal group.

Abyzov, 46, who was minister for open government affairs in Medvedev’s cabinet until last year, was detained at his home in Moscow on Tuesday, his lawyer Alexander Asnis said. Abyzov denies the charges against him.

The Investigative Committee accuses Abyzov of organising a criminal group and, together with other individuals, embezzling 4 billion roubles ($62 million) from two energy companies supplying electricity to Novosibirsk region in Siberia.

Abyzov, a power sector executive whose wealth Forbes estimated last year at $600 million, could face up to 20 years in jail.

The alleged crimes took place between April 2011 and November 2014 while the alleged embezzled sum had been taken out of the country, the Investigative Committee said in a statement on Tuesday. It named five other people as co-conspirators.

Abyzov appealed to the judge not to jail him and offered to post 1 billion roubles in bail or for him to be placed under house arrest.

Putin was informed about the detention of Abyzov before it took place, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said earlier on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Polina Nikolskaya; Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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