At the end of April, officials from the Moscow Procuracy charged Alfred Kokh, former deputy prime minister and former head of Russia’s State Property Committee, with embezzlement. Procuracy officials say they intend to question Kokh in connection with the charges on May 20. A few days after he was charged, however, Kokh left Russia on business–probably for the United States, though his whereabouts have not been revealed. The officials say they have “no reason to believe” Kokh will not return to Russia in time for his interrogation. (Itar-Tass, May 5, 6 and 8) Yesterday, however, The Moscow Tribune pointed out that the United States does not have an extradition treaty with Russia, and speculated that Kokh might have been allowed to leave the country in order to avoid the possibility that he would incriminate other high-ranking officials. (The Moscow Tribune, May 13)
Kokh is a close ally of former first deputy premier Anatoly Chubais. He has been charged with misappropriating state funds to acquire private apartments for himself and others. Charges have already been brought against former first deputy head of the State Property Committee, Aleksandr Ivanchenko, and the former head of the Department for the Privatization of Nonindustrial Enterprises, Boris Veretennikov. Similar charges are being prepared against Petr Mostovoi, former director of the Federal Bankruptcy Service who is now first vice president of the Almazy Rossiya-Sakha diamond company, and former Chairman of the State Property Committee Sergei Belyaev, who is now a State Duma deputy. If found guilty, they face prison sentences of between five and ten years. (Itar-Tass, May 5, 6 and 8)
Kokh is off the hook in one respect, however. The Moscow Procuracy announced yesterday that it does not intend to prefer charges in connection with the “book scandal” that erupted last year when it was revealed that Chubais, Kokh, Mostovoi and two other top government officials–Deputy Prime Minister Maksim Boiko and Yeltsin’s first deputy chief of staff, Aleksandr Kazakov–had accepted improbably large book advances from a publisher linked to Oneximbank, Russia’s largest private bank, whose interests they had been in a position to favor. The scandal helped to discredit the reform wing of the Russian government and prompted President Yeltsin to sack Kokh and remove Chubais as finance minister. (AP, May 13)
RUSSIAN INFLATION CONTINUES TO SLOW.