Real or virtual, the Sibneft scandal made for good copy, thanks in particular to the reported involvement of Andrei Vavilov, a former deputy finance minister who was brought into the government by Yegor Gaidar back in 1992 and who had served in that post until 1997. His bespectacled, accountant-like appearance notwithstanding, Vavilov is one of the more controversial (if not widely known) figures of the last decade, his bio enlivened by incidents like the one in February 1997, when his official car was blown up as it sat parked outside his office in central Moscow, in what the police vaguely and euphemistically referred to as a “warning blast.” Various rumors and bits of “kompromat” (compromising material) published in the Russian press about Vavilov over the years conjure up the picture of a “banking genius” who has served almost all the country’s main financial-political clans at one time or another, made possible a variety of questionable financial operations, and knows, figuratively speaking, where a lot of bodies are buried. Indeed, back in 1997, after then Central Bank chief Sergei Dubinin hinted that Vavilov had facilitated two operations–one involving financing for jet fighters to India, another involving financing for the Moscow Oblast government–in which $500 million in federal funds were diverted to one or more commercial banks, Vavilov simply hinted he would reveal what he knew about how Boris Yeltsin’s 1996 re-election campaign had been financed. From that point on, he was left alone.
Until now. Vavilov was summoned for questioning this week: Investigators reportedly believe that on the eve of the Sibneft auction, he placed a large amount of federal funds in the bank accounts of the entities that ended up winning the auction. The line of questioning apparently did not agree with Vavilov, and following his interrogation he was reportedly taken directly from the Prosecutor General’s Office to a Moscow hospital by ambulance.