Russian prosecutors have asked for a sentence of 10 years in penal colony for former economic minister Aleksey Ulyukayev. The custodial sentence would be in addition to a fine of about $8.5 million if he is found guilty of accepting a $2 million bribe.
On top of the prison sentence and fine the prosecutor also asked the court to ban the ex-minister from assuming a high official post for 10 years after he serves his sentence, as well as stripping him of his state service rank and honors.
“Ulyukayev decided to use his power for personal enrichment. The motive behind his crime was greed. At the same time, Ulyukayev did not want for anything – he was enjoying a truly lavish lifestyle,” TASS quoted the prosecutor as saying on Monday.
However, the prosecutor also asked the court to drop the charges of extortion and try Ulyukayev for bribery only. Accepting an especially large bribe – over a million rubles – is a serious offence for a civil servant. It carries a punishment of up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to 70 times the amount of the bribe. In Ulyukayev’s case this sum could be as high as 7 billion rubles or over $118 million.
Aleksey Ulyukayev was detained in November 2016 on charges of allegedly receiving a $2 million bribe in return for his ministry’s allowing state oil company Rosneft to complete a deal on purchasing the government’s stake in another Russian oil major, Bashneft. At the time of his arrest, Ulyukayev occupied the post of Russian Minister of Economic Development, making him the highest-ranking Russian official ever to face corruption charges.
The charges were based on the testimony of Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin as well as a sting operation in which Sechin personally handed a bag containing $2 million in cash to the ex-minister. Prosecutors provided the court with a video record of Ulyukayev’s arrest in which FSB agents open his car and take out the basket and a large bag of $100 bills. Forensics experts showed that the money, the bag, and the ex-minister’s hands were all covered in special invisible ink used to catch bribery suspects.
The ex-minister pleaded not guilty at the start of the trial and continues to maintain his innocence. In late November he called Sechin’s testimony a “knowingly false accusation” and said that the ministry’s review did not play any significant role in the Bashneft deal. Ulyukayev told the court that he thought that the bag that he received from Sechin to be filled with wine and sausages.
On Monday Ulyukayev’s defense attorney again stated that all charges against his client were unfounded and insisted on a full acquittal.
Prosecutors dismiss this theory, saying that the mere weight of the bag with $2 million in cash would have given the ex-minister a hint as to its content.