Feb 20 2013, 8:48am CST | by Luigi Lugmayr
Moscow, Feb 20 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Russian authorities are investigating about 25 separate instances of fraud in the widely-publicised Oboronservis case involving illegal sale of property belonging to the defence ministry, the prosecutor general said Wednesday.
"Some 25 separate criminal cases have been opened and combined into one probe," Yury Chaika said at a meeting with Russian lawmakers.
"The damage from these frauds adds up to about five billion rubles ($166 million)," he said, adding further damage totalling 2.3 billion rubles ($76.5 million) has been prevented and about 1 billion rubles ($33 million) have been recovered.
The investigation led to the sacking of Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov last November, who is still considered a witness in the case.
According to investigators, Serdyukov has been summoned for questioning several times, but refused to answer questions, including those concerning an investigation against his son-in-law.
Several people have been charged and arrested in the case so far, including the former head of the ministry's property department Yevgenia Vasilyeva.
Yekaterina Smetanova, a former executive at Oboronservis and key suspect in that investigation, was detained on fraud charges last October and signed a pre-trial plea bargain agreement after her arrest.
She was recently released from custody with travel restrictions after cooperating with the investigation.
Oboronservis carries out a variety of services relating to defence ministry property, including repair and maintenance of equipment and real estate.
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