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A Russian finance official accused of attempting to embezzle state funds
A Russian finance official accused of attempting to embezzle state funds has sent his own testimony to investigators due to their failure to question him, business daily Kommersant said on Tuesday.

Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak was detained in November 2007 on charges of attempting to embezzle $43 million in state funds. He has not been properly questioned since then, and sent his own testimony to investigators early last month, fearing that his brief preliminary explanations given last year would dominate the investigation, Kommersant said, citing a document obtained by the paper

Commentators have called the case part of a turf war between rival Kremlin factions.

In the testimony sent to investigators, Storchak described financial and legal relations between the federal budget and commercial firm Sodexim, whose general director Viktor Zakharov was arrested along with the finance official.

According to Storchak, in December 1992, Russia and Algeria signed an agreement, under which the Algerian authorities undertook to repay Algeria's $1.2 billion Soviet-era debt to Russia with consumer goods. Sodexim was among the Russian companies that were granted the right to sell Algerian goods on foreign markets and in Russia, the testimony said.

According to Storchak, the Russian authorities never assigned their claims to Algeria's debt in favor of Sodexim, but obliged the firm to pay over $24.4 million to the budget as a guarantee. The funds were transferred in 1996, the testimony said.

In 2006, Algeria's debt was written off, while Sodexim received no Algerian goods. To return its funds paid to the federal budget, Sodexim claimed $43.4 million from the Russian Finance Ministry as compensation for losses and missed profit plus interest for ten years.

According to Storchak, Sodexim had legitimate grounds to claim its money back, while investigators' conclusions on the illegitimacy of these measures were unprofessional and provocative.

In his testimony, Storchak dismissed as utterly false investigators' statements that he drafted a letter on the need to include $43.4 million in the budget for settlements with Sodexim, while being aware of the illegitimacy of the firm's claims.

In conclusion, Storchak called the investigators' accusations of an attempt to embezzle budget funds "monstrous and absurd," Kommersant said.


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