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  Monday, November 18, 2019
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In what seems like a page out of an Agatha Christie
In what seems like a page out of an Agatha Christie novel, police in St. Petersburg admitted on Wednesday they had deliberately leaked reports of an academy rector's murder in an attempt to flush out those behind the crime.

Media reported on Tuesday that the head of St. Petersburg's State Polar Academy, Kermen Basangova, 35, had died in hospital after being attacked near her car. Basangova was reported to be nine-months pregnant.

"She is alive. Reports [on her death] were fake," police said.

Investigators said the murder had been planned after the new rector initiated a financial audit at the academy.

Police received information that Basangova was to be murdered and recruited the killer, who agreed to cooperate with investigators, Igor Paradeyev, deputy head of St. Petersburg's criminal police, said.

The fake assassination took place on Tuesday, when the "killer" pretended to stab Basangova. Her friend, also recruited into the conspiracy, was waiting nearby to take her to hospital, Paradeyev said.

Police attended the "murder" scene and cordoned off the area as if the attack had really taken place and arranged for reports of her death to be leaked by hospital sources.

Basangova's driver was arrested two hours after the "attack" in the act of handing over 500,000 rubles ($14,600) to the "killer." The driver's father, also a staff member at the academy, was arrested later. Basangova's deputy, Vladimir Lukin, 70, was then arrested on suspicion of masterminding the killing.

"We have ample evidence to prove the guilt of those arrested," St. Petersburg's senior investigator, Alexander Klaus, said, adding the suspects "have admitted to some or part of the crime."

Basangova told reporters on Wednesday the attempted murder was over "major financial violations," including the misappropriation of funds allocated for hostel repairs. Basangova discovered the financial discrepancies after taking over as rector last December.

"The mastermind is unfortunately my first deputy, Vladimir Lukin," Basangova said.

Basangova was elected head of the Polar Academy - which trains members of indigenous ethnic groups in Russia's extreme north, Siberia and Far East as officials to administer the vast regions. She was supported by a teaching staff which included Lukin and his wife, the former academy rector.


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