The Russian government has formally charged Elena Kotova — the country’s former top representative to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development — for bribery.
The lawsuit followed a probe into allegations that Kotova, along with another ex-EBRD staffer, Igor Lebedev, sought $1.4 million from a Canadian oil company in exchange for guaranteeing the approval of a $95 million loan. If found guilty, the two could get seven years of jail time.
Kotova has so far maintained her innocence and suggested the internal inquiry that began July 2010 was politically motivated. Her lawyer, Sergei Mirzoyev, told Reuters that the proble was a way to take Kotova out of the race for one of the vice president positions, which at that time was expected to be vacant.
After being sacked from the bank, Kotova lost her diplomatic immunity. She has since become a writer, authoring three novels.
In the wake of the news Tuesday, EBRD spokesman Jonathan Charles said the London-based lender has taken note of the decision and fully cooperated with the Russian investigation.
Speaking to the Financial Times, people privy to the case acknoweldged this was not an isolated allegation, but the incident didn’t cost the bank and its operations financially. They also rejected claims of widespread corruption at the bank, suggesting that internal monitoring mechanisms had made it possible to detect the wrongdoing early.
Russia hosts EBRD’s largest operation. In December, the bank released its new strategy for the country, which aims to help Russia modernize and diversify its economy as well as develop its private sector and less-advanced regions. The strategy covers the 2013-2015 period.
Read more development aid news online, and subscribe to The Development Newswire to receive top international development headlines from the world’s leading donors, news sources and opinion leaders — emailed to you FREE every business day.