23 Jan 2011

Russian anti-graft policeman charged with extortion

10:57 am on 23 January 2011

A court in Moscow has ordered the arrest of a senior anti-corruption police chief and his accomplice on charges of extorting $US46 million from a businessman.

State television showed a black-clad Alexander Bokov being led into a central Moscow courtroom, where the charges were read out.

As head of a Moscow-based bureau tasked with fighting organised crime, Mr Bokov led top investigations into criminal groups operating across much of the former Soviet Union.

Mr Bokov received at least $4.5 million of the amount extorted, an Investigative Committee spokesman said, and used the money to buy real estate in the Moscow region and Europe.

The spokesman told the Interfax news agency that the police chief and his accomplices had convinced a businessman of their ability to assist him in acquiring a majority stake in a transportation firm.

The case is the latest reminder of the scale of corruption in Russia, where President Dmitry Medvedev has made tackling graft one of his top priorities.

Mr Medvedev has recently acknowledged, however, that his administration has made little progress in the fight.

Anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International ranked Russia 154th out of 178 countries in its corruption perception index last year, putting it on a par with Cambodia and Kenya.

The price of an average bribe has been on the rise in Russia, surging by more than 30% last year compared to 2009, to an average of 30,500 roubles ($US1,018), the Prosecutor General's Office said last October.