Russia’s Economy Minister charged with $2 Million Bribe

Alexsei Ulyukaye
Russia’s Economy Minister, Alexei Ulyukayev

Russia’s main anti-corruption body, the Investigative Committee, SK, has accused the country’s Economy Minister, Alexei Ulyukayev, of taking a $2 million bribe in order to endorse a state takeover.

Ulyukayev is the highest-ranking Russian official held since the 1991 coup attempt in what was then the USSR.

According to the spokeswoman of the SK, Svetlana Petrenko, “Ulyukayev was caught red-handed”, receiving a $2m bribe on 14 November for giving a favourable assessment of the Rosneft deal.

The SK said the minister had “threatened” to create obstacles for Rosneft’s operations when it took a 50% stake in another state oil company, Bashneft.

Officials said the apparent sting operation came after months of electronic surveillance, including phone-tapping.

The arrest was big news on Russia’s state-run TV channels, under the headline “Battle against corruption”.

If found guilty, Ulyukayev could face a prison sentence of between 8 and 15 years.

The 60-year-old was an economic liberal in the 1990s and later became deputy chairman of Russia’s Central Bank in 2004 before he was appointed Economy Minister in 2013.

It was only in October that Rosneft, an oil giant controlled by the Russian government, bought 50% of Bashneft for 330bn roubles ($5bn). Bashneft itself was one of Russia’s largest state oil companies.

Russia is in the middle of an economic slump, largely because of the fall in crude oil prices, and had lined up several state companies for privatisation to replenish state coffers.

But the sell-off of Bashneft had been shelved in August, reportedly by the Kremlin because of a dispute over who would take it over.

The controversial privatisation returned to the agenda early in October, apparently because the government needed to raise money.



    Ulyukayev promised last month that the entire sum paid by Rosneft would go to the Russian budget.

    Economic liberals had fiercely opposed the idea of a state-owned company acquiring the government’s share in another state oil firm. It was seen as a victory for Rosneft’s chief executive, Igor Sechin, who has long been a close adviser to President Vladimir Putin.

    The president said last month that he had been “rather surprised” by the government’s earlier position to delay the deal as Rosneft was “strictly speaking” not a state firm as part of it was owned by BP.

    A Rosneft spokesperson told the Tass news agency it acquired the Bashneft stake “in accordance with Russian law, on the basis of the best commercial offer made to the operating bank.”

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