A Moscow court has again extended the pretrial detention of Mikhail Abyzov — a former Russian government minister waiting for trial on embezzlement charges since he was arrested in March 2019.
The ruling by the Moscow City Court on December 22 allows Russian authorities to keep Abyzov in jail before his trial concludes for at least another three months, until March 25 next year. His pretrial detention could be extended again at that time by another three months with a similar court ruling.
Abyzov had been Russia’s Minister for Open Government Affairs from 2012 to 2018 in the cabinet of former Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
He is one of several liberal-leaning former or current government officials in Russia who has been targeted by criminal investigations in recent years.
Abyzov’s arrest was seen by some observers in Moscow as part of a crackdown by Russia’s security and intelligence services against reformist politicians.
As a minister in Medvedev’s cabinet, Abyzov’s duties had included trying to make the Russian government more transparent and accountable.
But Russia’s Investigative Committee charges that Abyzov was a member of a criminal organization that embezzled 4 billion rubles, or about $53.6 million, from the Siberian Energy Company and Regional Electric Grid in Novosibirsk.
Investigators allege that Abyzov and five accomplices stole the money and transferred the funds abroad. They have also accused Abyzov of founding the criminal enterprise in April 2011 before he became a government minister.
Abyzov has held several executive positions at major Russian energy firms since the mid-1990s, including a role on the board of directors at the electric-power holding company RAO UES.
In 2017, anti-corruption activist Aleksei Navalny reported that Abyzov owns a mansion in Italy worth about $11.7 million. Navalny reported that Abyzov amassed his wealth through his energy sector connections in Novosibirsk.