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Putin ally seeking top economic post is accused of massive corruption

Russia's top anti-corruption blogger has singled out Kremlin official Igor Shuvalov as an example of official corruption that has jumped sharply in the past four years.

By Correspondent / March 30, 2012

In this March 15 photo, Russia's top anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny speaks to the media at a court in Moscow.

Misha Japaridze/AP

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Moscow

Russia's top anti-corruption blogger, Alexei Navalny, has taken aim at one of President-elect Vladimir Putin's top lieutenants, accusing longtime top Kremlin official Igor Shuvalov of amassing tens of millions of dollars through illicit transactions with Russian oligarchs.

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Mr. Navalny's allegations, supported by scans of many key documents, appear to show offshore trusts owned by Mr. Shuvalov's family making tens of millions of dollars in profits through investments that would be banned by conflict-of-interest laws in almost any country other than Russia.

The Russian oligarchs who have siphoned money into Shuvalov family trusts include Roman Abramovich, owner of Britain's Chelsea football club, Navalny says. "These nice people [like Abramovich] earn their living selling our natural resources, but prefer to live abroad… To give officials bribes is a crime in the part of the world where they like to spend their time," though Russian law is murky, he says.

Although even Navalny seems unclear whether Shuvalov has broken any Russian laws, experts say the documents illustrate how Russian officials, who are not subject to the tough media scrutiny and strict conflict-of-interest regulations common in Western countries, are able to amass personal wealth while in civil service. 

In a statement to the media, Shuvalov said he has done nothing wrong. "As a lawyer, I have without fail followed the rules and principles on conflicts of interests. For a lawyer, this is sacred," he said.

Russia, which is No. 143 on the Berlin-based Transparency International's 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index, has registered a sharp jump in official corruption since Dmitry Medvedev became president in 2008.

"Much has been known about Shuvalov for several years, about his 'business activity', his way of life and his property," says Andrei Piontkovsky, a trenchant Kremlin critic and expert with the official Institute of Systems Analysis in Moscow. "But he is just one example of what's going on all around us. He's only different because he doesn't conceal what he's doing – committing what would be called crimes in much of the world – even though he is deputy prime minister of Russia."

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