Ex-Russian minister suspected of theft to stay in jail till at least Jan. 2

The governor of Russia's Perm territory, who is a former deputy minister of regional development and was arrested on Friday on suspicion of complicity in stealing state funds totaling 93.3 million rubles, is due to stay in custody until at least Jan. 2 under a court order.

The order of Moscow's Tverskoi Court was a response to an appeal from investigators of the case of Roman Panov.

He is accused of stealing part of the sum, which had been allocated for a summit in Vladivostok, Russia, in September this year of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.

The investigators argued that, if he remained at large, Panov might go into hiding, contact possible accomplices in the crime who had not yet been identified, use contacts he might have made in his capacity as a senior federal official for unlawful purposes, destroy some documents, or obstruct justice in some other way.

"The crime threatened to undermine the prestige of the state," the court said in its order.

A representative of the team investigating the suspected theft told the court that it had been possible to identify organizations and individuals to whose accounts some of the allegedly stolen money had been transferred. However, that money had not been seized yet.

Panov's defense asked for him to be released on bail, put under house arrest or have pretrial restriction put on him instead of keeping him behind bars, arguing that the court had not been provided with any evidence of his involvement in the suspected theft.

Panov himself said: "I will cooperate with the investigators, because I was in charge of the entire summit."

He promised explanations on anything the investigators were interested in and said that, if released, he would have been unable to destroy any papers because all the documents relevant to the case had been seized from his home and office.

He declined to answer when asked by journalists whether he had been involved in the suspected crime.

Under the law, Panov will have to be released if he is not charged within 10 days of his arrest.

The Investigative Department of the Interior Ministry said: "Some officials in the senior tier of the Ministry of Regional Development of the Russian Federation, including a former deputy minister, are suspected of carrying out the embezzlement scheme.

"It has been established that the suspects organized tendering for state contracts on engineering, scientific and technological support for the construction of facilities for the summit, and for the voluntary insurance of unfinished construction projects, after which they ensured victory in them for commercial firms under their control," the department said.

Such firms had 93.3 million rubles transferred to their accounts, "but those contractors took no part in any insurance or engineering support for those construction projects, as the services that the contracts stipulated had been provided by other firms earlier," the ministry said in a report.

Panov is a graduate of the Ordzhonikidze State Academy of Management, with qualifications as a manager for the energy and metal industries. In 2009, he became an aide to the regional development minister, and was later promoted to deputy minister.

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