Russia: Former Defense Minister Charged In Corruption Scandal

Russia's former defense minister Anatoly Serdyukov is facing criminal charges for corruption, reports the Russian Legal Information Agency. Investigators filed charges against Serdyukov on Thursday in relation to a corruption scandal that forced him out of office in 2012.

An investigative committee said that Serdyukov is accused of criminal negligence for using government funds and resources to work on a private vacation home on an island in the southern Astrakhan region. The former minister reportedly claimed that the residence was a "recreation facility for the defense ministry," said a committee spokesman, but only owners and visitors were allowed access.

The work on the facility took 56 million rubles, or US$1.7 million, from the state budget, according to a statement from the committee.

Serdyukov, 51, denies any wrongdoing.

Bloomberg reports that Serdyukov is the most senior official fired for corruption under Vladimir Putin. Independent political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin told Bloomberg that Serdyukov’s dismissal was engineered by powerful military and security officials who opposed his efforts to rein in defense spending.

Russia is considered by outside sources to be highly corrupt, ranked 133rd out of 176 countries in Transparency International's 2012 Corruption Perception Index, the worst score for any such developed nation. Oreshkin noted that "If the authorities were serious about combating corruption, they would have to throw in jail three-quarters of top Russian officials."