Russia Book Scandal Charges Dropped
MOSCOW (AP) _ Moscow’s prosecutor has ruled out charges in a book scandal that prompted the dismissal of four key reformers within President Boris Yeltsin’s government, a news agency reported Wednesday.
Interfax quoted Moscow prosecutor Sergei Gerasimov as saying that no charges were warranted against the four officials since the $90,000 in book advances that they had accepted had come from a private firm.
``Therefore, at this stage, there is no evidence of abuse of office or embezzlement,″ he said.
Critics characterized the payments as thinly veiled bribes because the advances came from a publisher linked to Oneximbank, a major Russian bank that won the bidding in two key privatization auctions last year.
Gerasimov said prosecutors were still investigating charges against Alfred Kokh, a former deputy prime minister and head of Russia’s privatization agency. In addition to probing Kokh’s book deal, the prosecutor has charged him with illegally obtaining a state-owned apartment in 1993.
Kokh received a $100,000 payment from a Swiss firm to write a book, which was never published, on privatization. Gerasimov said he was working with Swiss authorities to learn more about the firm and the origin of the payments.
The separate book deals did much to discredit young reformers in Yeltsin’s government, and helped stall privatization efforts. Kokh lost his job as head of privatization last summer when the book deal became public.
Revelations of the second book deal in the autumn set off such a firestorm that Yeltsin fired three of the would-be co-authors of the book: Deputy Prime Minister Maxim Boiko, head of the government’s privatization program; Pyotr Mostovoi, the head of the Federal Bankruptcy Agency; and Yeltsin’s first deputy chief of staff, Alexander Kazakov.
He demoted another top official, former first deputy prime minister Anatoly Chubais, but refused to fire him, arguing his experience was invaluable to the government.
Chubais headed Russia’s unpopular post-Soviet privatization program, which many Russians view as enriching Kremlin insiders at the expense of ordinary citizens.