MOSCOW, November 28 (RIA Novosti) - Police in Moscow have detained an ex-officer of the Federal Security Service linked to tycoon Boris Berezovsky over alleged fraud of at least $1.5 million, the Interior Ministry reported on Thursday.
Ex-FSB officer Andrei Ponkin and an accomplice, head of the support fund for Interior Ministry veterans Telman Gadzhi Ogly Alasgarov, are suspected of soliciting cash from a former Stavropol region banker in exchange for seeing that the charges against him were dropped, the ministry said in a statement.
The suspects claimed the money was needed to bribe investigators, but the police said they simply planned to keep it. The two were taken into custody as they received the first payment of 1.5 million rubles ($48,000) at a Moscow restaurant.
A police search of Ponkin’s papers turned up documents signed by Berezovsky, confirming his long-lasting connections to the the former oligarch who is currently living in self-exile in London, the ministry's spokesperson told RIA Novosti on Wednesday.
"The police found materials proving that Andrei Ponkin was Berezovsky's authorized respresentive and was fulfilling his orders," the spokesperson said. Berezovsky is wanted in Moscow on charges dating back to the 1990s.
Ponkin served at the FSB at the same time as Alexander Litvinenko, who fled to Britain with his family in 2000.
Ponkin was suspected of trying to talk Litvinenko into organizing a plot to assassinate President Vladimir Putin, according to a report in the Sunday Times in 2003, citing sources at Scotland Yard. Asked later to comment on the report, Berezovsky told Kommersant that the incident was a Kremlin provocation.
Liltvinenko was fatally poisoned with polonium-210 in 2006.
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The growing outright rivalry between the United States and China gives Russia more foreign policy weight, enabling it to assume the role of a balancer. So far it has been doing so rather skillfully. Today it may participate in a joint naval exercise with China that Beijing positions as outwardly anti-American. But tomorrow it can team up with the naval forces of the Old World.