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Abuse of power has become the third criminal charge against Togliatti Mayor Nikolay Utkin.
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Aug. 17, 2007
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Togliatti Mayor Suspected of Extorting 4-Storey House
// Court sanctions to charge Togliatti's mayor with abuse of power
A regional court in Samara on Thursday ruled to charge Togliatti Mayor Nikolay Utkin with abuse of power. Prosecutors believe that the mayor extorted a four-storey building from a local construction firm. Mr. Utkins defense says that prosecutors dug out a six-year-old story because all previous cases are crumbling down. Abuse of power has become the third criminal charge against Mr. Utkin.
Togliatti Mayor Nikolay Utkin was taken to court in a prison truck. The former head of this city on the Volga River went out of the truck and waved to reporters with his cuffed hands. Its terribly hot in her! he complained. Its like riding in a barrel with gasoline. The ex-mayors wife, Nina Utkina tried to hand him a bag with medicines, but the escort did not allowed her to. Mr. Utkin underwent a repeat heart surgery one week ago in the prisons heart center. A man after a surgery must not go in this gas chamber, Mrs. Utkina said.

The court took 20 minutes to consider an application from the regional prosecutors office and agree to charge Nikolay Utkin with abuse of power.

The mayor is suspected of having forced Igor Buzyukov, director of Stroifinans, to buy with the firms money a four-storey building in Togliatti and hand it over to the city hall in 2001, Prosecutor Alexander Kanaev told Kommersant. Officials claim that Stroifinans bought the house for 3 million rubles from Rosestbank which was undergoing bankruptcy procedures and then handed it to the city hall under a three-party agreement. The premises are now occupied by the land resources department of the Togliatti city hall. The departments former director Natalya Nemykh has been arrested and charged of extorting a bribe from Mr. Buzyukov.

Togliattis major case investigation department said in an interview with Kommersant that the crime surfaced six years later because the people involved are reluctant to cooperate. After Igor Buzyukov handed the house to the city hall, he had no problems securing permissions for construction, the department said. Stroifinans is running a $1.5 billion project to develop Togliattis riverside park and beach area of 150 hectares.

Nikolay Utkins defense said that it would appeal the courts decision within three days. Lawyer Irina Khrunova noted that prosecutors in their speech did not present evidence for the mayors alleged abuse of power. The thing that they are trying to accuse Utkin of is just an example of social responsibility of business, which the President spoke about, Ms. Khrunova noted. There is no crime here.

The mayors lawyers believe that a strange six-year-old story cropped up just when prosecutors saw crumbling the land case and a bribery case where Nikolay Utkin is involved. Togliatti mayor is also investigated for bribery and illegal transfer of farm lands.

Pavel Sedakov, Samara

All the Article in Russian as of Aug. 17, 2007

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