May 8, 2015 / 3:13 PM / 2 years ago

Former Russian defense official jailed for corruption

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A former Russian Defence Ministry official was sentenced to five years in a penal colony on Friday, an unexpectedly long punishment after a high-profile corruption case.

Yevgeniya Vasliyeva, who worked as an aide to former Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, was found guilty on eight charges including fraud, money laundering and exceeding and abusing her authority, the Russian Legal Information Agency (RAPSI) said.

Four others who worked with her at the state-run Oboronservis holding, where she controlled the sale of Defence Ministry property, received sentences, the most severe of which was four years and three months.

They had faced allegations that the contractor, Oboronservis, sold off property cheaply, often to well-connected insiders, depriving the state of 3 billion rubles ($60 million).

“Frankly, I am shocked. We are going to file an appeal,” Vasilyeva’s lawyer, Hasan-Ali Borokov, told reporters.

Vasilyeva, 36, had pleaded not guilty and state prosecutors asked for a suspended sentence. It is rare in Russia for a judge to hand out a tougher sentence that what the prosecution demand.

She has already spent about 30 months under house arrest so is unlikely to spend more than 2-1/2 years in prison.

RAPSI said Vasilyeva and her accomplices were also convicted of conspiracy to commit the crimes and deceive Serdyukov, who was sacked as defense minister in November 2012 and suspected of negligence in using government funds for a private road.

The Moscow court also granted civil claims which had been filed against Vasilyeva and her accomplices seeking 215 million rubles in damages, it added.

Once seen as one of President Vladimir Putin’s most loyal courtiers, Serdyukov was later granted an amnesty.

Putin has promised to fight corruption, a problem afflicting Russian commerce and politics since tsarist times, but Kremlin critics say his campaign has had little impact.

Reporting By Timothy Heritage; Editing by Andrew Heavens

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