Russian minister may face embezzlement charge

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MOSCOW, Nov 17 (Reuters) Russia's Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak, detained by police this week, may be charged with embezzling state funds, Russian news agencies said today.

The Interfax and Itar-Tass news agencies quoted the investigation committee at the Prosecutor-General's Office as saying two more people had been arrested with Storchak.

''Storchak as well as the general director of firm Sodexim Zakharov and the president of one of Moscow's banks Volkov have been detained on suspicion of an attempt of large budget funds embezzlement by an organised group,'' the agencies quoted committee official Vladimir Markin as saying.

Markin was not immediately available for comment.

The Finance Ministry said yesterday Storchak, Russia's top Paris Club debt negotiator, might have been detained in a criminal investigation against a third party, not finance ministry officials.

Storchak, a close associate of Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, oversees a 148 billion dollars oil stabilisation fund, which collects windfall revenues from Russia's booming oil exports.

REUTERS PD KN1713

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