MOSCOW, May 14 (RAPSI, Nikita Shiryayev) – Journalist Yekaterina Barova has been joined as a third party to the defamation suit filed by ex-head of Russia’s Komi Republic Vyacheslav Gaizer against Arguments and Facts (Argumenty i Fakty) newspaper, RAPSI reports from Moscow’s Basmanny District Court.

The next hearing will be held on May 27. 

In his lawsuit Gaizer, who is currently charged with taking bribes and gang organization, demands to declare information distributed in the newspaper’s article about corruption of February 2018 untrue. The article tells of $1 million watch and documents for offshore companies and a private plane seized from Gaizer during the searches.

According to the plaintiff, the publication creates the impression that these assets are proceeds of crime. However, the official insists that the published materials are refuted by judicial inquiry’s papers.

The media outlet disputes the claim. According to the defendant, when writing the article journalists relied on the official video delivered by the Investigative Committee.

On June 10, the Zamoskvoretsky District Court of Moscow will pass sentence on Gaizer in a case over bribery and organizing a criminal network. A prosecutor in March demanded a 21-year imprisonment with a 500,000-ruble fine (about $8,000) for the defendant.

Investigators believe that a criminal gang involving Gaizer, another Komi Republic’s ex-head Vladimir Torlopov, ex-deputy head Alexander Chernov, ex-Chairman of the Republican State Council Igor Kovzel and 10 other people, was organized in 2006. Depending of their involvement and role in crimes, they are charged with taking bribes, embezzlement and money laundering. 

According to investigation, gang leaders and members committed crimes aimed at occupation of the region’s highly profitable enterprises or instituting control over them for the purposes of unlawful enrichment. They allegedly caused a 4.5-billion-ruble (about $70 million) damage to the republic.

Investigators also accuse the gang members of taking bribes totaling to 160 million rubles in 2013. Moreover, Gaizer himself received 37.5 million rubles in bribes for assignment of a person identified by investigators to the post of the Syktyvkar liquor producer’s director.

In August 2016, one of the defendants, businessman Anton Faershtein died in a Moscow detention center.