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Russian Watchdog Uncovers $7.3 Billion in Moscow 'Violations'

Hand of Man With Cuffs of Dress Shirt and Suit Opening Envelope Containing Loose CashFeb. 4 (Bloomberg) -- Russia's budget watchdog uncovered 215 billion rubles ($7.3 billion) in spending "violations" on Moscow's transport infrastructure under ousted mayor Yury Luzhkov, according to a probe conducted by the Audit Chamber.

Occurring between 2008 and 2010, they include 117.8 billion rubles in state purchases that breached regulations and 10.8 billion rubles in "misappropriated" budget outlays, Sergei Ryabukhin, an auditor at the state watchdog, told reporters in Moscow today. Misappropriating public funds may prompt criminal cases, he said.

The total amount has been revised down from the December estimate of 232 billion rubles, according to Ryabukhin. The final figure is equivalent to more than 37 percent of the 574 billion rubles earmarked by the municipal government on the transport system between 2008 and 2010.

President Dmitry Medvedev fired Luzhkov in September after 18 years in office and instructed his successor, Sergei Sobyanin, to focus on uprooting corruption. Luzhkov was removed after weeks of headlines accusing him of graft and favoritism toward his wife, billionaire developer Yelena Baturina. The couple denied the allegations.

City Hall will look at as many as 100,300 investment contracts for housing, commercial property and industrial construction signed since the late 1990s, Deputy Mayor Andrei Sharonov said in an interview on Feb. 2.

Medvedev, who is seeking to transform Moscow into an international financial center, told Sobyanin in October that one of his main tasks would be dealing with worsening congestion.

Moscow drivers suffer the longest traffic jams of the world's 20 major cities, and the average motorist spent 2 1/2 hours stuck in traffic at least once in the last three years, International Business Machines Corp. said in a study in July.


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