MOSCOW, August 14 (RAPSI) – Former senior Russian Defense Ministry official Yevgenia Vasilyeva, who is charged with embezzlement of three billion rubles ($83 million), headed a company that sold the ministry’s real estate and property, according to witnesses who testified at Presnensky District Court of Moscow on Thursday.

The legal support center Expert was supposed to find buyers and receive a commission for each transaction. Investigators believe that Vasilyeva selected buyers in advance, and that she also set the prices. Moreover, she is said to have run Expert, acted as its beneficiary and therefore received the commissions. She allegedly took in 80 million rubles ($2 million) illegally. 

Yulia Boldyreva, a former chief accountant at Expert, said recruiters told her when she was hired that Vasilyeva would be her boss, and that all documents would be submitted for her signature.

Officially, Expert was headed by Yekaterina Smetanova, Vasilyeva’s college friend, whose criminal case is being tried separately. Investigators also believe that the former official deliberately appointed her friends in order to ensure problem-free sales of Defense Ministry property. 

Other witness’s testimonies supported the prosecution’s case that Expert was controlled by Vasilyeva.

Vasilyeva pleaded not guilty and claimed that Expert, an independent company, had nothing to do with her. She also said that each sale was ordered and authorized by then Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov.

Vasilyeva was charged in a fraud case involving the illegal sales of property, land and shares belonging to the subsidiaries of state-run Oboronservis entity which comprises service companies involved in armaments and military vehicle repair and maintenance, construction materials and food production, power facilities operations, and housing management services for military towns.

Vasilyeva faces up to six years in prison in that case.

In late October 2012, Vasilyeva's apartment was searched during an investigation into the sale of state property at prices below their market value. Investigators seized antiques, jewelry, and 3 million rubles (about $83,000).

Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov was dismissed amid a corruption scandal that ensued in November 2012 to ensure the impartiality of the criminal investigation.  In December 2013, he was charged with negligence after investigators estimated damages to the state at 56 million rubles’ ($1.5 million). Serdyukov, who ordered soldiers to build a private road to a Caspian Sea holiday resort owned by his brother-in-law, was pardoned earlier this year, but the information was deliberately covered up under the terms of an agreement reached between the minister’s attorneys and the investigators.