Russian Investigators Open Probe Of Former Lawmaker, Car Dealer Businessman

Russian investigators have opened a criminal probe into a former lawmaker who clashed with the Kremlin about its policies in Ukraine and other places.

The federal Investigative Committee said in a statement on June 27 that Sergei Petrov was accused of illegally siphoning off 4 billion rubles ($63.5 million) out of Russia in 2014.

Others under investigation include some of the managers at his foreign car dealership business, Rolf, which Petrov founded and built into one of Russia's national largest dealership companies.

The committee said investigators raided the company's offices in Moscow and St. Petersburg and questioned Rolf employees.

Petrov served as a lawmaker in Russia's parliament between 2007 and 2016, and was one of the few independent-minded deputies in what is widely considered a rubber-stamp body.

Among other things, he did not take part in a parliamentary vote on the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Petrov told Ekho Moskvy radio that the case against him could be part of a "hostile takeover" or maybe a politically motivated attack.

He also said he was out of the country and would not be returning.

The probe is the latest in a series of investigations that have targeted top Russian business leaders accused of crimes motivated by commercial or political interests.

Earlier this week, another prominent businessman, David Yakobashvili, told the Interfax news agency that he did not plan to return to Russia after security services searched his art gallery.

Yakobashvili, who launched a successful fruit juice and beverage company in the 1990s and later expanded into oil and real estate, told Interfax that he planned to investigate the incident.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Russian Service and AFP