Top Russian economist Vladimir Mau has been charged with fraud “on a particularly large scale”, the Interior Ministry announced on Thursday, sending shockwaves through Russia’s academic and financial elite.
The statement said Mau is accused of embezzling money from the institute where he is dean, as part of a wider case involving another top academic, Sergei Zuev, and former deputy education minister Marina Rakova.
As announced by the press service of the Russian Foreign Ministry, anti-corruption investigators conducted searches at the homes of Mao and other associates at the Institute of the Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration.
The newspaper Novaya Gazeta.europe points out that today Mao became a member of the board of directors of the Russian energy giant Gazprom.
A source close to Mau told the newspaper Novaya.gazeta.europem that in the last two weeks, the officials of the higher educational institution began to call all of them more often for questioning at the Ministry of the Interior. Mau had been questioned in the past and had assumed, according to the newspaper’s source, that he would be arrested but hoped they would opt for house arrest.
During the month of June, the leading economist had met with high-ranking associates of the administration of the Russian president.
The 62-year-old Mao is a liberal economist with close ties to top politicians.
He appeared frequently on expert panels at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum, Russia’s annual showcase for business and finance, and was an associate of the late Yegor Gaidar, who had applied “shock therapy” to the economic reforms that took place in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Reuters was unable to reach Mao or his spokesman. The state-run TASS news agency reported that he has been arrested, while the Interfax news agency reported that investigators had asked him to be placed under house arrest.
In a shocking post on social media, political scientist Ekaterina Shulman expressed her solidarity with Mao by writing the following. “Dear Vladimir Alexandrovich, where have we come?”
Academician Zuev and former Deputy Minister of Education Rakova, as well as former associates of the “Foundation for New Forms of Education Development” Yevgeny Zak, Maxim Inkin, Artur Stechenko are currently in custody.
Opposition figures have criticized the case as the latest episode in a long-running campaign by the Kremlin to exert control over Russia’s education sector and crack down on academic freedoms.