Ivan Belozertsev, the governor of Russia’s Penza region and a vocal supporter of President Vladimir Putin, has been detained on corruption charges.
The Investigative Committee said on March 21 that Belozertsev is suspected of accepting a bribe worth of 31 million rubles ($420,000).
A court is expected to rule soon on his pretrial restriction, which is expected to involve placing the governor in a detention center.
A local businessman Boris Shpigel, who heads up the BIOTEK pharmacy group, and several other individuals whose identities were not disclosed, were detained on suspicion of bribing Belozertsev in exchange for getting the inside track on business agreements with the local government.
Belozertsev, a member of the ruling United Russia party, has led the Penza region in the Volga Federal District since 2015.
Media reports said earlier that the bribes were given to Belozertsev in 2020 and included an expensive Mercedes car, a Breguet watch, and cash.
On March 22, Russian news agencies quoted sources close to the investigation as saying that Belozertsev, Shpigel, and other people detained in the case had pleaded not guilty.
In recent years, several regional governors in Russia have been convicted on corruption charges.
The most high-profile case was the arrest of the governor of the Far Eastern Khabarovsk Krai region, Sergei Furgal, in July last year that sparked ongoing protests in the region.
Furgal was charged with being involved in several murders that took place more than 10 years ago. He and his supporters reject the charges, calling the case politically motivated. He was dismissed from the post after his arrest.
Furgal, of the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, was elected in 2018 in a runoff that he won handily against the region’s longtime incumbent of the ruling United Russia party.