||Last Updated: Apr 30th, 2007 - 13:16:03
Alibekov said he had no specific information on who was detained, but an Interior Ministry spokeswoman said the head of one of the agency's departments handling real estate registration had been arrested on suspicion of demanding $256,000 from a businessman to process his paperwork.
The federal agency is a part of the Justice Ministry and is charged with, among other things, registering real estate transactions, political parties and nongovernmental organizations.
Deputy Justice Minister Vladimir Kolesnikov said registration officials had been questioned, and documents were confiscated during the raid, and he indicated that more arrests could follow.
"We had information about what certain employees of the agency's Moscow branch were doing, and unfortunately, our suspicions were confirmed," Kolesnikov said, Interfax reported.
Kolesnikov said his ministry would investigate practices in which registration officials artificially create bureaucratic backlogs that force people to wait months to have documents processed only to have them returned under various pretenses.
After this, middlemen enter the picture and promise to process the paperwork in just a few days for a fee, with a kickback going to the agency officials, Kolesnikov said, Interfax reported.
President Vladimir Putin earlier this month appointed Sergei Vasilyev, a former prosecutor, to head up the agency. Kolesnikov said the agency's new leadership intended to "seriously and mercilessly purge corrupt officials from its ranks."