Moscow, January 11, Interfax - Federal Security Service officials have submitted to the Prosecutor General's Office materials stating that several high-ranking officials from the Interior Ministry's Main Department for the Prevention of Extremism extorted a large amount of money from a Moscow Muslim community, Kommersant daily reports.
"The Federal Security Service officers obtained information that a major extortion incident had occurred in the Moscow Lefortovsky market before the New year holidays. According to that information, a group of police officers went to the market under the pretext of an inspection, suspended the market's operation and demanded 1 million rubles from traders for permission to resume work," Kommersant writes.
According to the Federal Security Service, the traders only managed to raise half of the amount, but the police officers were content with that and left the market.
There were high-ranking Interior Ministry officials among the policemen who went to the Lefortovsky market on December 28. Federal Security Service officials submitted the materials they have collected to the Prosecutor General's Office.
According to Kommersant, the police said they were checking reports stating that there was an illegal extremist center disguised as a prayer room at the market, which was visited by Muslim traders and Tajik workers from nearby construction sites.
According to the information possessed by the Federal Security Service, a search of the market yielded religious literature, which is now being studied by experts, and over 600,000 rubles. The owner of the money was found several days later and the money was returned to him, the police said. The police, however, did not say why the money was seized without an official order.
According to Kommersant, informal leaders of the Muslim community at the market have confirmed that the money was returned to them. However, they have officially reported extortion to the Prosecutor General's Office.
The Interior Ministry confirmed to Kommersant that the Prosecutor General's Office has launched a probe into the actions taken by some Interior Ministry officials.
If the information provided by the Federal Security Service is confirmed, prosecutors may submit the materials to the Investigations Committee, which will decide whether a criminal case should be opened.