Alexei Ulyukayev
Russia's former economy minister Alexei Ulyukayev, who was accused of attempting to extort a $2m bribe from Russian oil producer Rosneft, leaves the Basmanny district court after a hearing in Moscow, Russia. File photo January 2017/Reuters

In a bizarre development reminiscent of US trials of Colombian drug lords in the 1990s, prosecutors in Russia have displayed $2m (£1.52m) in cash as evidence at the corruption hearing of a former high ranking Kremlin official on Wednesday (8 November), which they claim was a bribe.

Russian newswire TASS and information service Rossiya Segodnya variously cited the cash being brought into the courtroom in a load of "cardboard boxes" and submitted as evidence at the trial of former Russian economy minister Alexei Ulyukayev; the highest-ranking official to have been arrested on corruption charges in the country since 1993.

He was nabbed last year at the offices of Rosneft, Russia's largest oil producer, after a sting operation by the country's intelligence services.

Ulyukayev denies the charges, and alleges that Igor Sechin, Rosneft's chief executive officer and close confidant of President Vladimir Putin set him up.

When questioned by prosecutors if he recognised the money, upon being shown the cardboard boxes full of dollar notes, Ulyukayev refused to answer.

The circumstances of the case have ignited speculation that Ulyukayev fell victim to a Kremlin power play allegedly orchestrated by Sechin, a charge the Rosneft boss has dismissed as nonsense.