Russian law enforcement agencies have detained Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev after he was suspected of receiving a $2m (£1.6m) bribe in a deal involving state-backed oil giant, Rosneft. He is currently awaiting charges and could face up to 15 years in jail if found guilty.
Ulyukayev has been accused of taking the bribe in return for signing off a $5.2bn-worth acquisition project, which allowed Rosneft to purchase a 50% stake at another oil firm Bashneft.
Moscow's Investigative Committee, the country's main anti-corruption establishment, said the minister was attempting to extort money from Rosneft officials as well.
The committee's deputy chief, Sveltana Petrenko, said: "The circumstances of the crime are connected with Alexei Ulyukayev, who occupies a public post in the Russian Federation, receiving $2m on 14 November for the positive assessment provided by the economic development ministry that allowed Rosneft to complete the deal on purchasing the government's 50% stake in Bashneft.
"The necessary investigative actions concerning Ulyukayev are underway. Ulyukayev was caught red-handed when receiving a bribe," the Investigative Committee's spokesperson said.
The Rosneft-Bashneft agreement was signed in October 2016. A spokesperson for Rosneft told the Russian news agency Tass: "The company does not comment on the actions of the Investigative Committee. The stake in Bashneft was purchased in accordance with Russian legislature on the basis of best commercial offer made to the operator bank."
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said he is unaware whether President Vladimir Putin has already been informed of the latest developments. He said: "These are very serious charges that require very serious evidence. In any case, only the court can decide anything. It is known that the court does not always agree with investigators, and vice versa."
Ulyukayev, who was appointed by Putin in July 2013, is thought to have been closely monitored by the Russian intelligence agency FSB for more than a year before he was taken into custody. Ulyukayev, former deputy chairman of the Russian central bank, is the highest-ranking Russian official detained by law enforcement agencies since 1991 on criminal charges.