Russia law-enforcers clash in airport owner's case

MOSCOW – Russian law enforcement agencies clashed in court Friday in a case blaming the billionaire owner of the nation’s biggest airport with alleged safety violations that officials say led to the deaths of 37 people in a suicide bombing five years ago.

Dmitry Kamenshchik, the owner of Moscow’s Domodedovo airport, was accused by the country’s Investigative Committee of failing to meet safety requirements, leading to the bombing deaths. The Jan. 24, 2011, attack in the airport’s international arrivals area also wounded 180 others. Chechen rebels claimed responsibility.

The Investigative Committee, Russia’s nation’s top investigative agency, claimed that by waiving blanket checks of passengers at the airport’s entrance, Kamenshchik made it vulnerable, and the agency put him under arrest Thursday. Three senior managers of Domodedovo earlier had been placed in custody in the same case.

Kamenshchik has denied the accusations, which have been levelled against him for years, saying that blanket inspections weren’t required by law at the time.

The Investigative Committee has backed off a bit Friday, asking a Moscow court to place Kamenshchik under house arrest, but has still pressed the charges against him.

But in a twist, government prosecutors disputed the Investigative Committee’s case, calling the accusations unfounded and contesting the plea for house arrest.

The judge sided with the Investigative Committee, placing Kamenshchik under house arrest for two months.

The showdown marked an unusual case when Russian prosecutors actually defended a suspect. It also has generated broad public interest, widely seen as an attempt by some politically-connected business circles to seize a prized asset.

Kamenshchik, 47, has turned what was a rundown and decrepit airport into a modern, highly successful venture.

Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Vladimir Putin was informed about the case. Peskov refrained from commenting on the case, saying it’s up to court to determine if Kamenshchik is guilty.