World Briefs: Putin fires defense chief linked to fraud probe

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Russia

MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin fired the country’s defense minister Tuesday, two weeks after a criminal probe was opened into alleged fraud in the sell-off of military assets.

Anatoly Serdyukov has been widely unpopular in the ranks because of his reforms that radically cut the number of military officers and army units. Mr. Putin had staunchly backed him in the past, and his dismissal came as a surprise. Some observers say that Mr. Serdyukov’s successor may take a less radical approach to the military reform.

Mr. Putin made the announcement in a meeting with Moscow regional governor Sergei Shoigu, whom he appointed as the new defense minister.

Mr. Putin’s comments appeared to connect the decision to a probe announced by the country’s top investigative agency last month into the sale of military assets, including real estate, at prices far below market value.

The Investigative Committee says the state suffered damages of $95 million in just a few cases reviewed.

Russia’s military establishment has been haunted by corruption accusations for years, and several top military officials have been convicted of embezzlement.

Sri Lanka

Chief justice accused of fraud, other charges

COLOMBO — Sri Lanka’s government has accused the country’s chief justice of failing to disclose income and property among 14 charges cited in an impeachment bid against her.

The parliament met Tuesday to discuss setting up a committee to investigate the charges against Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake that were handed to speaker Chamal Rajapaksa last week.

The charges say Ms. Bandaranayake has “plunged the Supreme Court and the office of chief justice into disrepute.”

It says she did not disclose how she obtained $146,000 to pay for a house purchased under power of attorney for another person. The charges also say that she took control of several cases filed against the company that sold the property, having removed the judges who originally heard the cases.

Ms. Bandaranayake is also accused of failing to declare details of 20 bank accounts, including four foreign currency ones worth a total of $260,000.

Spain

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