MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said on Tuesday it had caught a criminal gang led by a traffic policeman that extorted huge bribes, airing footage of his mansion containing palatial tsarist-style rooms, gaudy decorations and a gilded toilet.
The Investigative Committee that styles itself as Russia's FBI said a traffic police colonel in the southern region of Stavropol had been arrested along with six other people on suspicion of taking large bribes.
The group, it said, had for years issued permits to grain cargo transporters in the region in exchange for payments allowing permit holders to ignore regional administrative laws even when crossing traffic police checkpoints.
The group received bribes worth a total of 19 million roubles ($255,000), the agency said. The other members of the gang included a former senior traffic policeman in Stavropol, a traffic inspector and four civilians who were not identified.
Alexander Khinshteyn, a senior lawmaker for the pro-Kremlin ruling United Russia party, said that a total of more than 35 traffic police officers had been detained.
He and the Investigative Committee aired images of piles of seized cash, and a mansion said to belong to the police colonel containing extravagantly decorated rooms, a billiard hall, gilded columns and toilet.
Police officers carried out raids at 80 properties in the case, seizing large amounts of cash, expensive cars and other documents, the Investigative Committee said.
($1 = 74.5039 roubles)
(Reporting by Tom Balmforth and Dmitry Turlyun; editing by Mark Heinrich)