Murder of FPS lieutenant colonel who had exposed corruption: Mastermind’s lawyers to deliver a blow to prosecution?
The criminal case pertaining to the murder of Nikolai Chernov, lieutenant colonel of the Federal Penitentiary Service (FPS) of Russia, has been transferred to the Leningrad Regional Court. The assassin’s paymaster – colonel Sergei Moiseenko – and weapon supplier Igor Zakharov are in the dock. According to The CrimeRussia sources, defense attorneys prepared for the prosecution a ‘surprise’ – some documents that may significantly affect the trial.
Corruption and death
The murder of lieutenant colonel Nikolai Chernov, Head of the Department for Technical Supervision and Use of Facilities Under Construction of the Federal Penitentiary Service (FPS) of Russia, in 2017 has shocked not only the FPS Main Administration for St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region – but the entire national penitentiary system as well. The incident has led to practical conclusions, audits, and terminations. The main reason behind the brutal crime were violations committed during the construction of the largest pretrial detention facility in Europe – Kresty-2 – protracted for many years. Honest officer Nikolai Chernov has uncovered the scheme used to embezzle funds allocated for the construction because he was involved in conflict resolution with contractors, including both the work quality and financial issues. Chernov was directly responsible for the acceptance of buildings and facilities of the new pretrial detention center built in Kolpino – a suburb of St. Petersburg.
By 2016, the ‘grand construction project’ became a target for harsh criticism. The transfer of inmates from the old prison on Arsenalnaya quay had been repeatedly postponed from year to year. Colonel Moiseenko had supervised the construction of Kresty-2. At some point, Chernov has discovered a shortage of funds and decided to inform his superiors about the large-scale embezzlements and foot-dragging of an important national project.
The pretrial detention center in Kolpino with a capacity of 4 thousand inmates was under construction for 10 years. 12 billion rubles ($180.6 million) have been spent on this project. Its commissioning had been repeatedly postponed. After the murder and institution of a criminal case, experts have inspected the construction site to identify the volume of deficiencies and calculate the amount of funds required to rectify those. The inmates have been relocated to Kresty-2 on December 1, 2017. However, some buildings of the new pretrial detention center are still unsuitable for habitation. The main contractor was General Construction Corporation (GSK) Open Joint Stock Company.
By the time of exposure of the violations, the construction was stalled again. General Construction Corporation was suing the FPS at the arbitration court (by the way, the arbitration proceedings involving mutual claims and lawsuits are still ongoing). Later, the operatives of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR) found out that Moiseenko had tried to conceal the outrageous embezzlements and offered repeated offended Sabir Sadykov to kill his meticulous subordinate. Sadykov was an interested party – he had distributed orders in the framework of the construction project – and agreed to do so.
Slain Nikolai Chernov
Sabir Sadykov has been chosen to carry out a contract killing because he was a ‘fixer’. Both his past and present are pretty murky. Allegedly, Sadykov had represented the interests of several subcontractors having conflicts with Chernov – the FPS officer refused to sign acceptance certificates for works performed by them.
Sadykov purchased a Makarov pistol via his acquaintance Igor Zakharov, made an appointment with lieutenant colonel Chernov in the Vsevolozhsk district, and sprayed him with bullets there. But sturdy Chernov hasn’t died on the scene. Medics of the Vsevolozhsk Municipal Hospital extracted six bullets, out of the eight, from his body.
Chernov was transferred to the Military Medical Academy where best surgeons had tried to save his life. His family was taken under protection. Armed troopers of Taifun (Typhoon) Special Unit had guarded his hospital room. However, five days later, the officer succumbed to his wounds. Later, the investigation established that while Chernov was bleeding in his car, Sadykov had been running around nearby and praying for his death.
Nikolai Chernov was gunned down on March 2, 2017, at some 17:30, at the 8th km of Koltushsky highway – not far from the turnoff to Staraya village, Vsevolozhsk district. 35-year-old lieutenant colonel Nikolai Chernov was driving a Nissan X-Trail. Several gunshots were fired at him. The officer received eight wounds to the neck, shoulder, chest, hand, and stomach.
Local residents saw the car of Sabir Sadykov leaving the crime scene; therefore, he had to answer questions of law enforcement operatives. Initially, Sadykov had tried to convince the investigators that the attack was committed by “two unknown persons of a Caucasian descent driving a VAZ-2109”. The stormy criminal past of Sadykov was suspicious, and he has been reclassified from a witness to suspect in this case. The investigators quickly established that neither a VAZ-2109 vehicle nor two “persons of a Caucasian descent” had ever appeared on the scene. A criminal case has been instituted under Article 105 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (murder). According to the main version, the assassination of Chernov was linked with his professional activities.
Corruption and personalities
The murder and exposure of corruption among the supreme functionaries of the FPS Main Administration for St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region had far-reaching consequences. First, Sergei Moiseenko, Deputy Head of the Regional FPS Administration, has been arrested and remanded in custody. Second, Viktor Kudrin, General Director of General Construction Corporation (GSK), was arrested and charged with swindling and embezzlement of 100 million rubles ($1.5 million). However, Kudrin has been released under home arrest pretty soon – after testifying against the supreme FPS management.
Then the investigators detained Nikolai Barinov, ex-Deputy Director of the FPS and current Advisor to the Head of the Federal Service for State Registration, Cadastre and Cartography (Rosreestr). The official was arrested in November 2017 and escorted to an FSB pretrial detention facility in St. Petersburg. He is suspected of taking bribes totaling 110 million rubles ($1.7 million).
According to the investigation, Barinov, then-Deputy Director of the FPS, had supervised the construction of Kresty-2 since 2007 and created a criminal conspiracy together with Ruslan Khamkhokov, Director of Petroinvest (the general subcontractor), and Sergei Moiseenko, Deputy Head of the FPS Main Administration for St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region, in order to embezzle budget funds. Khamkhokov was arrested shortly after that. The investigators established that bribes were transferred to special accounts, cashed out, and then delivered to the bribe-givers.
Confessions of Sabir Sadykov, the direct perpetrator of the murder, have played an important role in the solution of this crime. After spending some time in the above-mentioned FSB pretrial detention facility on Shpalernaya street, St. Petersburg, he agreed to testify and made a plea deal. Otherwise, Sadykov had faced a lengthy prison term.
The final indictment charged him under part 2 of Article 105 (murder committed with the purpose of concealing another crime) and part 1 of Article 222 (illegal acquisition, transfer, storage, transportation, or bearing of firearms) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. In August 2018, the indictment has been submitted to the Vsevolozhsk District Court. Initially, Sadykov had to be tried by a court martial – but the plea deal affected his jurisdiction. In September 2018, the court has sentenced him to 9 years in a maximum security penal colony. According to sources, the state prosecution had initially requested 6 years behind bars for the defendant, but upon reviewing all circumstances of the case, the court convicted him to 9 years.
It is unknown whether relatives of slain Nikolai Chernov were satisfied with the court verdict, but convicted criminal Sadykov disagreed with it and recently filed an appeal petition with a supreme judicial instance, which is very unusual for sentences delivered in the framework of a plea deal.
The case against Sergei Moiseenko and Igor Zakharov has recently been submitted to the Leningrad Regional Court. Both of them are charged under parts 4 and 5 of Article 33 and paragraph “j” of part 2 of Article 105 (instigation to and complicity in a murder committed with the purpose of concealing another crime) and Article 222 (illegal acquisition, transfer, storage, transportation, or bearing of firearms) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. In addition, Moiseenko is charged under part 6 of Article 290 and part 5 of Article 291 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (bribe-taking on an especially large scale). Viktor Kudrin, General Director of the main contractor building Kresty-2 is believed to be the bribe-giver.
According to The CrimeRussia sources, the trial is going to be uneasy – despite the testimonies provided by Sabir Sadykov in the framework of his plea deal and constituting the evidential base of the prosecution. The hearings will likely be held behind closed doors because Kresty-2 is a restricted access facility. The main question is: what services could provide repeated offender Sadykov convicted in the past for theft, robbery, swindling, and hooliganism to Sergei Moiseenko, Deputy Head of the FPS Main Administration for St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region? Still, it is known that Sadykov had acted as a ‘fixer’ in the interests of Moiseenko. Sources believe that new suspects may appear soon in the case pertaining to the embezzlements committed in the FPS.
It can’t be ruled out that Sadykov and businessman Kudrin have provided to the operatives information sufficient to launch a number of other criminal cases. It is also known that the defense prepared some massive blow to the prosecution, and the preliminary hearings have been stalled. According to The CrimeRussia sources, this refers to documents that may significantly affect the course of the trial.
In any event, the defendants don’t face the maximum penalty anymore. Moiseenko is charged not with contract killing – but just with instigation to murder. In the worst case scenario, for the totality of the crimes committed, including bribe-taking, he may be convicted to 15 years behind bars. Zakharov, who has provided the murder weapon, is not facing a lengthy prison term as well.