Business-Prosecutor of Buryatia Valery Petrov: Irremovable law enforcer
Valery Petrov, the Prosecutor of the Republic of Buryatia, has been holding his post since 2006. The public calls for his dismissal on a regular basis, scandals occur one by one, the high-ranked enforcement official has even been nicknamed ‘business-prosecutor’. Accusations against him include raiding takeovers, framed-up criminal cases, and prosecution of non grata businessmen.
Staff turnover is considered an effective way to combat corruption in regional elites. In theory, this prevents senior enforcement officials from establishing ‘close friendship’ with local functionaries and businessmen on a mutually beneficial basis. The federal center replaces heads of regional branches of the Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation, Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), and Prosecution every 3–5 years. But not everywhere. In some Russian regions, heads of law enforcement services haven’t been changed for more than 10 years.
Scandalous anti-corruption crusader
The Buryat Prosecutor is an enforcement functionary whose actions can seriously undermine the public trust to watchdog authorities. Back in 2012, over 3 thousand signatures had been collected in the republic under a petition to the President of Russia requesting to remove Valery Petrov from his post. The residents of the region also asked to perform an independent audit of his activities. The reason for the public outcry was a cruel beating of human rights activist Vladimir Migunov.
Numerous scandals have rumbled the Prosecutor’s Office of Buryatia in the recent years, including raiding takeovers of enterprises performed, according to the media, by friends of Valery Petrov; framed-up criminal cases against non grata police officers; and mass protests due to prosecution of local businessmen. However, despite all these episodes, the business-prosecutor still holds his chair.
According to his official biography, Valery Petrov was born and raised in the Irkutsk region, but his entire career in the law enforcement has been linked with the Prosecutor’s Office of Buryatia. In 1983, he started working in the investigations department of the republican watchdog agency and has climbed the career ladder up to his current position.
Valery Petrov, the Prosecutor of the Republic of Buryatia
Despite numerous corruption accusations brought by businessmen, public activists, and former law enforcement officers, Valery Petrov presents himself as an active fighter against dishonest public servants. In his interview to MK v Buryatii weekly newspaper, he told how his agency identifies violations of the anti-corruption legislation committed by municipal officials and deputies.
“We put emphasis on the prophylactics and strengthening of personal responsibility of offenders at awareness-raising seminars dedicated to regulations and requirements of the developing Russian legislation. The Prosecutor’s Office of Buryatia takes all actions required to combat corruption among public and local authorities,” – said Valery Petrov.
Apparently, the Prosecutor of the Republic of Buryatia is fully aware who can be prosecuted and who is above the law. The high-ranked enforcement officer has told many stories about violations committed by municipal officials – but made not a single reference to district-level functionaries.
Many businessmen and human rights activists accuse Valery Petrov of lobbying interests of Vladimir Dmitriev, an Irkutsk-based businessman whose operations are inseparably associated with raiding attacks.
Irkutsk-based businessman Vladimir Dmitriev
According to Narodny Kontrol Sibiry informational and analytical web portal, the Prosecutor and the businessman are members of the same nomenclature clan: their fathers had been working together in Communist and economic structures of the USSR since the 1970s. Petrov and Dmitriev continue the friendship of their ancestors and have made lots of profit on it.
For example, the Prosecutor of Buryatia has been accused of purposeful sabotage of the investigation of the premeditated bankruptcy of Ulan-Ude Shipbuilding Company Limited Liability Company. A biased Prosecutor’s audit had been performed against local policemen who attempted to carry out the investigation; some of them have been disrated, while the collected materials – put on the shelf. The fact of the matter is that Vladimir Dmitriev wanted to appropriate the industrial area of the shipbuilding company – and now trade and entertainment facilities are located there, while the entire complex owned by Dmitriev has been named Novy Gorod (the New City).
The raiding takeover of Yubileiny Trade Center located in the capital of Buryatia is the most glaring example of collaboration between the businessman and the prosecutor. At some point, Vladimir Dmitriev had put an eye on the trade center. First, a group of partners and relatives of the businessman have purchased a small portfolio of its shares, and then they demanded the owners to sell them the entire complex for next to nothing. After getting a refusal, they have initiated a criminal case with the help of ‘their own’ Prosecutor.
Yubileiny Trade Center in Ulan-Ude
The enforcement structures have performed a special operation; as a result, Yubileiny Trade Center was transferred for care and custody to Danak company controlled by Dmitriev’s people.
The businessman also used his connections in the Prosecutor’s Office during the takeover of Avto Open Joint Stock Company: a criminal case had been initiated against its management. The criminal proceedings have been ceased only after the establishment of full control over the enterprise by the raiders. Dmitriev opened Agat commercial vehicle registration office on its territory; it is linked with another flagrant criminal case.
Alamzhi Syrenov, the Head of the Republican State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate Administration and holder of two Orders of Courage, had been charged with legalization of illegitimate motor vehicles through a State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate subdivision located in Onkhoi settlement. The irony of circumstances is that the deeply respected in Buryatia high-ranked police officer had contributed to the prosecution of corrupt State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate officers – and apparently, some of the suspects agreed to testify against the colonel.
Alamzhi Syrenov, the ex-Head of the State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate Administration for the Republic of Buryatia
MIA veterans and officers coming down on the side of Alamzhi Syrenov state that the reason behind his prosecution was his refusal to fulfill a request from businessman Vladimir Dmitriev. The prosecutor’s friend wanted the Head of the Republican State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate Administration to increase the number of police officers servicing Agat commercial vehicle registration office in order to boost the turnover and profits generated by this private company. The colonel has declined the request from the businessman and paid a price for his noncompliance.
The investigation and court examination of this criminal case had lasted for two years. Ultimately, Alamzhi Syrenov was fully acquitted; the court has recognized his right to rehabilitation. But the colonel did not return back to the police.
There are plenty of criminal cases on the Prosecutor’s conscience that have collapsed in the court – but still ruined people’s lives and businesses. From the other side, Valery Petrov literally sabotages all attempts to bring Vladimir Dmitriev and his subordinates to justice. For instance, criminal proceedings initiated due to the illegal withdrawal of assets and further bankruptcy of a bread factory in Ulan-Ude belonging to Taryaan Open Joint Stock Company have been ceased.
It is necessary to note that the Prosecutor’s Office of Buryatia demonstrates surprising forgiveness not only to Dmitriev and his people. Sources state that the watchdog authority was involved into the dismissal of a criminal case against Sergey Chursov, the Director of Kyakhtinskoe Limited Liability Company, initiated under part 2 of Article 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (swindling) – despite the damages sustained by the state in the amount of 31 million rubles. This refers to the federal funding provided for modernization of the pig-breeding complex of Kyakhtinskoe in the framework of the top-priority national project “Development of the Agroindustrial Complex”.
“Evil genius of Buryatia”
Another flagrant criminal case initiated by Valery Petrov was the prosecution of Buryat businessman Marat Kharisov; human rights activists had rallied meetings in his defense and collected signatures under a petition on Change.org web portal. The speech delivered by the businessman in court is available there as well.
Rally in support of Marat Kharisov
In this speech, Marat Kharisov called Valery Petrov an “evil genius of Buryatia” and accused him of protection racketeering of various business structures.
“Whatever sphere of life in the republic we take – everywhere the prosecutor, or his shadow, is present. The people call him ‘business-prosecutor’. Using his official powers, he interferes in all the economic and political spheres in Buryatia. I communicated with many businessmen and public figures – but ultimately, all the threads of control lead to Valery Petrov,” – Marat Kharisov told in court.
According to the businessman, during the years of his work at this post, the Prosecutor has been assisting his confidants in the creation of a major business empire. Not only do they now secure their personal interests using the powers of the watchdog agency, but also perform raiding takeovers of perspective and profitable enterprises. Take, for example, the largest in Buryatia brick factory with large deposits of the natural raw material – built and launched at the expense of foreign investors and then appropriated by people close to Valery Petrov. Now it belongs to prosecutor’s friends – co-owners of Best Plus Limited Liability Company.
Marat Kharisov has also mentioned Irina Petrova, the spouse of the high-ranked law enforcement functionary. This fall, she became the Chairperson of the Committee for State Protection of Cultural Heritage of the Republic of Buryatia; earlier she used to be the Deputy Minister of Culture of the Republic of Buryatia.
Irina Petrova, the Chairperson of the Committee for State Protection of Cultural Heritage of the Republic of Buryatia
Businessman Kharisov claims that the above-mentioned Best Plus Limited Liability Company has got a permit to build its facilities in the historical part of Ulan-Ude thanks to Irina Petrova. The committee chaired by the prosecutor’s spouse distributes governmental contracts for reconstruction of architectural monuments – while construction companies controlled by Valery Petrov siphon the federal budget funds off. Such a ‘family business’ is another major source of income for the high-ranked law enforcement functionary.
A battered human rights activists
Many people in Buryatia were outraged with the battering of Vladimir Migunov, the Head of the Republican Center for Business Protection and Combatting the Corruption. The victim suspects that Valery Petrov was the mastermind behind this crime.
According to Kommersant newspaper, early in the morning on February 13, 2012, unknown persons attacked the activist.
“I walked my son to the kindergarten and was returning home. I cannot say how many people attacked me, it seemed to me that there were two of them. First they hit my head with force, knocked me down, and started kicking. While beating me, they were telling something, but I cannot say what exactly because I was stunned, everything was as in a fog. Then they fled,” – Vladimir Migunov told.
He reported the incident to the police and addressed a medical institution to put the bruises on record.
The victim has collected an extensive evidence of criminal proceedings initiated against Buryat entrepreneurs with the sole purpose to seize their businesses – as well as covered up criminal cases related to raiding takeovers, seizures of federal assets, repressions against honest law enforcement officers, etc. Shortly before the attack, Vladimir Migunov had been summoned to the Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Buryatia. According to the public activist, they spoke with him in a menacing tone and demanded to cease the public activities.
After the assault on Migunov, Buryat activists had requested the federal center to perform an independent audit against Valery Petrov and remove him from the post. But apparently, he is irremovable.
A battered human rights activist, raiding takeovers of enterprises, demonstrative struggle against corruption, and lobbying interests of certain businessmen – the list of Valery Petrov’s deeds can be continued. However, nothing can shake the positions of the prosecutor – neither the above-mentioned staff turnover, nor the public opinion, nor numerous media publications and protest rallies.
On June 8, 2015, Vladimir Putin signed an order extending the powers of Petrov, as the Prosecutor of the Republic of Buryatia, for another 5-year term.
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