Colonel Slepukhin's judicial loss
The former head of the Kingisepp customs office is struggling. The official, who is under arrest, worries about his fate. Intrigues and interagency confrontation between the FSB and the court of the Leningrad region do not bring delight. Besides, Vologda court has seized half of the property from the customs officer, considering it acquired by criminal means.
In late August, there was a real old battle royal in the Kingisepp court. Like in the case of oligarch Mikhalchenko, the court did not want to take responsibility for such scandalous proceedings and decided to change the jurisdiction. The court got a chance to get rid of the attention from the press and the public due to the fact that there were three criminal episodes in the case of former Head of Kingisepp Customs Sergey Slepukhin. The law interprets jurisdiction at the place where the crime was committed. The last episode of bribery by Slepukhin occurred in the center of St. Petersburg, on the Fontanka. The two previous ones took place in Kingisepp.
Both investigation and the prosecutor's office insisted that the case be examined in Kingisepp, and the political background of this move is understandable. It would have been much easier to guide the proceedings in the right direction. However, as media wrote, the court did not support the position of the investigation and prosecutors due to the investigation’s weak position.
The fact is that there are significant flaws in a quickly investigated criminal case that run counter to the Code of Criminal Procedure. That is, lawyers will cling to these violations and may even win freedom for their client. The violation is that the time when the offense was committed is not mentioned in the case; besides, there are completely no details as to how Slepukhin helped participants in foreign economic activity to carry out their business. With such flaws, the prospects for a guilty verdict became illusive. Nobody wanted to be in charge of such no-win proceedings.
Therefore, back in early July, a state prosecutor from the Leningrad Region Prosecutor's Office suddenly challenged the entire constitution of the bench. The demarche was very effective due to the fact that representatives of the defense usually do this. However, as they say, the judges were very pleased, because in that case, the chairman of the Kingisepp District Court would be able to return the case to Petersburg to further determine the jurisdiction.
As a result, Judge Dunkina sent the case to the place of the last criminal episode, namely to the Dzerzhinsky District Court, referring to the decisions of the Plenum of the Supreme Court and a number of similar documents. Both the FSB officers carrying out operational support of the case and the investigation were not happy with such a decision, sources say. Thus, they had to file a motion to reverse the judge’s decision until September 7. After all, it will be very difficult for security officials to bring about understanding with judges of the Dzerzhinsky District Court.
Despite the scandalous nature of the criminal case against Sergey Slepukhin, everything in it is not as significant as it seemed at first. The subsequent searches at General of the North-West Customs Administration, Aleksandr Bezlyudsky, only escalated this situation. But today it is already known that the latter escaped with slight shock. Searches were in vain. Although he resigned from the North-West Customs Administration, he got another position, namely, head of the Operational Customs of the Central Customs Office.
The case against Slepukhin is based on the testimony of one of the former customs officers, Aleksey Marchukov. It is hard to say what was his relationship with the boss. But he told the investigation that he had transferred bribes from businessmen worth $27 thousand to Slepukhin. The rest of the several dozen interviewed witnesses cannot say anything specific. They make subtle suggestions that they have “heard” something, but nobody says anything like: “I know for sure, I saw him doing it” (taking bribes). Three secret witnesses of the investigation (from among former Kingisepp customs officers) say that the head did help the smugglers. But they do not know how exactly.
Slepukhin has repeatedly stated via his lawyer that the investigation and investigators put pressure on his family. Allegedly, FSB officers persistently sought his testimony about how he shared bribes with generals and senior management. For example, it is known that representatives of state bodies wanted to know about the criminal financial affairs of former Head of the North-West Customs Administration Aleksandr Getman, Aleksandr Bezlyudsky, Nikolay Lagirev, and several other persons. Colonel Slepukhin refused to bear false witness against anyone and even went on a hunger strike in jail back in the summer.
The results of this criminal case are still vague, and the court decision can be very unexpected for both the investigation and the defendant. Although, the latter has problems of a different kind.
Over the past year, the Vologda Regional Court held intense hearings regarding the forfeiture of the property of former Head of the Kingisepp Customs, Sergey Slepukhin, and his relatives. The choice of such a remote court was determined by the fact that in the early 2000s, the colonel headed the Cherepovets customs post, and then the Vologda customs. After that, he continued to work at Kingisepp Customs near St. Petersburg.
When the detention of Slepukhin and the initiation of criminal proceedings against him became known, the North-West Transport Prosecutor's Office filed a lawsuit against Sergey, Elizaveta and Elena Slepukhina and Valentina Gomzikova. The Prosecutor's Office considered that the considerable property belonging to this family was acquired using criminal proceeds. In particular, in the lawsuit, the Prosecutor's Office indicated that from 2013 to 2017, Slepukhin acquired real estate and land, the total value of which exceeded his and his wife's official income for the previous three years. Thus, it turned out that the Slepukhin family became the happy owner of a plot of land with an area of 2600 sqm in the Ustyuzhensky district. A two-story house and a bathhouse were later built there. Experts estimated this property at 12-15 million rubles ($184-230 thousand).
Then, the colonel’s daughter suddenly got a two-room apartment in St. Petersburg worth 7 million rubles ($107 thousand) and 2 parking places worth 900 thousand ($13,833). At the same time, the girl is a student; she does not receive any scholarship and, according to the tax service, has no sources of income.
The purchase witness, a real estate sales manager, told the Prosecutor's Office that the purchase was organized by Slepukhin, who registered the property agreement in the name of his daughter.
In turn, the colonel’s wife, Valentina Gomzikova, became the proud owner of a 2016 Lexus car worth 2.29 million rubles ($35 thousand). It was also found that the colonel himself bought a car, but registered it in his wife’s name.
As the transport prosecutor’s office pointed out in its lawsuit, the total income of the Slepukhin family from 2010 to 2016 amounted to 11 million 232 thousand rubles ($172,523). From 2013 to 2017, Slepukhin's expenses ranged from 22 million 140 thousand to 25 million 140 thousand rubles ($340-386 thousand), which is more than double the total income of his family.
In the course of numerous court hearing, representatives of the colonel’s family were unable to prove that the purchases were made with legitimate income. Thus, the Prosecutor’s Office asked the court to forfeit a car, a two-room apartment, two parking spaces, and buildings located on the plot of land. Naturally, the customs officer’s family did not recognize the claim and continued the litigation. Hearings were held in different places. For example, the Cherepovets City Court partially satisfied the lawsuit and forfeited the apartment and two parking places registered in the name of Slepukhin’s daughter.
This summer, the Vologda Regional Court examined the case on appeals by Sergey, Elizaveta and Elena Slepukhins and the appeal submission by the Deputy North-West Transport Prosecutor’s Office. In their appeals, the Slepukhin family asked to cancel the decision of the court of first instance, citing the fact that the purchase of the apartment and the car took place using the money made from the salary and teaching activities of Sergey Slepukhin. The court rejected this allegation, since no evidence of the existence of such a large amount at the time of the acquisition of property was provided. In addition, the court found that Slepukhin's wife, Valentina Gomzikova, had no actual opportunity to buy a Lexus. Officially, she is retired and lives on her pension.
Thus, the court dismissed their appeals, finding the forfeiture of the indicated property lawful. But, most likely, this is not the last financial penalty from the former head of Kingisepp Customs. In the case of a guilty verdict, if the nature of bribery is proved, the court will appoint him a fine for an official ranging from 25 to 100 times the size of the bribe. In this case, $27 thousand dollars can turn into millions of rubles.