Corruption traditions adherers in Penza police  

Corruption traditions adherers in Penza police
Mopping up in Penza Ministry of Internal Affairs Photo: The CrimeRussia

In a week the police of the Penza region have lost two first executives. The Head of the regional Investigative Committee of Russia (ICR) announced his forthcoming resignation. In this regard, the region began talking about the global cleansing of the bigwigs of security agencies. Now everyone is waiting to learn who is next in the queue for quitting, and what new corruption rows pertaining to security chiefs are to come to light in the short run in a relatively serene region.

The prelude to the leadership reshuffles in the Penza police was a full-scope check conducted by the visiting committee of the central office of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the Russian Federation in November last year. Immediately afterwards, the region started talks about the forthcoming resignation of the Head of the Central Board Yury Ruzlyaev. However, his departure was expected to occur in late March, after the presidential run, but events began to unfold according to the accelerated scenario. 

On February 9, there appeared information about the detention of Ruzlyaev’s Deputy, Nariman Altynbaev. The high-ranking police officer is accused of abuse of official powers, which entailed grave consequences. The next day the court sent Altynbaev under house arrest. On the cusp of the Deputy’s apprehension, Yury Ruzlyaev himself submitted a letter of resignation. The resignation was instantaneously confirmed by presidential decree No. 59 as of February 9, 2018. Such promptness in itself looks strange - usually, if the removal from office has nothing to do with a crime, there is a certain period of time from the application to the resignation. Loss of the two first leaders by the Penza police is attributed to a corruption scandal – ‘milking’ and fraud with state contracts in the construction of a new building of the regional Directorate of the MIA. Therefore, it is entirely possible that now the former Head of the law enforcement agency may also face prosecution in this case. At least he will have to be a witness in the case. 

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Nariman Altynbaev, Deputy Head of Ministry of Internal Affairs

This building work, if anything, was one of the most notorious in Penza. The to-be long-delayed building project began to be erected more than 25 years ago, but the construction was stalled and the deadline for commissioning the facility was constantly postponed. At first the works stopped in the early 90's - for 18 years. The territory of the construction site became covered with weeds, the crumbling case morphed into a refuge for fringe groups. 

Only by 2008, when several floors were dismantled and re-erected, the construction of the 8-story building was completed, but then funding was cut off again. In 2013, when the regional police was already helmed by Yury Ruzlyaev, a tender was announced for the construction of the capital construction object – the administrative building of the Directorate of Internal Affairs (DIA) of the Penza Region in Pushkin Street in the city of Penza. Its winner was some Modul LLC, which offered the smallest amount among the companies admitted to the competition - 165 million 69 thousand rubles ($2.9 m). The works were supposed to be completed in November 2013. However, the company performed them only for 2 million 645 thousand rubles ($46.6 thousand). By agreement of the parties, the state contract with it was terminated on October 22, 2013. The sources claimed that in this scheme Modul LLC acted as an intermediary firm, unable to independently perform works at large facilities, since its statutory fund was estimated at only 10 thousand rubles ($176.3). That, however, did not prevent the company from successfully cooperating with the MIA Directorate of the region.

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The most sad building of Penza

Afterwards, the construction was resumed only 3 years later. In 2016 the federal budget allocated 189.5 million rubles ($3.3 m) to accomplish the construction. The contractor was already the repair and construction department of the MIA of Russia. Remarkably, this contract was accompanied by a local scandal that flew under the radar. One of the failed bidders - SSV LLC, a well-known construction company in Penza - filed a complaint with the FAS in May 2016 on violations in the bidding process. In particular, the customer violated the deadline for submitting bids for participation in the procurement, namely, two out of three days, during which it was possible to bid, fell on the weekend. According to the application review protocol, the request for proposals as of 14.05.2016 № 130516-5 was recognized invalid because only one application was received. As a result, the state contract for the amount of 189,525,880.00 rubles ($3.3 m) was concluded by the contractor with another Penza construction company - AlexStroy LLC.

The FAS partially admitted the violations, but decided against cancelling bidding. It is not clear whether SSV LLC filed an application with the arbitration court, but in August of the same year the repair and construction department of the MIA of Russia re-announced a similar tender with a similar sum. This time the competition was won by Rosstroykom LLC, registered in the Republic of Mordovia, which offered 2 million rubles ($35.2 thousand) less. Under this agreement the work were to be completed on November 25, 2016. On November 22, 2016, the MIA Directorate for the Penza region re-initiated the competition "Performing of works on the construction of the facility "Completion of capital construction of the administrative building of the Directorate of Internal Affairs of the Penza region in Pushkin Street in Penza" at the expense of the federal budget in the framework of the state defense order." Again, the Mordovian construction company, Rosstroykom, won the tender, agreeing to provide works for 215,501,756 rubles ($3.7 m) and outcompeting the local SSV LLC, which complained to the FAS six months ago on violations under a similar contract. It is difficult to say how many more and how many contracts altogether were concluded for the completion of construction of the never-ending construction project in Pushkin Street, but it was only in May 2017, that the building was finally opened in the presence of the specially invited Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev.

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Celebration of opening of the new MIA building with participation of Yury Ruzlyaev and Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev

It will become clear only during the investigation which of these contracts or whether all of them as a whole made a dent in the career of Colonel Nariman Altynbaev. As of today, the information is very sketchy. Informal sources claim that out of 200 million rubles ($3.5 m) allocated from the federal budget for finishing works, commissioning and purchase of furniture for the new regional police office in Pushkin Street, there are no documents confirming that the works were actually completed for 30 million rubles ($528.2 thousand). But this, we will repeat, is unofficial data. All that is known for certain is that the inspection was initiated by the operatives of the Main Directorate of Internal Security of the MIA of the Russian Federation on the basis of the developments of the FSB. The criminal case was initiated under the cooperation of the prosecutor's office and the regional FSB Directorate. The MIA Moscow commission came to the region not by chance, but to check the materials collected by special services.

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Nariman Altynbaev

After this check, the Head of the department of capital construction of the MIA, Kurshev, was detained for 48 hours, he was released after giving the testimony. After that, the Deputy Head of the rear logistics department, Colonel Altynbaev, was rounded up. Concurrently (the interrelation can only be guessed), Vera Ignatyeva, Head of the financial and economic department, and police Colonel Vladimir Lysov, former Deputy Chief of logistics (occupied this post before Altynbaev), found themselves in the medical department of the MIA. It is no accident that the Head of the Penza MIA, Yury Ruzlyaev, immediately after the departure of the Moscow commission promptly went on vacation, from which he never returned.

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Yury Ruzlyaev, Head of Penza MIA

Apparently, it is also no coincidence that in December 2016 the acting Head of the department Vadim Kovtun joined the ranks of leaders of the Penza MIA. This person has a reputation as a kind of "anti-crisis executive" in the security structures. Prior to the appearance in the police Central Board in Penza, Kovtun was the Head of the MIA department in Basmanny district of Moscow. During a year in the district department, he literally carried out a sweeping purge, getting rid of personnel who did not cope with the duties or violated the law - they were ousted or became involved in criminal cases. Then the Colonel picked up and trained new officers. After the situation in the district department was reversed during a year, he was transferred to Penza. It is likely that Vadim Kovtun appeared in the office of Yury Ruzlyaev not by accident and worked on poring into the situation long before the arrival of the inspection from Moscow, which, incidentally, negatively assessed the work of the Penza police.

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Vadim Kovtun, Head of the department

Another curious fact is that Kovtun previously crossed paths with Nariman Altynbaev, now a defendant in the criminal case under part 3 of Art. 285 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, and even was his subordinate. In November 2010, he replaced Altynbaev as Head of the Pyt-Yakh DIA. Prior to that, Kovtun helmed the criminal police in the same DIA. Altynbaev then went to the DIA of the Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous District, where he became in charge of the investigation department. Apropos, a fairly large number of ‘skeletons in the closet’ are associated with Altynbaev's service in KhMAO. It so happened that both Altynbaev and Yury Ruzlyaev (both from the Penza region) coincidently served in the Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous District and were part of the so-called Penza police elite of the Yugra police, which was carefully formed and patronized by the then Head of the MIA Main Directorate of KhMAO Nikolay Gudozhnikov (also comes from Penza). General Gudozhnikov constantly backed his townsmen and favored them. It is known that Altynbaev suddenly climbed up the career ladder exactly one month before the dismissal of Gudozhnikov - from the Head of the Pyt-Yakh DIA Altynbaev rose to the Deputy Head of the police.

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Nikolay Gudozhnikov

The experts then pointed out that this appointment became a kind of guarantee for the immunity of this employee, after the General's contract with the MIA expired. After all, according to sources in law enforcement agencies, Altynbaev did not excel in anything special for the whole period of his service, on the contrary, it is believed that during his years of service the city of Pyt-Yakh acquired the title of the capital of the drug mafia of Western Siberia. At the same time, it was transparently said that the top of the city's security department covers up local drug lord Misha Sedoy. In 2009, there occurred a situation when a search in the garage of the wholesale trafficker turned up police documents for official use, including plans for activities of local department for countering trafficking in drugs. However, subsequently this evidence disappeared from the garage of Sedoy without a trace. A criminal case was not instituted in connection with the disappearance of evidence, nor was there an official check - it was obvious that these documents could be toxic for the leadership of the local police. Also, according to the information of the former subordinates of Altynbaev in the Pyt-Yakh DIA, he managed to privatize and sell the office apartment allocated to him by the city administration. It is also unclear what means bought him a Land Cruiser Prado, which was later resold to local businessman Orest Milyan for 1.6 million rubles ($28.2 thousand) with ‘fancy’ numbers 999. It was then that the region began to talk about Nikolay Gudozhnikov's strange personnel policy with regard to his proxies: promotion and gratitude from the superior fell to the lot of those who were a footstep away from the criminal cases. 

During General Gudozhnikov’s stint as the Khanty-Mansiysk police Head Yury Ruzlyaev ran the Nizhnevartovsk MIA (both relinquished their posts in 2011). In April 2009, deputies of Nizhnevartovsk had serious questions to Ruzlyaev - the Head of the city police was accused of writing out unreasonable bonus payments. One of the initiators of the audit was Vladimir Krepkikh - Vice-President of the group of companies Slavtek, owned by businessman Alexander Peterman. Peterman himself had strained relations with the city's law enforcement agencies at that time as well as further down the line.

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Businessman Alexander Peterman

Besides, during Ruzlyaev’s tenure as the police Head of Nizhnevartovsk, dozens of its residents appealed for help to the governor of KhMAO with a request to bring the ongoing police lawlessness in the city to stop. Ruzlyaev was constantly suspected of corruption, but all the checks went nowhere. Apparently, Gudozhnikov safely shielded his ward. After the Head’s resignation in 2011, Yury Ruzlyaev moved to Moscow, where he headed Presnensky department of the MIA. He immediately got involved in a row. Ruzlyaev was suspected of involvement in the murder of a Nizhnevartovsk businessman, owner of sophisticated private mansions in the center of Moscow, Irkutsk Baikalkredobank, a dozen large and medium-sized companies in Siberia, the Kaluga region and Krasnodar Krai Alexander Vinogradov. The killer shot the businessman on July 31, 2011, when he was on vacation in the Kuban. It was assumed that it was Yury Ruzlyaev who dialed the son of the deceased and proposed to smooth things out quietly. Prior to that, he hampered the investigation in the interests of Vitaly Orekhov, the chief financial adviser to Vinogradov, who was suspected of orchestrating the homicide. This was reported by a number of media outlets, which also surmised that Ruzlyaev could get from Orekhov a two-bedroom apartment worth about 16-17 million rubles ($281.9-299.5 thousand) for the modest sum of 990,000 rubles ($17.4 thousand). Ruzlyaev ostensibly ‘bought’ it a week before the first suspension of the case. However, the assumptions remained mere assumptions.

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Late Alexander Vinogradov

It is still unclear whether it is worthwhile to look for some symbolism in this, however Yury Ruzlyaev lost his current position just like his predecessor – against the background of a corruption scandal involving the theft of budget funds. On September 11, 2013, the Head of the Penza police, Major-General Alexander Kasimkin was removed from office. Exactly two weeks later the Penza Investigative Committee initiated proceedings into the "misuse of budget funds" and "abuse of official authority." In the situation with Kasimkin that took place five years ago, just like in the situation with Altynbaev that happened last year, the MIA Main Directorate of Internal Security officers, who carried out verification activities directly in the MIA Directorate for the Penza region, disclosed unreasonable expenses for the reconstruction, repair and furnishing of the two-story building of the Center for psychological recovery of staff of the regional MIA Directorate.

It unexpectedly transpired that since the establishment of the center in 2009, no regional directorate employee was sent for rehabilitation. The inspectors deem that this indicated the use of the building for other purposes. Retired General Kasimkin acknowledged the fact of using the two-story building of the Center for psychological recovery for personal advantage, that is, he pleaded guilty. Eventually, the ex-Head of the police regional Directorate was not held accountable - after exactly three months from the moment the criminal case was opened the ICR for the Penza region ruled to apply amnesty, declared for the 20th anniversary of the Russian Constitution, for the veteran of the fighting in the North Caucasus and the Chevalier of the Order of Courage. It is unknown whether the participants of the current corruption scandal will be lucky and whether they will fall under another amnesty. However, both cases testify to a sad tendency - the Penza police reverently respect (or have respected to this day) the corruption traditions. Therefore, what is happening in Penza today can only be called a sweeping purge of security agencies.

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Alexander Kasimkin, Ex-Head of the Penza police, Major-General

With this background, the statement of the Head of the regional ICR Oleg Troshin that he voluntarily resigns in May looks ambiguous. Although, as he said, he planned this step a year ago, this explanation in the context of what happened to the leadership of the police department is more like an attempt to excuse - the forthcoming resignation is obvious, so it is necessary to justify it somehow. Everyone is used to the fact that the replacement of regional power elites, especially if any of its representatives is complicit in a criminal case, is complex now. Therefore, it is possible that Oleg Troshin leaves the post not voluntarily, but due to circumstances. Which ones exactly? People argue that the reason for leaving may be work of representatives of the capital's ICR in the case of auto dealer Yugo-Zapadny (Southwest) and its owner Mikhail Glebov, who openly accused local investigators of corruption.

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