Dagestan: Pre-election ‘purge’ 2.0
The large-scale anti-corruption campaign carried out in Dagestan in winter, shortly before the Presidential elections, drew praise among the people and boosted public confidence in the government. According to The CrimeRussia sources, another similar blow is to be delivered to corrupt officials in the republic in anticipation of the regional elections scheduled to September 2018. Vladimir Vasiliev, Interim Acting Head of Dagestan, is going to participate in these elections. In fact, the second round of the ‘purge’ is already ongoing in the ‘background mode’.
Six months ago, Dagestan was severely shaken – in a few days, key governmental functionaries of the republic have relocated from ministerial offices to prison cells. Dozens of corrupt officials were criminally charged and dismissed, while some of them even went on the run. On the contrary, the population of one of the poorest Russian regions had appreciated the changes.
According to a well-aware source in a Transcaucasian public organization, another massive blow is to be delivered to the ruling Dagestani elite in a few weeks.
Vladimir Vasiliev, Interim Acting Head of the Republic of Dagestan
The source claims that the political momentum now coincides with the righteous cause – elimination of clannish corruption so pervasive in the republic. Both Vladimir Vasiliev and President Vladimir Putin had repeatedly noted that the anti-corruption struggle won’t be limited to the ‘February purge’.
Russian citizens got used to such coincidences – the winter anti-corruption campaign in Dagestan was carried out right before the Presidential elections, while the initial success of the Russian national team at the 2018 FIFA World Cup – defeat of Saudi Arabia with five goals to nil – has coincided with the announcement of the retirement age increase.
Retired police colonel general Vladimir Abdualievich Vasiliev, ex-Minister of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation and ex-Chairman of the Security Committee of the State Duma, has been appointed the Interim Acting Head of the Republic of Dagestan on October 3, 2017 by Vladimir Putin. On the same day, Putin has accepted the early resignation of Ramazan Abdulatipov, previous head of the republic. The official reason for the resignation was his age (on August 4, Abdulatipov turns 72; Vasiliev is younger by 3 years); however, according to an RBK Group’s source in the Russian Government, the former Head of the Republic of Dagestan has submitted a voluntary resignation letter immediately after being summoned to the Kremlin on an urgent basis. Political experts believe that his resignation was caused by the very low rating of Abdulatipov (only 16% of Dagestani people had approved his work) and high corruption level in the republic. On October 6, 2017, Vladimir Vasiliev dismissed the Government of Dagestan and Executive Office of the Head and Government of the Republic and appointed the cabinet members interim acting ministers pending the formation of a new government.
According to the Dagestani TV, on June 30, Vladimir Vasiliev has announced his intention to run for the Head of Dagestan at the Strategic Session on the Republican Transport and Logistics Complex held in Makhachkala. On July 24, the General Council of Edinaya Rossia (United Russia) Party has nominated him for that post, thus, confirming yet another ‘coincidence’.
Vladimir Putin visits Dagestan
The Head of Dagestan is to be elected on the Single Voting Day – September 9, 2018. Vladimir Putin has dispatched Vasiliev to Dagestan almost a year before that date.
"And then, a lot will depend on yourself and events to occur in the forthcoming year. Because ultimately, representatives of the Dagestani people have to make the decision," – the President said at that time.
According to political expert Akhmet Yarlykapov, it is not typical for the Kremlin to appoint somebody an interim acting head for an entire year – especially when an outsider is dispatched to put things to order and his term of office expires right before the republican elections.
While speaking about his nomination at the Strategic Session, Vasiliev has specially noted how important for him is the public trust.
The CrimeRussia source has emphasized though that the credit of trust granted to Vasiliev by Dagestani people hopeful of bringing order to the republic is not unlimited.
Despite the winter anti-corruption campaign targeting the ruling elite groups, the corruption and clannish approach to the distribution of life essentials are still in place in Dagestan. The taxation situation – earlier designated one of the main problems in the republic by Vasiliev – hasn’t improved. The region remains in poverty and is one of the three most subsidized ones – federal subsidies constitute 70% of the consolidated republican budget; some 59 billion rubles ($936.9 million) have already been transferred to Dagestan during the rule of Vladimir Vasiliev.
The public activist notes that the corruption schemes created in years cannot be overcome by one ‘outsider’ – even an efficient politician and powerful law enforcement functionary. According to The CrimeRussia source, it is now optimal time to deliver another massive blow to corruption in Dagestan.
The anti-corruption ‘purge’ has started in Dagestan in January 2018 with arrests of Makhachkala Mayor Musa Musaev and Chief Architect Magomedrasul Gitinov. It reached the peak on February 5. After a series of searches, operatives of the Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation dispatched from Moscow have arrested in the night Interim Acting Prime Minister Abdusamad Gamidov, Interim Acting Vice Prime Ministers Shamil Isaev and Rayudin Yusufov, and ex-Minister of Education Shakhabas Shakov. Immediately after the arrest, they were transported to Moscow by a special flight and detained on the next day on suspicion of several swindling episodes (part 4 of Article 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). On the same day, Vladimir Vasiliev, Interim Acting Head of the Republic of Dagestan, has dismissed the republican government and instructed the ministers to continue working pending the appointment of their successors. By that time, an interdepartmental commission of the Prosecutor General’s Office and Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR) chaired by Ivan Sydoruk, Deputy Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation, had been working in the republic for more than two weeks already. Concurrently, a commission of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the Russian Federation consisting of operatives of the MIA General Administration of Internal Security and HR Administration of the MIA General Administration for the City of Moscow, as well as officers of the Central FSB Headquarters, were running investigative actions in the republic as well. In the course of the ‘sweeping purge’, the commission of the Prosecutor General’s Office and ICR has inspected 19 republican ministries and agencies and five municipalities. As of February 13, 2017, some 2.5 thousand violations were identified, more than 70 criminal and 433 administrative cases instituted, and mass concealment of crimes by Dagestani law enforcement structures with the purpose to improve their performance parameters uncovered.
Public activists believe that the second wave of the ‘purge’ has already begun – although without much fuss; PR mechanisms are to be turned on closer to the elections.
Similarly with the winter campaign, the federal center provides great support to Vladimir Vasiliev in his struggle against Dagestani clans. According to political expert Evgeny Minchenko, “Vasiliev has a carte blanche to get support from federal law enforcement structures and other ministries”. The Interim Acting Head of the Republic of Dagestan and all his steps “are closely monitored by the President personally”. The frequency of meetings between Putin and Vasiliev confirms this – they had met four times in the last nine months. During the last meeting in the Kremlin on July 10, Vasiliev has reported inter alia the prosecution of more than 200 Dagestani officials for violations of the anti-corruption legislation.
Political expert Evgeny Minchenko
The CrimeRussia source believes that the current priorities of the ‘purge’ – struggle against illegal distribution of lands and fake pensions – are to going to be supplemented by several new ones, including the tax evasion problem. On June 12, Umakhan Dzhabrailov, Head of the Department for the Republic of Dagestan of the Federal Tax Service of Russia, has left his office; according to the source, he may be criminally charged soon.
Umakhan Dzhabrailov, ex-Head of the Department for the Republic of Dagestan of the Federal Tax Service of Russia
On these days, a departmental commission dispatched from Moscow is going to start auditing the Department for the Republic of Dagestan of the Federal Tax Service. Vladimir Vasiliev told at the meeting with Putin that inspectors of the Federal Service for Surveillance in Healthcare (Roszdravnadzor) and Federal Antimonopoly Service are already working in the region. Officers of the Bank of Russia don’t waste time as well – last week, the interim administration of El'bin Bank, a ‘family bank’ of ex-Interim Acting Prime Minister Abdusamad Gamidov, has discovered, in the course of an inquest into its financial affairs, embezzlements of clients’ funds and submitted the materials to the Prosecutor General’s Office, MIA, and ICR. The license of the Makhachkala-based bank has been annulled on April 26, 2018, and its owners and former managers are now facing criminal prosecution.
Abdusamad Gamidov, ex-Interim Acting Prime Minister of Dagestan (on the left)
The source expects the same scenario to unfold in the automobile passenger transportation sphere throughout the republic, including Makhachkala. According to Chernovik.net portal, during a meeting with Isalmagomed Nabiev, Chairman of the Regional Independent Professional Union of Entrepreneurs and Drivers, a few days ago, Vladimir Vasiliev has emphasized the need to interfere into this corrupt sector whose ‘shady turnover’, according to MIA operatives, amounts to 15 million rubles ($238.2 thousand) per month.
Earlier controlled by Said Amirov, ex-Mayor of Makhachkala, currently serving a life term for a number of crimes, including preparation of assassination of Sagid Murtazaliev, Head of the Dagestani Branch of the Russian Pension Fund, this sector has been divided after the arrest of Amirov into five shares belonging, according to Chernovik.net, to Ramazan Abdulatipov, ex-Head of Dagestan, and Musa Musaev, ex-Mayor of Makhachkala, detained for 3 months by the court last week. The former mayor has been charged with machinations with federal lands resulting in damages to the Dagestani budget totaling some 80 million rubles ($1.3 million).
Musa Musaev, ex-Mayor of Makhachkala
The recent searches and arrest of Kurban Kurbanov, Deputy Mayor of Makhachkala and Head of the Municipal Administration of Architecture and Urban Planning, are also linked with the criminal case against Musaev.
Kurban Kurbanov, Deputy Mayor of Makhachkala
The clan of Ramazan Abdulatipov, ex-Head of Dagestan, involving at least 100 his relatives, former neighbors, and fellow villagers holding key posts in Dagestan is ‘taking casualties’ as well. On July 5, Askhabali Abdulatipov, nephew of the ex-Head of Dagestan, who was in charge of Avtokhozyaistvo State Budgetary Institution (former garage of the Dagestani Council of Ministers) for five years, has been arrested in the framework of a swindling criminal case. Earlier, in June, Radzhab Abdulatipov, brother of the ex-Head of Dagestan, who was in charge of the Department for the Republic of Dagestan of the Federal Tax Service in 2006–2016, has been arrested by FSB operatives while attempting to fly abroad from Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow. According to Karaulny (@karaulny) Telegram channel, Radzhab Abdulatipov has been charged in the framework of a corruption case and later released under a written pledge not to leave the city. Ramazan Abdulatipov, ex-Head of Dagestan, has refuted the information about the arrest of his brother.
According to Rosbalt sources, the arrest of Ramazan Aliev, ex-First Vice Premier of Dagestan, is also linked with the inquest of the law enforcement authorities against Ramazan Abdulatipov – Aliev was in charge of his administration for many years. Members of clan Abdulatipov hold superior posts in the Republican Ministry of Health as well – therefore, it became one of the top-priority targets of the ‘purge’ 2.0. On July 7, FSB operatives have arrested in Makhachkala Tanka Ibragimov, ex-Minister of Health of the Republic of Dagestan, while Ibragimov’s son-in-law Nurmagomed Alkhasov, owner of a popular republican pharmacy chain, charged in the framework of a criminal case instituted for embezzlement of budget funds allocated for acquisition of medical equipment, has hastily fled Russia and is supposedly hiding in the United Arab Emirates.
Tanka Ibragimov, ex-Minister of Health of the Republic of Dagestan
Ashik Makhachev, head of a territorial medical and social assessment bureau and brother of Magomed Makhachev, ex-Head of the General Medical and Social Assessment Bureau of the Republic of Dagestan, has been arrested in Dagestan on July 23 on suspicion of creation of a criminal community. According to the investigation, Makhachev and several his subordinates made the issuance of fake disability certificates in exchange for bribes a smoothly-running business.
No new commissions from the Prosecutor General’s Office (like the one dispatched in January) are currently expected in the region – the republican watchdog authority under the rule of Denis Popov, ex-Prosecutor of the Republic of Khakassia, has got clear instructions and should do things on its own. It is not a secret however that law enforcement officers from Moscow are currently working in Dagestan.
Operatives of the Central FSB Headquarters demonstrate the most intense activity – on July 11, they have performed searches and seized documents at Rychal-Su mineral water plants and Mever Mineral Water Plant Open Joint Stock Company, whose beneficiary is former Derbent Mayor Imam Yaraliev, in the framework of a major tax evasion case.
According to tv360 Channel citing its sources in the republican law enforcement authorities, several days later, the same group of FSB officers have searched the Administration of the Suleyman-Stalsky District of Dagestan. On July 26, operatives of the Central FSB Headquarters have performed searches and seized documents in the Ministry of Labor and Social Development of Dagestan, including the offices of Acting Minister Rasul Ibragimov and several his deputies. According to RBK Group, these operative actions pertained to financial violations totaling 700 million rubles ($11.1 million).
Imam Yaraliev, ex-Mayor of Derbent
In addition to the insider information and a number of objective factors, the statements made by Vladimir Vasiliev, Interim Acting Head of the Republic of Dagestan, also directly indicate the inevitability of the second wave of the ‘Dagestani storm’. Vasiliev had openly announced his intentions from the very beginning. Immediately after his appointment to Dagestan, the former police general has warned the ministers that he is going to review the situation in the republic and hold everybody accountable for his deeds. Vasiliev has accomplished his promise and those who hadn’t believed him have relocated to Lefortovo Pretrial Detention Facility.
Alexander Matovnikov, Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the North Caucasus Federal District
At a press conference held after a conversation with Alexander Matovnikov, Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the North Caucasus Federal District, on July 19, the Interim Acting Head of the Republic of Dagestan has announced the second stage of the anti-corruption campaign and formation of a new personnel reserve through attraction of specialists from other regions to the republic.
“You see that the ‘purge’ of the top echelons of power is ongoing. It is not completed yet. Only after overcoming the adverse corruption and bribery processes, we can say so. But the goal is not limited to prosecution; the goal is to change the situation,” – Vasiliev said.
The tone of his voice at governmental sessions is menacing and warning – i.e. boding nothing good to the officials. At one of the last panels, he said that those reluctant to understand his message “not to confuse the state budget with personal money” are to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. He suggested those “who haven’t stopped yet to make right conclusions”. Vasiliev has specially noted that not only the main perpetrators of such crimes as embezzlements, bribery, and creation of criminal communities, will be prosecuted – but the entire chain of their accomplices and associates, whose revenues and expenses are subject to scrupulous audit, as well.