Demise of taiga emperor: Head of Buryatia to answer for furniture and lies
Vyacheslav Nagovitsyn, the Head of the Republic of Buryatia, has been in charge of the region for almost ten years. During this entire period, he has always been on thin ice – too often his name was mentioned in relation to corruption scandals. But every time Nagovitsyn had surprisingly managed to get off the hook. However, amid recent events, he might not be able to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his rule in June 2017 – clouds are piling up over the sovereign of Buryatia.
Under the leadership of Nagovitsyn, the republic has entered the year of 2017 at the ‘financial bottom’. The Agency of Political and Economic Communications (APEC) Fund close to the Presidential Administration and the National Research University Higher School of Economics put Buryatia on the lowest position in the rating of 85 regions of Russia. The experts believe that the management efficiency in the republic is record low with no trends for improvement. Furthermore, the situation is about to get worse – Buryatia is on the verge of a major crisis. According to the Buryat Parliament – the People’s Khural – the budget deficit in 2017 will be 2.242 billion rubles, while the sovereign debt – 15.2 billion rubles. In addition, Buryat media outlets report that the Government led by Nagovitsyn takes out loans in commercial banks and already owes them some 5 billion rubles.
Vyacheslav Nagovitsyn, Head of the Republic of Buryatia
It appears that Vyacheslav Nagovitsyn is facing hard times. Due to a number of reasons, various groups of people and political opponents unanimously demand his resignation. Apart from everything else, he is a witness in a high-profile criminal case related to larcenies of written-off furniture, where Aleksander Suchkov, former Director of the Economic and Transport Complex of the Administration of the Head of the Republic of Buryatia State Budgetary Institution, is the main suspect. The involvement of Nagovitsyn into this crime is obvious: the stolen written-off furniture has been ‘found’ in the apartment belonging to his sister – so his witness status in this criminal case might change to a suspect pretty soon.
Man of his word
After the appointment of Nagovitsyn the President of the Republic of Buryatia (this position had this name in the past) in 2007, he has announced in public his intention to sell the home in Tomsk (where he had been working as a Deputy Governor for 8 years) and purchase a residence in Buryatia.
“To dispel any doubts: I am here permanently,” – flatly stated the new Head of the Republic.
And Nagovitsyn has not only kept his promise – but even exceeded it twice. Immediately after the appointment of the new President of Buryatia instead of Leonid Potapov, the Republican Administration has purchased for 8 million rubles a townhouse with the living space of 185 square meters located at 97 Tobolskaya street in Ulan-Ude for his family.
But Nagovitsyn did not settle in this townhouse (allegedly it was inconvenient for him to ride to work through traffic jams) – and his sister Olga Vladimirovna Zaitseva, who had arrived from Uzbekistan, started living there.
The Head of Buryatia has chosen Sotnikovo settlement in the Ivolginsky district – where his predecessor had a residence – as the permanent place of living. The former home of Potapov in its original condition was not suitable for the family of Nagovitsyn – so they moved in it after the completion of renovations at the cost of 13 million rubles covered by the republican budget. Everything seemed fine: two homes at the public expense – one in the city and the other one in the country – but this was not enough for the Head of Buryatia.
Nagovitsyn decided to build in Sotnikovo a VIP residence for important guests visiting the republic. In 2009, retired major general Aleksander Suchkov has been appointed the Director of the Economic and Transport Complex of the Administration of the President of the Republic of Buryatia and started performing his first assignment as the loyal quartermaster of Nagovitsyn.
The President of Buryatia was actively involved into the design and construction of the guest house; his opinion was so important that Natalia Gryaznova, head of the Buryatgrazhdanproekt design company, had to make a special trip to Tomsk to study local architecture – to ensure that the new President of Buryatia and his family feel themselves ‘at home’. And ultimately the Nagovitsyn family have settled in this ‘guest house’ – which had never been used for accommodation of VIP visitors.
The original project cost of the mansion was enormous for the region – some 200 million rubles; then it has been reduced almost twice. Nagovitsyn has reasonably supposed that the Government won’t approve such an amount. Ultimately he accused Buryatgrazhdanproekt Open Joint Stock Company of exact copying his home in Tomsk and rejected their project. As a result, the project bureau hasn’t received its money, and the project was transferred to Project Baikal Architecture Workshop Limited Liability Company – who managed to accommodate all the numerous customer wishes in the frameworks of a budget of 62 million rubles.
Even with the reduced budget, the guest house for VIP visitors was truly splendid: the total living space of 500 square meters, sauna, swimming pool 10 meters long, billiard room, and elevator. Rare woods for interior finishes were delivered from Irkutsk, while the furniture – from Italy. According to the documents, the cost to connect the home to the Internet was 600 thousand rubles. Retired general Suchkov was in charge of the construction (recorded in the budget expenses as “reconstruction”).
But in January 2014, a criminal case has been initiated against Suchkov under Article 285.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (spending budgetary funds for the wrong purposes) in relation to the construction of the ‘guest house’ – where the presidential family has been enjoying life for more than two years already.
The investigation has found that instead of the reconstruction (as it was recorded in the financial documents), a new home had been built. There were no provisions in the budget for this construction. According to the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR), the budget of the Economic and Transport Complex of the Administration of the Head of the Republic of Buryatia for the years of 2012 and 2013 did not include capital construction expenses. Therefore, the allocation of funds for the construction of the residence for Nagovitsyn in Sotnikovo has been recognized illegal. Suchkov has admitted his guilt in full and explained the construction of the ‘guest house’ by his own initiative – this is how he has got in the dock because of Nagovitsyn for the first time.
Buryat court is the most humane court in the world
Then absolute miracles have started. The trial of the Director of the Economic and Transport Complex of the Administration of the Head of the Republic of Buryatia was a ‘motorcade of generosity’. Suchkov was found guilty of misuse of 62 million budget rubles and sentenced to a fine of 300 thousand rubles (!!!) with deprivation of the right to occupy governmental and economic managerial positions for two years. The former general was a truly lucky person: immediately after the sentencing, in November 2015, he has been pardoned “due to the 70th anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941–1945”. His conviction and criminal record have been expunged.
Aleksander Suchkov in the courtroom
In other words, the first criminal case against Aleksander Suchkov has resulted in a happy end for him. After the entry of the court decision into effect, he has even returned to his previous position. However, according to a CrimeRussia source, he returned only to ‘tie up the loose ends’.
Colleagues of Suchkov note that during this period of his work in the Economic and Transport Complex of the Administration of the Head of the Republic, he had expressed much interest to assets of the Buryat Government, reviewed estimates and other documents. However, in April 2015 he has been fired permanently, and some time later, a new criminal case was initiated against him.
Alienation of the river
At the same time, Vyacheslav Nagovitsyn continued living in the luxury mansion worth 62 million rubles and illegally built at the public expense.
According to some sources, his family has also been using the home of Potapov, the ex-President of Buryatia. Apparently, the Head of the Republic has told the truth when promised to settle in Buryatia permanently because he continues establishing a ‘family seat’ in Sotnikovo.
Home in Sotnikovo
As the CrimeRussia reported earlier, this fall the Federal Service for Supervision of Nature Resource Use (Rosprirodnadzor) was notified that some unknown people had blocked public access to the Selenga River in Sotnikovo with concrete bricks.
Rosprirodnadzor had initially launched an administrative case under Article 8.12.1 of the Code of Administrative Offenses of the Russian Federation due to the fact of hindering free access of citizens to a public domain water body – but then it has suddenly lost corpus delicti in it. Then the Environmental Prosecutor's Office has become aware that the fact of blocking access to the river was concealed from it and assumed this case. Konstantin Dremov, Head of Rosprirodnadzor of the Republic of Buryatia, has been reprimanded, while his subordinate responsible for the failure to report the offence to the watchdog authority was penalized. There is no official information yet who could be interested in this, but the investigation of the East-Baikal Inter-District Environmental Prosecutor's Office is still ongoing. According to the CrimeRussia source, results of this investigation might be announced concurrently with the resolution of a number of criminal cases involving – so far, indirectly – the Head of Buryatia.
On October 1, 2015, a criminal case has been initiated due to the fictitious writing-off some 20 units of furniture and appliances from the former residence of Nagovitsyn at 97 Tobolskaya street (the townhouse provided by the ruler of Buryatia to his sister for living).
Initially, Aleksander Suchkov was not considered a suspect in this case – although the chattels had been removed from the governmentally-owned home following his instructions. Originally the ICR has initiated a case against Nikolai Suchkov, a subordinate and namesake of Aleksander Suchkov, who had chaired the commission for writing-off the furniture and signed fake writing-off and disposal certificates for the chattels used by Olga Zaitseva, the sister of Nagovitsyn.
In the framework of this investigation, Vladimir Lyukshin, Head of the Department of Special Cases of the Investigations Directorate in the Republic of Buryatia of the ICR, has decided to question Vyacheslav Nagovitsyn. On October 16, 2015, the Head of Buryatia has testified that his sister Olga Zaitseva had arrived to Ulan-Ude in 2008 nearly with a single handbag. However, according to Nagovitsyn, he and his sister had moved out from the residence on Tobolskaya street simultaneously. He moved to Sotnikovo, while his sister – to a new apartment located on Tereshkovoi street.
Nagovitsyn has testified that in winter 2012–2013, he had seen the furniture – whose disappearance has resulted in the criminal case – in the new apartment of his sister. And it was already damaged at that time. According to Nagovitsyn, during his living in the townhouse on Tobolskaya street, there were five or six plumbing accidents – so the furniture and appliances had been damaged by moisture.
Referring to his sister, Nagovitsyn has stated that it was Aleksander Suchkov who had asked Olga Zaitseva to “temporarily keep” the governmentally-owned chattels in her new apartment. Allegedly, Nagovitsyn had not expressed further interest to the fate of the furniture and appliances until 2013, when Suchkov has become aware of the ‘damages’ and noted that “every property damage incident must be illustrated by photos”. Then the Head of Buryatia has allegedly “paid for the damages” by buying out the items stored in the apartment of his sister at the price of new chattels – 563 thousand rubles.
However, further testimonies of Aleksander Suchkov did not confirm the statement of the Head of Buryatia that he had nothing to do with the relocation of the furniture. The discrepancy between the testimonies has resulted in searches in the apartment of Zaitseva – who had moved to Obninsk by that time – and later in the office of Nagovitsyn. After the searches, the second criminal case has been initiated against Aleksander Suchkov due to the misappropriation of the furniture.
Drawing the noose
2016 was a troublesome year for Vyacheslav Nagovitsyn. Even the 60th birthday in March was joyless for his: in addition to chronically poor positions in gubernatorial ratings, he has become a member of the group of some 30 ‘aged (60+) governors’ – primary candidates for retirement. According to Profil magazine, all of them are facing retirement by the end of 2017.
However, the upcoming retirement is nothing in comparison with troubles faced by Nagovitsyn in the light of the newly-discovered facts in the framework of the three criminal cases.
Because of Nagovitsyn, Suchkov has fallen under investigation again – but this time he did not want to be the ‘scapegoat’. He has provided several testimonies that completely change the role of Nagovitsyn not only in the episode with the larceny of furniture for his sister, but also in the very first criminal case related to the illegal spending of budget funds for the ‘guest house’ construction in Sotnikovo.
On June 29, 2016, during the very first questioning in the framework of the second ‘furniture case’, in the presence of his attorney, the ex-Director of the Economic and Transport Complex of the Administration of the Head of the Republic of Buryatia, has officially ‘turned in’ the former boss. Suchkov told that Nagovitsyn, on the insistence of his spouse, has purchased in 2012 an apartment for his sister in Ulan-Ude. Then he verbally instructed Suchkov to provide a crew and transport to help Zaitseva to move the furniture to her new residence. Suchkov, being a retired officer, has fulfilled the order without questions – and now Nagovitsyn has to explain the investigators his false testimonies in 2012 and 2013. It was announced that the Head of Buryatia is to be questioned any time soon.
The first criminal case against Suchkov has been suddenly recalled at the most inappropriate moment for Nagovitsyn. Novaya Buryatia independent newspaper has fueled the flame in November by publishing a series of handwritten documents related to the construction of the ‘guest house’ in Sotnikovo – which the Head of the Republic was allegedly totally unaware of.
Detailed instructions on small interior details completely disprove the initial statement of Nagovitsyn that the construction of the mansion was an initiative of his subordinate Suchkov. The characteristic handwriting of the Head of Buryatia is easily recognizable.
In October 2016, Vyacheslav Markhaev, a member of the Council of the Federation, has submitted an official letter to Vladimir Putin asking to investigate the role of Nagovitsyn in a series of corruption scandals.
In his letter, the Senator has noted that Aleksander Suchkov, the ex-Director of the Economic and Transport Complex of the Administration of the Head of the Republic of Buryatia, was convicted illegally because of false testimonies of Nagovitsyn in the ‘guest house’ criminal case.
The member of the Council of the Federation has also reminded about the new testimonies provided by Suchkov against Nagovitsyn in the framework of the ‘furniture’ case and asked the President to commit the investigation of these facts to the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation and ICR. The Kremlin Administration has responded to the Senator that his letter had been transferred to the Prosecutor General’s Office and the watchdog authority is already checking the facts provided in it.
The special services believe that Russian Interior Ministry officials could have cooperated with the press to sell passport applications and border-crossing data of the two men suspected of poisoning the Skripals in Salisbury.