Drawing the noose. Possible implications of 'sweeping purge' for Ramazan Abdulatipov's clan
After scaring Dagestan with inspections, arrests, and searches, the interdepartmental commission of the Prosecutor General’s Office and ICR has identified key priorities for the regional watchdog authority. After the crackdown on the old clan-based system, the management reforms became more constructive – however, another wave of criminal cases, terminations, and arrests is expected in the republic. The CrimeRussia was figuring out what other Dagestani officials are currently at risk.
An unprecedented ‘sweeping purge’ of the Dagestani political elite has entered a new phase last week. According to The CrimeRussia source, the Moscow officials still remain in the organizations and institutions – but the character of the checks is now different. The searches and seizures of documents (vehemently denied by all the Dagestani ministries and agencies) are over; the institutions currently operate normally. However, the auditors are still reviewing the documents and summon local officials for conversations from time to time. The Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Dagestan is gradually taking control over the reduction of things to order in the republic; on February 10, 2018, its new head Denis Popov has been introduced to subordinates by Yuri Chaika, Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation.
Alexander Bastyrkin, Chairman of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR), has visited Makhachkala a day earlier and announced a new phase of the anti-corruption operation. Bastyrkin has held an extended session of the agency involving operatives of the ICR central headquarters and Main Investigations Directorate in the North-Caucasian Federal District. On Friday, February 9, 2018, the Prosecutor General’s Office has delivered a progress report for a fraction of the calendar month. At a session held in Makhachkala, in the presence of Vladimir Vasiliev, Interim Acting Head of the Republic, and Yuri Chaika, Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation, the interdepartmental commission of the Prosecutor General’s Office and ICR has reported the scope of violations committed in the recent years in virtually all the republican governmental structures and institutions. Dagestan is traditionally known as a region affected by clannish corruption, but the first results of the probes have shocked not only the federal center, but ordinary residents of the republic as well.
The CrimeRussia source in a North-Caucasian public organization believes that the decades of national quota-based management system made corruption so trivial and widespread practice in the republic that the prosecutors didn’t have to dig far down – vitiated by its impunity, the local elite hadn’t even tried to cover up traces of crimes during the rule of Ramazan Abdulatipov. Furthermore, upon the arrival of retired police major general Vladimir Vasiliev to Dagestan after the resignation of Abdulatipov, some people had tried to give him an envelope with unknown contents during a meeting with journalists on January 13, 2018 in the hope of receiving a national grant for the local media. “In other words, they have lost all sense of fear,” – the public activist concluded.
Lose the fear and to reap the whirlwind
Since mid-January 2018, the prosecutors’ commission dispatched from Moscow has inspected 19 republican ministries and agencies and 5 municipalities. Based on the inspection results, in addition to Interim Acting Prime Minister Abdusamad Gamidov, two his deputies, and ex-Minister of Health arrested on February 5, 2018, dozens of officials of various levels are expected to be prosecuted in the observable future as well. Local law enforcement functionaries who had ‘overlooked’ the numerous offences for years are facing the same fate.
According to Ivan Sydoruk, Deputy Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation, as of February 13, 2018, the interdepartmental commission of the Prosecutor General’s Office and ICR has identified some 2.5 thousand offences and instituted over 70 criminal and 433 administrative cases. A mass concealment of crimes by the Dagestani law enforcement authorities with the purpose to improve performance parameters has been uncovered. The commission has identified 70 such crimes, including 3 crimes of a terrorist nature. Sydoruk has provided the criminal case against Magomedrasul Gitinov, Chief Architect of Makhachkala, as an example. The case has been instituted only after a request from the Prosecutor General’s Office – although the local law enforcement structures were aware of the abuses of official powers committed by Gitinov six months ago. The officials guilty of such a connivance at his offences are facing prosecution as well.
The prosecutors have uncovered numerous and serious violations in the governmental acquisitions sphere. Top managers of the Public Road System Agency, Directorate of Integrated Customer-Builder State Budgetary Institution, and Makhachkala Administration for Housing and Communal Services, who had awarded contracts worth in total 3.8 billion rubles ($67.1 million) without tenders, may be criminally charged pretty soon. On February 13, 2018, a neglect of duty case has been instituted against officials of the republican branch of the Federal Treasury for episodes pertaining to illegal management of public funds during the distribution of governmental and municipal contracts worth in total 2.8 billion rubles ($42.4 million). The commission found that the Ministry of Labor and Social Development has spent 740 million rubles ($13.1 million) on contracts awarded to a relative of one of its officials. Embezzlements of budget funds allocated for agroindustrial and small business grants, public employment services, and mandatory health insurance have been uncovered as well.
Heads of the regional branch of the Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resource Usage (Rosprirodnadzor) are facing criminal prosecution for turning a blind eye to sewage runoffs to the Caspian Sea. Waste waters were discharged into the sea within the city boundaries causing infectious diseases among the population.
An investigation against officials of the Federal Service for State Registration, Cadastre and Cartography (Rosreestr) is currently pending. The commission has uncovered numerous episodes of illegal registration of agreements of purchase and sale of commercial premises and land lots made without tenders and without state cadastral registration – Rosreestr has officially recorded fewer than half of lands in Dagestan. Numerous squatting episodes, illegal land transfers to third parties, and illegal issuance of permits have been identified. According to Ivan Sydoruk, the total damages sustained due to the poor performance of Rosreestr exceed 143 million rubles ($2.5 million) – the republican cadastral sphere is a total mess.
Yuri Chaika, Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation, has noted that mansions of the republican leaders and other high-ranked officials have been built in the water protection zone on the Caspian Sea shore and block access to many kilometers of the shoreline. The illegal buildings on the shore were legalized by a majority of votes of the People's Assembly of Dagestan during the rule of President Mukhu Aliev.
According to Derbent Russian Information Agency, mansions of Interim Acting Prime Minister Abdusamad Gamidov and Shakhabas Shakov, ex-Minister of Education and Science, arrested on February 5, are located on the seashore between Kaspiisk and Makhachkala. The home of Ramazan Abdulatipov, ex-Head of Dagestan, is located there as well. In November 2017, armed guards of Abdulatipov hadn’t allowed representatives of the All-Russia People’s Front to pass to the sea through the territory adjacent to the home of the former head of the republic.
Location of the homes of Gamidov, Shakov, and Abdulatipov
The inspection has identified over 350 violations of the anti-corruption legislation. Seven deputy ministers, six advisors to supreme republican functionaries, and 14 officials of various ranks were running private businesses.
The Prosecutor General has specially emphasized a distinctive Dagestani issue pertaining to the appointment of supreme functionaries on the basis of the clannish principle. According to Yuri Chaika, the appointments to governmental and municipal posts based on the subordination to and dependence on persons related to each other must be eliminated.
The crackdown on corruption in Dagestan hadn’t initially targeted any specific clan – this is why retired police general Vasiliev was dispatched to the republic by President Putin. However, public activists believe that the clan of Ramazan Abdulatipov, ex-Head of Dagestan, is facing the most severe ‘sweeping purge’ – because its members and allies have been holding key positions in the region in recent years. The CrimeRussia has identified the most likely targets of the forthcoming ‘purge’.
Ramazan Gadzhmuradovich Abdulatipov was the Head of the Republic of Dagestan since September 8, 2013 and until October 3, 2017. Avar by nationality, native of the Tlyarata district. Paramedic by the first education. Since 1973, a functionary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. In 1975, has remotely graduated from the Faculty of History of the Dagestani University. Then took a post-graduate course at the Faculty of Philosophy of Zhdanov Leningrad State University. Professor, Doctor of Philosophy, member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences. Since 1988, a Deputy and diplomat in Moscow. In 2005–2009, a Russian Ambassador to Tajikistan. Since, 2011, a Deputy of the 6th Convocation of the State Duma of the Russian Federation from Edinaya Rossia (United Russia) Party. In January 2013 appointed the Acting President of Dagestan; since September 2013, the Head of the Republic of Dagestan. On September 27, 2017, has resigned. The official reasons for resignation were the attainment of the maximum age (Abdulatipov turns 72 this year) and the Kremlin’s human resource rejuvenation policy. However, political experts believe that Abdulatipov had to resign due to a number of other reasons, including a very low rating (only 16% of the Dagestan residents had favored his performance) and high corruption level in the republic. Since October 19, 2017, a Special Envoy of the Russian President for Humanitarian and Economic Cooperation with the Caspian States.
Traditionally for the Caucasian states, the ex-head of the republic has a big family, including eight brothers and sisters. All of them have adult children and even grown-up grandchildren. According to Ramazan Abdulatipov, he has at least 100 closest relatives – let alone numerous in-laws, cousins, and fellow countrymen. For all of them, he had found cushy jobs – both in power structures and affiliated businesses.
For instance, 34-year-old Dzhamal Abdulatipov, the eldest son of the ex-head of the republic, has been appointed a Vice Mayor of Kaspiisk two months after the appointment of his father the Head of Dagestan. Dzhamal has replaced on that post Yusup Dzhaparov, nephew of Said Amirov, ex-Mayor of Makhachkala and main political opponent of Abdulatipov, after the conviction of the uncle and nephew for plotting an assassination attempt against Sagid Murtazaliev, ex-Head of the Dagestani Branch of the Pension Fund of the Russian Federation.
In December 2017, the Federal Antimonopoly Service has launched 12 cases against the Kaspiisk Administration for violations committed during the re-zoning of 12 land lots with a total area over 30 thousand square meters. In addition, the prosecutors’ probe has identified violations pertaining to the construction of high-rise buildings in Kaspiisk, and its Mayor’s Office had to annul amendments to the Master Plan of Kaspiisk following a request from the watchdog authority.
In 2013, 26-year-old student Abdulatip Abdulatipov, a younger brother of Dzhamal, became an Advisor to the Head of the Executive Office of the Administration of the Head and Government of the Republic of Dagestan. Currently he is working in the republican representation office in Moscow. He is known as the unofficial owner of Eco-M cleaning company – a monopolist that was in the center of a scandal in 2016, after a backflow of waste waters from uncleared dump sites to the municipal water supply system during the rain season. No one was punished at that time, but, according to The CrimeRussia source, the company – winner of numerous governmental and municipal contracts – is currently facing troubles both with the Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resource Usage (Rosprirodnadzor) and in relation to the governmental contracts awarded to it.
Ramazan Abdulatipov’s son-in-law Magomed Musaev is the Head of the Executive Committee of the Strategic Council of the Head of the Republic of Dagestan.
He used to be the Direcotr of the All-Russia Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy (VDNKh) for a while and caused a high-profile scandal by selling the space suit of Yuri Gagarin abroad – currently it is kept in the National Air and Space Museum in the U.S. Being the Head of the Executive Committee of the Strategic Council, Musaev had redistributed assets and financial flows and handled top-priority projects. According to some information, an old criminal case instituted against Musaev back in 2014 for embezzlement of 899.4 million of rubles ($15.9 million) allocated for education has been recently resumed. The funds were allocated for meals in the republican multi-profile vocational school and for acquisitions of computers in the framework of the School of the Future Project.
Ramazan Abdulatipov’s brother Radzhab was the Head of the Administration for the Republic of Dagestan of the Federal Migration Service up until 2016. Currently he is the Chairman of the Committee for Education, Science, Culture, Youth Policy, Sports, and Tourism; Deputy of the 6th Convocation of the People's Assembly of Dagestan; and member of the regional political council.
In early February, the Dagestani people and local journalists carrying out an inquest have got some questions to Radzhab Abdulatipov with regards to embezzlements of funds allocated for restoration of historical monuments committed by officials of the Regional Ministry of Culture. Abdulatipov junior is suspected of wrongdoing jointly with Zarema Butaeva, Interim Acting Head of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Dagestan. The suspicions have arisen with regards to a large-scale reconstruction of Naryn-Kala Fortress in anticipation of the 2000th anniversary of Derbent – according to Nezavisimaya Gazeta (Independent Newspaper), the officials could embezzle some 200 million rubles ($3.5 million) in the course of that project.
Ramazan Abdulatipov’s nephew Askhabali Abdulatipov was in charge of Avtokhozyaistvo State Budgetary Institution (former garage of the Dagestani Council of Ministers) since 2013. Currently he is under investigation. Operatives of the Administration for Economic Security and Combating the Corruption of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) for the Republic of Dagestan suspect him of fraud. According to the law enforcement authorities, in February–March 2016 and July 2017, Askhabali Abdulatipov, acting in cahoots with other officials of the institution, has embezzled, using forged documents, budget funds allocated for maintenance of official vehicles.
Magomedrasul Gitinov, uncle of the niece’s husband, was the Chief Architect of Makhachkala. In January 2018, he has been arrested for exceeding official powers shortly after the arrest of Makhachkala Mayor Musa Musaev, a member of Mekegi-based clan of Adbusamad Gamidov allied with the clan of Abdulatipov.
Tagir Mansurov, husband of Ramazan Abdulatipov’s niece, is currently in charge of the Makhachkala Education Department. According to Chernovik.net news portal, the law enforcement authorities suspect him of employing ‘dead souls’. On February 6, during a joint operation of the MIA Administration for Economic Security and Combating the Corruption and Regional Directorate of the Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation, the employment of fictitious staff members Shamil Abdulkadyrov and Rasul Gazaliev was uncovered. According to the operatives, Mansurov and his deputy had received their salaries in the amount of 537.3 thousand rubles ($9.5 thousand).
According to the sources, the clan of Ramazan Abdulatipov included not only his relatives and fellow countrymen, but other people as well – for example, member of Charodinsky clan Shakhabas Shakov, ex-Minister of Education and Science, arrested on February 5.
Many associates of Abdulatipov continue holding high posts in the republic and are above suspicion so far. However, The CrimeRussia source in Dagestan believes that their ‘survival’ during the first ‘sweeping purge wave’ does not make them immune against the forthcoming ‘second wave’. The current tranquility in the republic is an illusion. For instance, a day before the arrest of Adbusamad Gamidov, Vladimir Vasiliev, Interim Acting Head of the Republic, has commended his report – although, according to an RBK Group source in law enforcement structures, Vasiliev was aware of the FSB inquest against the top figures in the republican government since his very appointment.
Another The CrimeRussia source refers to Ekaterina Tolstikova, Interim Acting Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Dagestan and Minister of Land and Property Affairs.
Ekaterina Tolstikova and Makhachkala Mayor Musa Musaev
Tolstikova, who used to be a Deputy Minister of Education of the Russian Federation, has arrived to Dagestan from Moscow in 2016 and worked as a deputy of Adbusamad Gamidov up until the dismissal of the government in October 2017. Then she was appointed the Interim Acting Deputy Prime Minister and in January 2018, has also taken charge of the Republican Ministry of Land and Property Affairs – the previous minister was dismissed by Vasiliev, together with Shakhabas Shakov, “for outrageous performance”.
Tolstikova appeared in the republic with support of Marat Kambolov, ex-Deputy Minister of Education of the Russian Federation, removed from office in 2014 amid a corruption scandal. Kambolov has pushed Tolstikova to the post earlier held by himself.
The female official has quickly settled into the Caucasian realities and joined the team of Abdulatipov and Gamidov. Rumors had circulated in Dagestan that Tolstikova is to be appointed to the post of Shakhov in the Ministry of Education, while he would be offered another chair – but Tolstikova has got a different appointment. Being a deputy of Gamidov, Tolstikova had supervised the education sphere in Dagestan – as she used to do earlier at the federal level – but she came into a conflict with republican teachers over a number of issues and was repeatedly accused of incompetence.
On September 13, the media obtained an internal FSB memo stating that new criminal cases are to be instituted soon against detained Gamidov, Shakhov, Yusufov, and Isaev. According to The CrimeRussia source in Dagestan, being in charge of the education sphere, Tolstikova could not be unaware of corruption schemes run in the Republican Ministry of Education. She might be involved into other criminal cases instituted in the framework of the ‘Dagestani storm’ – on February 10, Muslim Gamzatov, ex-Head of the Department of Continuing Vocational Education of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Dagestan, has been put on the federal wanted list on suspicion of embezzlements and extortion of a bribe. Gamzatov is a nephew of detained Shakhabas Shakov, ex-Minister of Education and Science. It is unknown yet whether the criminal cases instituted against the uncle and nephew are interrelated – but Tolstikova was involved, alongside with them, into all the processes and activities in the Dagestani Ministry of Education.
Shakhabas Shakov and Ekaterina Tolstikova (in the center)
An ‘alarm bell’ has already rung for Tolstikova – after the termination of Shakov, her protege from Moscow Aleksei Karpukhin, Deputy Minister of Education of Dagestan, lost his chair as well. In the past, he was the principal of a Moscow school, and, according to Chernovik.net, gained a reputation of a ‘great schemer’ at that post. The news portal believes that his dismissal is linked with the Moscow period of his career.
The relative stability of Tolstikova in Dagestan – where not a single official feels safe and corruption literally became an element of the national culture – may be explained by a strong support from the federal center. The CrimeRussia source believes that, amid the large-scale ‘sweeping purge’ in Dagestan, questions with regards to some appointments to supreme positions in the republic may arise to Derbent native Artur Zavalunov, former officer of the Presidential Civil Service and Personnel Directorate and currently the Head of the Legal Department of the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation.
By a signal
The majority of criminal cases instituted against Dagestani officials – members of the clan of Abdulatipov – have a common feature. These cases pertain to crimes committed 2–3 years ago. Novaya Gazeta reports, citing its source in secret services, that the evidence has been collected by the Regional FSB Directorate long before the ‘sweeping purge’. The simultaneous institution of numerous cases implies that a signal was received from the federal center.
The CrimeRussia source links the campaign against the clan of Abdulatipov with possible interference of Sagid Murtazaliev, ex-Head of the Dagestani Branch of the Pension Fund of the Russian Federation, arrested in absentia in 2015 on suspicion of terrorism financing and masterminding the assassination of several officials and law enforcement officers.
Sagid Murtazaliev could ‘turn in’ the corrupt leaders of Dagestan in exchange for ‘settling the issue’ with criminal cases instituted against him and a possibility to return to Dagestan where, after the crackdown on the clan of Abdulatipov, its opponents have good political perspectives.
Sagid Murtazaliev is a Russian freestyle wrestler, public activist, and politician. Was born in 1974. Similarly with Ramazan Abdulatipov, is Avar by nationality. Honored Master of Sports of Russia. Champion of Sydney Olympics in 2000, World Champion in 1999, Champion of Europe in 2000, Champion of Russia, Champion of Goodwill Games in 1998. Deputy of the People's Assembly of Dagestan. In 2010–2015, was in charge of the Dagestani Branch of the Pension Fund of the Russian Federation. The athlete and politician is known for his troubles with the law. In 1996, was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder of businessman Gadzhimagomed Gadzhimagomedov, Head of the Makhachkala Police School. The criminal case against him has later been dismissed, while Gadzhimagomedov was killed in 2000. In 2002, during an altercation with two Chechen natives in the sauna of Orlenok Hotel in Moscow, Murtazaliev shot the two Chechens dead with PM pistol – while one of them managed to wound him with a knife. The actions of Murtazaliev have been ruled self-defense. In 2015, Murtazaliev has been arrested in absentia and put on the wanted list on suspicion of terrorism financing and masterminding several assassinations. Currently resides in the United Arab Emirates.
According to the Caucasian media, at some point, Abdulatipov had actively used Murtazaliev in the struggle against his main political rival – Makhachkala Mayor Said Amirov. After the conviction of Amirov for a number of crimes, including an assassination attempt against the Head of the Dagestani Branch of the Pension Fund of the Russian Federation (according to the investigation, henchmen of Amirov had to shoot down a civil aircraft with Murtazaliev onboard), Sagid Murtazaliev became the main opponent of the Head of Dagestan.
According to Marina Abramkina, member of the Murtazaliev’s team and ex-Head of the Tarumovka District of Dagestan, Murtazaliev was a member of so-called ‘Northern Alliance’ involving prominent politicians and public activists from most economically developed parts of Dagestan.
When Abdulatipov started the struggle against Murtazaliev, Abramkina was the first member of his team dismissed from the post and criminally charged – a case has been instituted against her under part 2 of Article 286 (exceeding official powers), part 4 of Article 159 (swindling), and part 3 of Article 160 (misappropriation or embezzlement) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. However, despite the ongoing investigation, Abramkina had remained the Acting Deputy Minister of Tourism and Folk Crafts of Dagestan up until February 15, 2018 and was fired “due to staff reduction”.
In the same year of 2015, the Dagestani Prosecutor’s Office has laid criminal charges against another associate of Murtazaliev – Adilkhan Ganakaev, ex-Head of the Babayurt District and Director of Gazprom Mezhregiongaz Pyatigorsk Limited Liability Company. Then, shortly after the arrest of Murtazaliev’s ‘right hand’ Andrei Vinogradov, Head of Kizlyar District, the Head of the Dagestani Branch of the Pension Fund of the Russian Federation became a suspect in a criminal case himself.
Andrei Vinogradov and Sagid Murtazaliev
Dagestani public activists believe that Ramazan Abdulatipov – who claims that “no one would knock at his door” – in fact, does not have an immunity against the law enforcement authorities. First of all, his public confession to giving a bribe to officers of the Federal Service for Supervision of the Education and Science Sphere (Rosobrnadzor) is still fresh in the people’s memory. Abdulatipov has publicly admitted committing a corruption crime in order to ensure that the university he was in charge of is attested. The Prosecutor General’s Office has instructed its republican branch to check the Head of Dagestan for wrongdoing, but results of this inquest are unknown. Secondly, the Dagestani people believe that the head of the republic could not be unaware of unlawful activities of his subordinates. All the newly-instituted criminal cases involve both “identified and unidentified” suspects. Furthermore, the above-mentioned FSB memo obtained by RBK Group names detained ex-minister Shakhov “a close associate” of the former Head of Dagestan. Abdulatipov hasn’t provided any comment to this allegation yet.