“Due to loss of trust”: Inconvenient wording for Russian functionaries
Among all top-ranked officials involved into corruption scandals, ex-Minister Alexey Ulyukaev was the only one dismissed with the wording “due to loss of trust” – which has been officially entered in his employment record. His former colleague Anatoly Serdyukov, the ex-Minister of Defense, was considered a witness in the criminal case and had been fired with not so harsh wording. What other functionaries have got this distrust mark on dismissal?
On November 18, 2016, the State Duma has postponed the examination of a bill proposing to produce a black list of Russian officials fired for corruption crimes with the wording “due to loss of trust”. The formal reason was the absence of the bill initiator from the Cabinet of Ministers at the session of the relevant parliamentary committee. The document was submitted to the State Duma by the Government in August 2016; Alexey Cherkasov, the Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Protection of the Russian Federation, was appointed the official representative for the bill examination in the Parliament. According to Yaroslav Nilov, the Head of the relevant parliamentary committee, Cherkasov was not invited because the Deputies had some questions with regards to the wording of the bill. It is necessary to note, however, that obstacles for the new bill have appeared a few days after the scandalous arrest of Alexey Ulyukaev, then-Minister of Economic Development, – who was suspected of extortion and bribe-taking in the amount of $2 million for assistance in the acquisition of the control block of shares in Bashneft by Rosneft. Ulyukaev has been dismissed by the President with this harsh wording: “due to loss of trust”.
According to the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection, in addition to Ulyukaev, there are some 1,200 former officials dismissed from federal governmental agencies, regional executive bodies, and local authorities in the period of 2012–2015 with the same wording. The majority of the negligent public servants had been dismissed “due to loss of trust” because of their business activities, conflicts of interests, and failure to provide tax and property declarations. People dismissed with this wording are deprived of the right to hold certain governmental and municipal posts. The bill submitted to the State Duma proposes to produce a special register for such untrustworthy officials and officers of the Prosecutor General’s Office, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, Central Bank of Russia, Ministry of Defense, and Federal Customs Service. The register is intended to be posted on the Governmental Service web portal to assist employers in the selection of candidates – who might forget to provide the reason for leaving the previous workplace.
However, even long before the introduction of the above-mentioned bill, some high-ranked officials were unable to conceal the scandalous details of their termination – alas, superior posts attract special public attention.
Yuri Luzhkov, the ex-Mayor of Moscow. Photo: TASS / Aleksander Ryumin
The most famous victim of the wording “due to loss of trust” – officially introduced in 2011 – is Yuri Luzhkov, the ex-Mayor of Moscow, who was dismissed with it in 2010 – i.e. prior to its legal formalization. President Dmitry Medvedev has signed an order to dismiss him from the position he had been holding since 1992. The establishment had suggested Luzhkov to resign voluntarily, but he refused. Medvedev did not explain at that time the meaning of the dire wording; he just noted that “the national leader can not work with the officials he does not trust”. He followed the path of his predecessor – earlier President Vladimir Putin had already used this procedure in relation to several regional leaders: Vladimir Loginov, the Governor of the Koryak Autonomous District (2005); Alexey Barinov, the Governor of the Nenets Autonomous District (2006); and Leonid Korotkov, the Governor of the Amur Region (2007).
Later, the legally-formalized termination “due to loss of trust” had been used many times in respect to most high-profile scandals of the recent years.
For example, Nikita Belykh, the Governor of the Kirov Region, has been dismissed in summer 2016 with this wording. He was arrested by the Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation in a Moscow restaurant with marked cash. According to the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR), he had received some €400 thousand. The former head of the region has been accused of bribe-taking in exchange for patronage for businesses. Belykh, however, does not admit any guilt and states that the money were intended for the city of Kirov (he had been specially emphasizing the need to build a Shrine of Saint Matrona, the Blessed Eldress of Moscow). After the arrest of Belykh, a number of officials close to him have resigned. For instance, the following functionaries have submitted voluntary resignation letters in August 2016: Vice Governor Sergey Sherchkov; Alexey Vershinin supervising the development of tourism and single-industry towns; Dmitry Matveev, the Acting Deputy Head of the Regional Government; and Elena Utemova, the Acting Minister of Public Health. According to a verdict of the Basmanny District Court of Moscow, Nikita Belykh will remain in Lefortovo pre-trial Detention Facility at least until December 24, 2016. The ex-Governor is facing up to 15 years behind bars.
Aleksander Khoroshavin, the ex-Governor of the Sakhalin Region Photo: Stanislav Tikhomirov/Kommersant
Aleksander Khoroshavin has lost the position of the Governor of the Sakhalin Region in March 2015 also “due to loss of trust”. He was detained together with three his deputies after a check performed by the FSB in the regional administration. The official, who had ruled the region for more than eight years, has been charged with bribe-taking for the total amount of $5.6 million. The criminal case against Khoroshavin includes more than ten episodes. According to the investigation, the Governor had demanded from Energostroy Sakhalin Company a bribe in the amount of 6% of the total cost of the contracts awarded to it. According to other sources, the ex-Governor could also receive 27 million rubles from a candidate for Deputy of the Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk Municipal Duma during the elections of 2014. In May, the Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk City Court has seized assets of the former functionary, his wife, and son for the total amount over 1.1 billion rubles in profit of the state. Currently Khoroshavin is in custody in a pretrial detention facility.
Vyacheslav Gaizer, the ex-Head of the Komi Republic, has lost the trust of the President in October 2015 – his termination order included the unpleasant formula. The official was accused of creation of a criminal community for roguish embezzlement of state assets in the Komi Republic and siphoning those abroad. He was arrested in September 2015 in Moscow together with other 18 suspects. More than 80 searches had been performed in Komi, St. Petersburg, and Moscow; 60 kg of jewelry, 150 watches worth $30 thousand to $1 million each, more than 50 seals and stamps of legal entities involved into the offshore schemes, and financial documents to legalize the embezzled assets for the total amount over 1 billion rubles have been seized.
Vasily Yurchenko, the ex-Governor of the Novosibirsk Region Photo: Aleksander Kryazhev/RIA Novosti
Vasily Yurchenko, the Governor of the Novosibirsk Region, was terminated in March 2014 – a few months before the expiry of his term. A criminal investigation against him is ongoing; he has been charged with abuse of official powers during the sale of a land lot in the center of Novosibirsk. According to the investigation, in 2010, following an instruction from Yurchenko, an auction of the unfinished construction project and land lot on Chaplygina street had been cancelled. The facilities and land lot belonged to Gaztranskom company owned 100% by the Novosibirsk region. Yurchenko has instructed to sell the assets to Taktika company at a price not exceeding 20 million rubles. The investigation estimates the loss sustained by the budget of the Novosibirsk region at some 22 million rubles.
Nikolai Denin, who had been ruling the Bryansk region since 2004, was dismissed by the President in fall 2013 “due to loss of trust”. He was suspected of illegal provision of 21.8 million rubles from the regional administration reserve to Snezhka poultry factory. This happened after an explosion of a grain storage tank at the factory resulting in two fatalities. The funds had allegedly been provided to prevent an environmental disaster – Nikolai Denin insisted that otherwise the birds would not get enough forage and die en masse. By the way, prior to his transfer to the governmental service, he used to be the head of this factory in 1992–2003. Ultimately, Denin has been sentenced to four years behind bars.
In September 2015, the employment contract with Nikolai Sandakov, the Deputy Governor of the Chelyabinsk Region, has been terminated “due to loss of trust”. He was arrested in Yekaterinburg and charged with taking a bribe in the amount of 1.9 million rubles from Evgeny Tarasov, the City Manager of Ozersk. According to the investigation, this was a reward for creation and maintenance of a positive image of Tarasov in the media – to ensure his career advancement and election the Head of Magnitogorsk. However, Kirill Akulich, a defense attorney for Sandakov, had repeatedly stated that the funds, in fact, were intended for the black cash vault of Edinaya Rossia (the United Russia) Party.
Nikolai Sandakov, the Deputy Governor of the Chelyabinsk Region Photo: Evgeny Potorochin/UralPolit
According to Oleg Plokhoy, the Chief of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Directorate, three-quarter of people dismissed with the wording “due to loss of trust” were federal functionaries. Following legal proceedings initiated after audits of their declarations, claims have been made for the total of 100 million rubles.
Ulyukaev has become the first federal Minister among the civil servants, who had lost the trust. For example, back in 2012, after the disclosure of large-scale embezzlements in Rosoboronservise company subordinate to the Ministry of Defense resulting in damages to the state treasury for more than 4 billion rubles, Anatoly Serdyukov, then-Minister of Defense, was terminated “due to inability to manage assets of the Ministry of Defense” and in order “to ensure the clarity of the investigation”. The ex-Minister was charged under the “neglect of duty” Article of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation punishable with a fine or arrest for a term of up to three months. Furthermore, the Article incriminated to Serdyukov has been amnestied at that time, and the criminal case against him was closed pretty soon. Therefore, despite the scandalous dismissal, nothing had prevented Serdyukov to be employed with another governmental institution – and in November 2013, the ex-Minister has become the General Director of the Federal Machinery Manufacture Research Testing Center – a subdivision of the Rostech State Corporation.
According to the Russian MIA’s spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, the detention of Russian woman Maria Butina in the US was specifically timed to coincide with the summit of Putin and Trump in order to minimize the effect of the presidents’ meeting.