Ex-Senator Gennady Gorbunov to stand trial due to family business – charges laid
Prior to the initiation of a high-profile criminal case, the Gorbunov clan was considered very influential among the Astrakhan political and business elite. The former Member of the Council of the Federation had been registering companies only in the names of his relatives and trusted only to his close circle. Charges of bribery in a profit-making organization have been laid not only against Gennady Gorbunov, but also against his son Aleksander and Vladimir Boev, an Aide to the Senator.
Not a while ago, Gennady Gorbunov was a respected person and chaired the Committee for Agrarian and Food Policy in the Council of the Federation – but now he is a suspect in a criminal case related to a governmental contract worth 126 million rubles. The former Senator, who used to represent the Astrakhan region in the Upper Chamber of the Parliament, has been accused of bribery in a profit-making organization and is currently waiting for the trial. The enforcement authorities believe that he had been acting in the interests of a company belonging to his relatives.
For the benefit of Beljana company
The high-profile criminal case was handled by the Investigations Directorate for the Astrakhan Region of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR). According to the official web site of the agency, the indictment had been approved by the Prosecutor’s Office, and the case materials have been recently submitted to the court. Gennady and Aleksander Gorbunov and Vladimir Boev are charged under item (a), part 2 of Article 204 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (Bribery In a Profit-Making Organization committed by a group of persons by previous concert).
The criminal case is related to the municipal program “Development of the Water Management Complex in the Volodarsky District of the Astrakhan Region in 2012–2020”, which involves dredging works in rivers and fish bypass channels. In the framework of this program, the Financial and Economic Department of the Volodarsky District Municipal Unit has announced in fall 2015 a tender to perform works under the project “Environmental Rehabilitation of the Water System of Grirorievsky Bayou Lake in the Volodarsky District of the Astrakhan Region”. The starting price of the contract was over 126 million rubles.
According to the investigation, the management of Beljana Peasant Holding Limited Liability Company – officially belonging to relatives of Gennady Gorbunov – was eager to win this profitable contract. But there was a competitor. In order to secure the contract and get access to the budget funding, the Member of the Council of the Federation, his son, and aide Vladimir Boev offered the owner of the competing organization a bribe of 5 million rubles for his non-participation in the tender.
On November 5, 2015, Vladimir Boev was arrested by the Directorate of the Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation in the Astrakhan Region during the handover of a half of the above-mentioned sum to the businessman. Then the investigation has found that the father and son Gorbunov were also involved into the commercial bribery.
Kommersant newspaper reports, citing its source in the police, that the special operation to expose the malefactors has been carried out jointly by the General Administration for Economic Security and Combatting the Corruption of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the Russian Federation and Department K of the FSB. A continuous operational work had been performed prior to the initiation of this criminal case; numerous embezzlements of the budget funds have been identified. For example, a number of contracts related to the dredging of rivers and fish bypass channels included works that, in fact, had not been performed.
According to the MIA, Gennady Gorbunov, the ex-Member of the Council of the Federation, was directly involved into the creation of an illegal embezzlement scheme. He was also the owner of Beljana company, which had been winning governmental contracts for dredging works in the Volodarsky district on a regular basis. The operative information obtained by the police indicates that the ex-Senator used to lobby the interests of his commercial organization and secure profitable tenders using his powers and connections.
Helped to his school
Gennady Gorbunov is over 70 years old. His official biography states that he was born in Rassvet village of the Narimanovsky district of the Astrakhan region. His whole career was related to governmental services. Gorbunov is a professional manager, a representative of the old Communist establishment who managed to adapt to the new political reality of the post-Soviet Russia.
Back in 1979, Gorbunov had become the Chairman of the Executive Committee of People’s Deputies of the Narimanovsky District. In the 1990s, the functionary was the Head of the Tax Service in the Astrakhan Region. Since 2002, he had been a Member of the Council of the Federation; in 2004 he became the Chairman of the Committee for Agrarian and Food Policy in the in the Upper Chamber of the Russian Parliament. His term at this post has expired in September 2016.
The CrimeRussia spoke with residents of Rassvet village of the Narimanovsky district – the small motherland of the ex-Senator.
Rassvet village of the Narimanovsky district of the Astrakhan region
“Our village is small, and we had always been proud for our fellow countryman who managed to rise so high. You know, he was the eldest son in a large family, and his life was really hard in the post-war period. Still, he managed to receive education and became a big person in Moscow. Therefore, we are sorry that the career of Gorbunov had such a bad ending. He helped many of his countrymen. When the authorities wanted to close the high school in our village and leave only 9 grades – allegedly, due to a small number of students – only the intervention of the high-ranked functionary allowed the teachers and parents to defend our 11-grade school. And we are thankful to Gorbunov for this,” – Rakhilya Urazbaeva, a local resident, told.
But retiree Sergey Rakhimov does not share her regrets about the bad ending of the Gorbunov’s career.
“He had to resign in a proper time; why was he clinging to power until the age of 70? Perhaps, he could not give up the budget funds? Their whole family is very well-equipped. They have a recreation base at the Volga River delta, lots of land, companies. His brother Nikolai Gorbunov was the Director of the Spets ZhBI plant in Astrakhan. It is a real clan, they had never forgotten their own interests. And I have no doubts that he is guilty, they are all tarred with the same brush,” – the retiree stated frankly.
Still, the majority of the Rassvet residents, although having no doubts in the guilt of their countryman, appreciate his personal traits positively. According to the people, Gennady Gorbunov cared about needs of his small motherland. His former classmates had been asking him for assistance on many occasions – and the Member of the Council of the Federation always responded to such requests.
“Perhaps, it is because of the total corruption among the authorities in the Astrakhan region? It is difficult to stay honest when the bribery and corruption are flourishing around. Apparently, Gorbunov has fallen from grace,” – a young female teacher of the Rassvet high school has shared her thoughts – asking not to mention her name over fears that her words could be interpreted in a wrong way by the school management.
Details of the case
Dredging works are essential for fish bypass channels in the Volga River delta. During the last twenty years, the Astrakhan environmentalists are continuously raising the alarm due to the shallowing of small rivers and streams, which affects the aquatic bioresources adversely. Fish are unable to reach their traditional spawning areas – which inevitably affects the future yield.
According to Punkt-A web portal, Yuri Gorbunov is the Director of Beljana Peasant Holding Limited Liability Company. Its owners are Larisa Gorbunova (the spouse of the ex-Senator) and one of their sons – Sergey Gorbunov. In the recent years, the commercial organization belonging to the family of the former Member of the Council of the Federation had been awarded governmental contracts for dredging works in the Volodarsky district of the Astrakhan region on the regular basis. And it is hard to believe that the high-ranked official hadn’t been lobbying the interests of Beljana Peasant Holding.
For example, in the end of 2012, the company of the Gorbunov family has won a tender in the framework of the project “Dredging Works in Konnaya and Sulak Fish Bypass Channels of the Volodarsky District of the Astrakhan Region”.
Beljana company performs dredging works in Karaisky channel in the Volodarsky district of the Astrakhan region
In August 2014, the official web site of the regional government has posted information about dredging works in Karaisky fish bypass channel. It was reported that a pipeline dredger operates on this water object, and the governmental contract would be completed ahead of time. The announcement did not mention the name of the contractor, but one of the photos showed it in English and Russian: Beljana.
In other words, the above-mentioned company had been continuously winning all the dredging tenders for years. But this idyllic situation has ended in 2015: the Gorbunov family – who got used to receive millions of budget rubles in the framework of the program “Development of the Water Management Complex in the Volodarsky District of the Astrakhan Region in 2012–2020” – has got a competitor. And an attempt to settle the issue for 5 million rubles has resulted in a criminal case.
The tender – so unfortunate for the ex-Member of the Council of the Federation – had been posted at Sberbank-AST online trading platform by the Financial and Economic Department of the Volodarsky District Municipal Unit. Searching by the tender code – 0325300022415000421 – shows that the tender for works under the project “Environmental Rehabilitation of the Water System of Grirorievsky Lake in the Volodarsky District of the Astrakhan Region” with the cost of 126,890,870 rubles has been cancelled.
The reason for the cancellation was the arrest of a representative of one of the bidders – Beljana company.
Business of the Gorbunov family
Astrakhanskie Novosti (Astrakhan News) information agency has published a tax declaration of Gennady Gorbunov and his wife for the year of 2015. During this year, the Chairman of the Committee for Agrarian and Food Policy of the Council of the Federation has earned more than 4 million 964 thousand rubles, while his spouse – over 1 million 944 thousand rubles. The assets of this couple include two land lots over 1.5 ha each.
But the official declaration apparently does not reflect incomes from businesses, in fact, owned by the Gorbunov family. For instance, accounting reports of Beljana Peasant Holding Limited Liability Company registered in Vyshka village of the Limansky district of the Astrakhan region show a net profit of 47 million 860 thousand rubles in the year of 2015.
In addition to the above-mentioned company, assets of the Gorbunov family also include Beljana-2 Peasant Holding located in Rynok village of the Limansky district. This agricultural enterprise specializes in dairy cattle husbandry and crop farming. Aleksander Gorbunov, son of the ex-Senator, is the Head of Beljana-2.
According to the media, the high-ranked functionary also owns a hunting and fishing recreation base located near Vyshka village of the Limansky district. This tourism facility has been named after the spouse of Gennady Gorbunov: Larisa. Although the former Member of the Council of the Federation does not advertise publicly that he owns a recreation base.
Larisa floating hotel
According to the web site of the tourism company, it has a floating hotel located in the undisturbed Volga River delta. In 2009, a new comfortable stationery hotel Larisa with the capacity of 70 guests has been built on the shore of the Caspian Rolls, 170 km from Astrakhan.
But this is not the end. Some media report that Gennady Gorbunov also owns a fishery business in the Astrakhan region. For instance, back in 2013, journalists from the Russian Far East had accused the Chairman of the Committee for Agrarian and Food Policy of the Council of the Federation of lobbying his personal interests during the amending of the draft Federal Law “On Fishery”.
In addition, Gennady Gorbunov was suspected of supporting poachers smuggling all their catch abroad. It was stated that the amendments proposed by the Senator would allow the fishermen to conceal their real yield from the controlling authorities. Allegedly, this would be beneficial for the Senator – a shadow owner of such business.
Gennady Gorbunov is a political veteran who had been working in governmental authorities since the Soviet era. Apparently the high-ranked functionary tried to maintain a good image for the residents of his small motherland – but the business interests of the family have played a bad joke with him.
It is a question of theft from the budget in 2012 in the amount of 22 million rubles ($365.770) in the framework of the state contract for the construction of water supply and sewage in Rostov Veliky.