‘Filonov case’: Who locked up ‘Iron Mayor’ of Yevpatoriya and for what?
The Kievsky District Court of Simferopol detained 44-year-old Yevpatoriya Mayor Andrei Filonov until May 31, 2019. A criminal case has been instituted against him under part 3 of Article 286 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (exceeding official powers with infliction of grave consequences); the damages sustained due to his actions are estimated at 35.228 million rubles ($543.9 thousand). Later, it became known that Filonov is suspected of one more similar crime resulting in damages totaling 43.956 million rubles ($678.7 thousand). The both land fraud episodes have been combined into one criminal proceeding. Filonov denies any guilt and claims that the case against him was framed-up and he is ready to collaborate with the investigation. The CrimeRussia performed its own inquest into the situation, including ‘the mysteries of Filonov’ and family ties of the detained Mayor.
‘Iron Mayor’ denies guilt
Andrei Filonov has been detained in his apartment after 42 searches carried out by the Regional Directorate of the Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation in his residence, the Municipal Administration, and Municipal Council of Yevpatoriya. Eighteen apartments belonging, according to the operative information, to Filonov and members of his family have been searched as well. FSB officers seized all documentation pertaining to the activities of the Yevpatoriya Mayor. The case file reportedly includes more than 60 criminal episodes – but the investigation does not disclose any details yet.
Arrest of Andrei Filonov (operative video)
“It is established that the official has ordered to rezone a number of municipal land lots with a total area of some 14 ha for further lease at artificially low rates. As a result of the actions of the Head of the Municipal Administration, the city budget sustained damages amounting to some 35 million rubles ($540.4 thousand),” – the FSB has commented on the first episode.
On the night after his arrest, Andrei Filonov has posted, via his attorneys, an appeal to the public on his Facebook page explaining the charges laid against him and emphasizing his innocence:
“The essence of the allegations brought against me is that, in 2016, I had allegedly given illegal instructions to A.I. Chelombitko, then-Deputy Mayor for Land Matters, to change the designated uses of several lots leased by Riviera Limited Liability Company in order to reduce the lease payments and derive personal gains from that. The indictment provides the amount of damages allegedly inflicted to the city budget by this action – 35.2 million rubles ($543.5 thousand). I believe that this sum was purposively inflated to increase ‘the severity of the crime’.
The indictment has been formed on the basis of testimonies of two my deputies – a former one and a current one on the verge of termination. Both these people have personal motives to spatter me in order to remove me from office and inflict reputational damages. The case against me was framed up and originates from our local political intrigues. I am going to prove my innocence in court... Despite all the motions and sureties, those who have instituted this case would take every step to keep me in detention for the duration of the investigation. Their goal is absolutely clear! I am not afraid of such a scenario... I will definitely be back! Time will put everything in its place! I am now facing a personal battle – for truth, honor, and reputation. I wish well to everybody! Your Iron Mayor.”
There are hundreds of comments in support of Andrei Filonov under this publication. Flash mobs supporting the detained Mayor are conducted online. However, not a single power broker has upheld the stance of Filonov yet, including Sergei Aksenov, Head and Prime Minister of the Republic of Crimea, who said that “no one is untouchable”.
Legally or illegally?
In April 2018, the Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Crimea, has provided an opinion on the episodes currently incriminated to Andrei Filonov; no wrongdoing was found in the Mayor’s actions at that time. If the Prosecutor’s Office was right, why was Filonov arrested?
A year ago, the Prosecutor’s Office found no wrongdoing in the actions of Filonov
According to the investigation, Andrei Filonov, acting in the interests of Riviera Limited Liability Company, had contributed to the rezoning of a land lot for construction of Aqua-Yevpatoriya VIP Residential Complex.
Filonov is in trouble because of this cadastral block in Yevpatoriya
“Six lots zoned for recreation have been rezoned into mid-rise residential housing lands. The lots have been rezoned on the basis of public hearings; the investment project was actively discussed by the media. Apparently, the damage was calculated by adding together the cadastral values of each lot; the resultant figures are similar. I think that the investigation may last forever, and the detention term would be continuously extended. Interestingly, the rezoned lots are in the upper part of the district, while the intact lots are below. A comparison of their cadastral values shows that, after the rezoning, it hasn’t decreased – but increased. Therefore, the lease payments should increase accordingly. But the investigation claims that the lease payments have been reduced. According to the Land Code, lease payments are calculated on the basis of the cadastral value. The public hearings have been annulled by a court decision, but the lots still remain mid-rise residential housing lands,” – Crimean journalist and public activist Aleksander Talipov explains.
The public hearings were initiated and conducted by the Municipal Council; the respective documents were prepared by specialists and approved by various administrations and departments; then Mayor Filonov has endorsed the documents; and then, the specialists have registered the changes and amended the cadastral plans – concurrently checking these changes for legitimacy. Therefore, the question is: if all the above procedures were conducted illegally, why the only detained malefactor is the Mayor? What about other accomplices?
Aqua-Yevpatoriya put on hold
Riviera Limited Liability Company is a development company belonging to Pavel Lebedev, ex-Minister of Defense of Ukraine, and businessman Oleg Naselenko, a close friend of Filonov. In April 2017, the construction of Aqua-Yevpatoriya VIP Residential Complex was personally approved by Sergei Aksenov at the Yalta International Economic Forum, and Riviera Limited Liability Company has signed an investment agreement with the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Crimea.
The CrimeRussia sources in Crimea believe that the partners haven’t paid the mandatory ‘kickback’ to Aksenov – and in November 2017, Crimea Inform news agency controlled by the Head of the Republic started putting pressure on Aqua-Yevpatoriya. Concurrently, Natalia Poklonskaya, a Deputy of the State Duma loyal to Aksenov, has submitted to the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation a complaint about the illegal rezoning of one of the lots. Ultimately, almost one-third of the required area was seized, and the partners put the project on hold.
Aqua-Yevpatoriya project has been put on hold
“Naselenko and the family of Lebedev are the founders of Riviera Limited Liability Company – the builder of Aqua-Yevpatoriya. The company was incorporated in Dnepropetrovsk in 2002 and leased the same lot for waterpark construction and maintenance. The company hadn’t re-registered in Russia until 2016; by that time, its debt to the city for the land lease has exceeded 20 million rubles ($308.8 thousand). Later, Riviera was officially transferred to Lebedev, the seafront lease agreement was renewed on a sole source basis; the land was rezoned from recreation to residential housing; and 90% of the company was transferred to Lebedev, ex-Minister of Defense of Ukraine. The deal was formalized by a Sevastopol notary," – Krymsky Telegram channel reports.
Mysteries of Filonov
Andrei Filonov was born in Yugra, Kemerovo region; his family relocated to Yevpatoriya when he was eight years old. He has three higher education diplomas issued by the International Institute of Management, Business, and Law (Slavyansk), Vernadsky Tavrida National University (Simferopol), and National Academy for Public Administration under the President of Ukraine (Kiev).
However, Yevpatoriisky Kur’er news portal claims that the situation with the three diplomas awarded to Filonov is not that simple. He had used the first diploma – the one issued by the International Institute of Management, Business, and Law – to apply to the two other higher education establishments. Some Fedor Poddubny was in charge of the International Institute of Management, Business, and Law in that period. It is known that this ‘institute’ had no education license and practiced sales of diplomas at affordable rates. In 1998, Poddubny went on the run, was arrested in Moscow, spent two years under investigation, and avoided imprisonment thanks to an amnesty.
In other words, none of the diplomas possessed by Filonov can be considered legitimate. Furthermore, during the 2002 elections to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, he was put on the election list of the Team of Winter Generation electoral alliance as a candidate with a high-school education.
It is also known that, in 1998, Filonov was elected a Deputy of the Yevpatoriya City Council. In 2001, he was the Advisor for Youth Policies to a Deputy Prime Minister of the Crimean Autonomous Republic. Since March 2013 to October 2014, he was in charge of City Building Company Limited Liability Company – a big developer specializing in complex construction and implementation of infrastructural projects. Prior to the reintegration of Crimea, Filonov had a Russian work permit issued by the Federal Migration Service of the Russian Federation. After his appointment the Yevpatoriya Mayor, his business partner Nikolai Karpov became the General Director of City Building Company.
Russian work permit issued to Ukrainian citizen Filonov
After the reintegration of Crimea, in April 2014, Andrei Filonov was appointed the Advisor for Resorts and Tourism to the Head of the Republic. In November 2014, he became the Yevpatoriya Mayor. In addition, Filonov was a co-organizer of KaZantip electronic dance music festival (prohibited since spring 2016) and President of Z-Games sports event conducted in the framework of KaZantip. Prior to its prohibition, the festival had generated significant revenues for Filonov and some other Crimean officials and businessmen.
Andrei Filonov was involved with KaZantip festival
Filonov was nicknamed ‘Iron Mayor' after his YouTube channel. In addition, Yevpatoriya residents call him ‘City Manager'.
Strong family ties
Reportedly, Andrei Filonov had often mixed up the interests of his family with the state interests, provided false information in his declarations, and even was involved in corruption cases. For instance, in November 2017, at a session of the Saki District Court examining the criminal case instituted against Andrei Kosenko, ex-Head of the Yevpatoriya Inspectorate of the Federal Tax Service, for accepting a bribe in the amount of $200 thousand, it became known that this crime was committed by an organized group by previous concert. The group involved, among others, Andrei Filonov and Oleg Naselenko. According to defendant Ruslan Antonyuk, the above bribe was paid “to settle a land issue with Yevpatoriya Mayor Andrei Filonov”. Antonyuk claims that he “had to give the money to Filonov for further redistribution among other involved persons”. However, no charges were laid against Filonov at that time.
The family business has always been a weak point of the Mayor. In 2016, Filonov has appointed Eduard Makarevich, father of his spouse Irina Makarevich, in charge of the Center for Informational, Analytical, and Logistics Support of Local Self-Government Bodies of Yevpatoriya Urban District Municipal Budgetary Institution. This organization administers dozens of millions of rubles and decides the winners of governmental tenders.
Yevpatoriya Mayor entrusted dozens of millions of budget rubles to his father-in-law
In October 2018, Yevpatoriya Prosecutor Aleksander Moshegov made a submission to the Municipal Council to terminate Andrei Filonov for this corruption appointment. Initially, the Mayor was the defendant in this case – but then, he somehow became a third party in it, while Olesya Kharitonenko, Head of the Municipal Council, became the defendant.
The Yevpatoriya City Court satisfied the claim of the Prosecutor’s Office and ordered the municipality to terminate the labor agreement with Mayor Andrei Filonov – but only in response to his arrest. Kirill Vavrenyuk, the first deputy of Filonov, currently performs the Mayor’s duties.
It is known that Irina Makarevich, who has three children with Filonov, still remains his common-law partner.
Irina Makarevich and Andrei Filonov
Accordingly, neither Irina nor her father are mentioned in his declarations as family members. In fact, Mayor Filonov has two fathers-in-law: his dairy business officially belongs to businessman Evgeny Pronenko, stepfather of his common-law spouse. In total, Pronenko officially co-owns three enterprises. Irina’s mother – Viktoria Makarevich – is a co-owner of DK Megatreid-Yug Limited Liability Company. Evgeny Pronenko’s daughter Maria Pronenko is the Director of Megatreid Limited Liability Company. In addition, Evgeny Pronenko is the sole proprietor of Plus Limited Liability Company.
Viktoria Makarevich, mother-in-law of Andrei Filonov
The family businesses of Pronenko specialize in the production and sales of dairy products. For instance, in 2015–2019, DK Megatreid-Yug (Saki Dairy Plant) has supplied food products for the total amount over 96 million rubles ($1.5 million) to some 100 municipal customers. Interestingly, the business phones of this company are currently not active.
Mayor’s father Vladimir Filonov is also a successful businessman. He is the head and cofounder of Navigator Limited Liability Company and cofounder of Alternativa Invest Limited Liability Company. Concurrently, Vladimir Filonov is a Deputy Director of Yevpatoriya–Crimea–Resort Municipal Unitary Enterprise.
Nikolai Karpov, a former business partner of Filonov in the construction business, who has taken charge of City Building Company after the appointment of Filonov the Mayor, is also a member of the ‘family clan’ – he is the husband of Irina Makarevich’s sister.
Andrei Filonov and Nikolai Karpov are brothers-in-law and business partners
Filonov fell out of graces with the Crimean authorities
Filonov reportedly managed to establish trust relations with Russian Vice Premier Dmitry Kozak and Sberbank CEO German Gref. In addition, sources claim that Filonov was promised ‘patronage’ in the Kremlin via Ukrainian ex-President Viktor Yanukovich, a supposed co-investor of projects run by Lebedev, ex-Minister of Defense of Ukraine.
It is known that Gref has allocated a large amount of money to Aksenov for the development of the Ai-Petri Plateau, including the removal of Tatar taverns from it. However, the money invested by Gref disappeared – Aksenov has simply defrauded the banker. Therefore, the Sberbank CEO has reasonably withdrawn from further financial participation in the project and initiated, via the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA), a strategy stipulating the transfer of the South Coast of Crimea under the federal jurisdiction and designating it a protected area. Aksenov clearly understands: if Gref achieves this goal, the most lucrative parts of Crimea would be lost for himself and his clan forever. Therefore, Filonov – pretending to be a friend of Gref – became inconvenient for the Head of the Republic.
Sberbank CEO German Gref
Vladimir Konstantinov, Speaker of the State Council of the Republic of Crimea, could also be interested in the arrest of Andrei Filonov: recently, they had a conflict in relation to the election lists for the 2019 municipal elections in Yevpatoriya – Filonov wanted to fill these lists mostly with his people.
Vladimir Konstantinov, Speaker of the State Council of the Republic of Crimea
“If Konstantinov has turned Filonov in to the FSB, most probably, the ex-Mayor won’t get a prison term. The purpose of the charges laid against him – exceeding official powers – is just to neutralize Filonov as a political figure in anticipation of the local and regional parliamentary elections. They are going to keep him in detention for 1–3 months – to cut Filonov down to size – and release. But the bad aftertaste will remain,” – sources of Krymsky Kanal (Crimean Channel) portal believe.
Experts compare the ‘Filonov case’ with the stories of two other Crimean city heads arrested earlier – Dmitry Shchepetkov, ex-Mayor of Feodosiya, and Andrei Rostenko, ex-Mayor of Yalta. The Head of Feodosiya was detained in December 2015 for exceedance of official powers and attempted bribe-taking on an especially large scale and sentenced in March 2018 to 8 years in a maximum security penal colony and fine of 42 million rubles ($648.5 thousand). Shchepetkov claims that all allegations against him were based on testimonies of Feodosiya developer Roman Lukichev – a henchman of Sergei Borodkin, Deputy of the State Council of the Republic of Crimea and business partner of clan Aksenov.
Shchepetkov was sentenced to a real prison term
Andrei Rostenko, a henchman of Aksenov, escaped criminal liability
Andrei Rostenko, ex-Mayor of Yalta, was arrested in May 2018 in Moscow for the seizure of 2.6 thousand square meters of land from Beketovo Health Resort in Yalta belonging to the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the Russian Federation. The CrimeRussia wrote earlier that Rostenko was released from the pretrial detention facility in summer 2018 with the active personal involvement of Sergei Aksenov. Later, Aksenov made Rosenko his advisor and appointed him to the Coordination Center of the Federal Targeted Development Program – Crimea receives hundreds of billions of rubles from the federal center in the framework of it. In other words, both Shchepetkov and Filonov turned out to be ‘unfit’ for the scheme created by Aksenov – while Rostenko remains his loyal henchman. This makes it possible to draw certain conclusions...