From receiving medal to getting prison term. Will arrest of heroic investigator affect his superior’s career?
New corruption scandal in the Russian Investigative Committee resulted in a blow to City of Irkutsk Committee Department Head Andrey Bunev’s reputation. 3<sup>rd</sup> Department for High-Level Cases Deputy Head Stanislav Tarakanov, one of his subordinates, was arrested in late July; he is accused of taking a bribe. Rumor has it Bunev and Tarakanov were not only colleagues but friends as well. It was Bunev who offered Tarakanov moving to Irkutsk from Krasnodar back in the day. Tarakanov would later be known as somewhat of a hero there.
Stanislav Tarakanov became famous in his home city for solving several high-level crimes. He is credited for solving Gennady Melnikov’s murder case; the Road Clinical Hospital Director was killed at the Krasnoyarsk Station. He and his colleague and high-level investigator Ivan Kolchin were awarded medals for “valor and bravery” for solving the case. A dead man with a gunshot wound to the head was found in a forest near the Town of Zheleznogorsk in February 2011. He had marks on his hands suggesting he was tied with duct tape, too. The man turned out to be Gennady Melnikov. His wife had told the police he went missing after leaving to drive to his garage the day before. The police looked for murderers for over a year. 3 Zheleznogorsk residents learned the doctor who was famous in the region supposedly was selling his property and business before being transferred to another region, as it turned out. They attacked the man in his garage in February of 2011. They tied and drugged him trying to get out of him where his money was. They took him to the forest and shot dead once they realized he was not going to tell them anything. One suspect opened fire on the police and threw a grenade into a hallway during arrest. A Special Rapid Response Team officer was killed. Investigators Tarakanov and Kolchin who participated in the operation suffered concussion. However, both kept their nerve and managed to evacuate residents from the dangerous house section.
Тhe body of Gennady Melnikov was found near highway
One of the detained
Moreover, Stanislav Tarakanov also solved a high-profile murder of Artel Starateley Angara Gold Mining Company bankruptcy trustee Vladimir Ionaytis in 2008.
How did Stanislav Tarakanov go from being an awarded officer to a defendant in a bribery case?
Stanislav Tarakanov graduated from the Siberia Law Institute in 2003. He had worked as a Committee Krasnoyarsk Department high-level investigator prior to moving to Irkutsk. People who know him say it is possible he was able to rise through ranks so fast thanks to his family member and Russian Prosecutor General’s Office Krasnoyarsk Department Deputy Head Sergey Tarakanov. However, it is unlikely it was the only reason the young investigator managed to stick around the agency. The thing is, his Krasnoyarsk superior was Andrey Bunev who is famous for being able to put strong teams together and then take them with him when transferred. Almost 30 Krasnoyarsk investigators moved to Kuzbass after Bunev was appointed the Committee Kemerovo Region Department Head. The majority of them then followed Bunev to Irkutsk. That is when Stanislav Tarakanov was offered moving to Irkutsk. He worked as the 3rd Department for High-Level Cases Deputy Head in Irkutsk. The 3rd Department specialized in investigating illegal timber harvesting, among other things.
“Black” lumber harvesters have been one of the most serious problems for the Irkutsk Region for years. Whole criminal empires feed off of illegal timber harvesting. It is a general knowledge traditional Irkutsk lumber harvesting regions (Ziminsky, Kachugsky, Jigalovsky, Tayshetsky, Shelekhovsky, Irkutsky, and Chunsky) see illegal timber harvesting on an industrial scale. It is “shielded” by a long chain of criminals working everywhere from local police stations to the local government.
Illegal timber harvesting caused more than 11 billion rubles worth of damages in Russia, according to 2016 data. 30.8 billion rubles worth of damages were caused and 52 400 instances of illegal timber harvesting (4.1 million m3 of timber) were registered in the last 3 years, according to a Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment report. The majority of illegal timber harvesting (almost 77%, or 1.3 million m3) in Russia is attributed to the Irkutsk Region, the Siberia Federal District (1.1 million m3). The majority of illegally harvested timber is sold to China, according to Ministry experts’ data. China is the leading legal buyer of Russian timber, too. China bought 64% (12.76 million m3) of all (legally harvested) Russian unprocessed timber last year. Moreover, China is the leading buyer of Russian-made lumber (53%, or 14.15 million m3).
Due to the current situation, the Inter-Agency Plan for Prevention of Illegal Timber Harvesting and Processing was approved in early 2017. The document provides for supervision of timber and lumber receiving station and shipping points and processing plants; implementation of a system for marking of valuable wood species and tracking its shipment; selling of round lumber only via electronic stock trading.
Agency Head Andrey Bunev decided to reassign all such cases to the Committee in Irkutsk in 2016 in order to arrange systematic investigation of illegal lumber harvesting and sale cases. This should have led to increased tax revenue for the local budget and reduced the number of “forest” crimes, Bunev thought.
As surprising as it may seem, Stanislav Tarakanov was caught taking cuts and bribes from timber harvesting companies. On July 27, the Internal Affairs Divisions of the Committee and Russian MIA supported by the FSB detained him and a senior high-level cases investigator on allegation of taking a large bribe. Both defendants were arrested 48 hours later. It was the FSB Irkutsk Region Department that investigated the corruption case against the 2 police officers for several months. The City of Novosibirsk Office of Investigations (the Siberian Federal District) is investigating the criminal case opened for violation of article 290, part 6 (“Bribe-Taking on an Especially Large Scale”) of the Russian Criminal Code. Tarakanov has been charged with taking a large bribe when investigating an illegal timber harvesting case against a Zalarinksy District (Irkutsk Region) entrepreneur. The police suspected the investigator indulged in illegal activities and would take money for opening or not opening criminal cases and taking or not taking other investigative actions. The arrested senior investigator hailing from this place was an intermediary in the illegal transaction. The police officer will be dismissed for disgracing the police force should he be convicted, according to the office of public affairs of the MIA Irkutsk Region Main Department. His immediate superiors will be severely reprimanded then, too.
Rumor has it the case has to do with at least 10 million rubles. At the same time, the investigator may have been charged with several such offences, according to available information. It is possible Stanislav Tarakanov is only one link in a chain of people involved in bribery of Irkutsk investigators by timber harvesting companies.
The defendants in the corruption case have already begun testifying. 3rd Department for High-Level Cases Deputy Head Stanislav Tarakanov was dismissed from the Committee, according to July 31 reports.
For now, one can only guess which of the cases that were being investigated by the police officers got them exposed. There is only 1 big scandal that has to do with timber harvesting in the Zalarinsky District that we know of. The police discovered timber was illegally harvested in the Tiretskoe Forest District near the Bagantuy village, Zalarinsky District. The police discovered it in the framework of the Les Police Operation in February of 2016. 3 police officers dispatched there caught 3 Alarsky District residents red-handed. The police confiscated timber ready to be shipped and 2 MTZ-150 chainsaws. The police found out who was behind that very fast. One of them was the Deputy Head of the local department of the Forest Management Agency of the Zalarinsky Forest District of the Irkutsk Region at the time. The offenders caused more than 1.2 million rubles worth of damage to the forest. The Committee opened a criminal case against them for violation of Article 286 (Exceeding Official Powers) of the Code. The suspect who worked as a public official was arrested. The case is still under investigation, according to information available to us.
Major General Andrey Bunev may not only have known about his subordinate’s illegal business but may have been a part of it, according to some sources. However, there is another version out there, too. Some people say politicians and employees of associated law enforcement agencies are trying to get rid of the General they are sick and tired of in such a manner. 46 mayors and municipalities heads were imprisoned over the 4 years he worked in Irkutsk. Moreover, there were many people who made money on the “forest mafia” in the Irkutsk Region. But the Committee Irkutsk Region Department has been the only one able to continue making money on it since 2016. Many law enforcement officers held a grudge against Bunev. The only thing they could do was wait for an opportunity to pull the carpet from under him. It seems like Stanislav Tarakanov’s arrest gave all his foes a chance to get rid of the head of one of the key law enforcement agencies they grew sick and tired of.
The Committee Irkutsk Department Head issued first interim review of actions taken against illegal timber harvesting in the Irkutsk Region while the public is guessing whether Andrey Bunev’s subordinate’s arrest will have a negative effect on his career on not. The Committee significantly increased intensity of investigation of forest-related misconduct and tax violations over the last 2 years, according to Bunev’s data. 24 criminal cases were opened against public officials involved with forest industry in 2016. 10 more such cases were opened in 2017. And not a single one of the cases referred to court has been returned for additional investigation.
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