General’s geography. Old stomping grounds of Vladimir Romanyuk
Vladimir Romanyuk, ex-Deputy Head of the General Administration for the Sverdlovsk Region of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the Russian Federation, has been charged with ‘covering up’ underground gambling establishments. The investigation believes that he received a bribe in the amount of 1.3 million rubles ($19.5 thousand) for protecting and solving issues of illegal casinos operating in Yekaterinburg. The operatives are currently checking him for complicity in other crimes as well. According to The CrimeRussia sources, the retired police general, who has resigned a year ago, is ready to turn in the entire supreme command of the MIA General Administration for the Sverdlovsk Region. Some information provided by the former policeman may be kept in investigators’ files up to some point and pop up later – for instance, his ties with thief-in-law Pichugin and ‘patronage’ of energy companies.
Law enforcement operatives arrested retired police general Vladimir Romanyuk in early October in the framework of yet another phase of the sweeping purge of the MIA General Administration for the Sverdlovsk Region. Major Eduard Voronin, Head of the Department for Economic Security and Combating the Corruption of the MIA Administration for the City of Yekaterinburg, was the first high-ranked police commander detained by the Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation. His office and home have been searched. On the same day, FSB operatives came to Romanyuk to perform searches.
According to sources of Znak.com portal, the investigators want Romanyuk to expose the operations of Viktor Vekselberg in the Urals. The appointment of the major general to the MIA General Administration for the Sverdlovsk Region was supposedly linked with the head of notorious Renova. The information provided by him may result in another ‘Gaizer case’ in Yekaterinburg. According to the investigation, top managers of an energy company paid bribes totaling 800 million rubles ($12 million) to supreme functionaries of the Komi Republic for setting maximally profitable heat and hydro rates and other ‘bonuses’ provided to KES Closed Joint Stock Company belonging to Vekselberg. Similar schemes could be used in the Sverdlovsk region supervised by Romanyuk. The investigators asked him questions about the Komi affairs for a reason. The retired police general has ties with thief-in-law Yuri Pichugin (Pichuga (Little Bird)) who had terrorized Syktyvkar and the entire region. Still, according to The CrimeRussia sources, the inquest against Romanyuk is “very far” from Vekselberg yet – unlike general’s links with crowned thief Pichuga.
After the searches, Romanyuk has been escorted to Lefortovo Pretrial Detention Center, and a few days later, the retired general agreed to make a full confession and collaborate with the investigation. It is unknown yet what information has Romanyuk shared with the operatives – but currently he is prosecuted in the framework of a case pertaining to the ‘patronage’ of gambling businesses in Yekaterinburg.
Initially, Romanyuk had denied his involvement in the ‘patronage’ of illegal casinos – but after a face-to-face questioning with retired police colonel Sergei Glushchenko from Moscow, the general admitted the receipt of a bribe in the amount of 1.3 million rubles ($19.5 thousand). According to the sources of Znak.com, Glushchenko was an intermediary – Romanyuk used to work with him at the MIA Administration for the Severnoe Medvedkovo District of Moscow in the early 2000s. They have met again in 2016 – Glushchenko visited his former boss in Yekaterinburg and offered him 1 million rubles ($15 thousand) for assistance to an illegal club located in the basement of the building at 139 Kuibysheva street. Some Samvel Martirosyan and Petros Galetyan agreed to deliver the money. According to the investigation, some Artur Simonyan had asked Glushchenko to assist in the negotiations with Romanyuk. Glushchenko and Romanyuk decided to divide the money equally – provided that the bribe is delivered to Moscow. The Deputy Head of the MIA General Administration for the Sverdlovsk Region refused to take the money in Yekaterinburg. Then he instructed Eduard Voronin, then-Deputy Head of the Department for Economic Security and Combating the Corruption of the MIA Administration for the City of Yekaterinburg, not to obstruct the casino operations. Nikolai Barabanov, then-Head of the Department for Economic Security and Combating the Corruption, was not informed of this deal because Romanyuk considered him “incompetent”. However, some time later, operatives of the Administration for Economic Security and Combating the Corruption of the MIA General Administration for the Sverdlovsk Region under the command of Oleg Kurach have come to the gambling club. The officers made an evidentiary purchase and seized all equipment, including 25 slot machines.
Then Romanyuk and Glushchenko have met again and decided to return the equipment to the casino owners in exchange for 300 thousand rubles ($4.5 thousand). However, they were unable to settle the issue because the case was already transferred to the investigators – and Romanyuk had no power over them. The general asked Glushchenko to return the bribe to the businessmen in full – but apparently, Glushchenko failed to do so.
In 2017, some manager Indra Gabbasova has been convicted in the illegal casino case and sentenced to a fine of 60 thousand rubles ($902). However, in summer 2018, lieutenant general Igor Krasnov, Deputy Chairman of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR), signed an order to transfer this case to the Main Investigations Directorate in the City of Moscow of the ICR. Sergei Kondrashin, a former Criminal Investigator of the Department for Economic Security and Combating the Corruption of the MIA Administration for the City of Yekaterinburg, has testified against Romanyuk. In July 2018, he has been sentenced to 5.5 years in a general regime penal colony for extortion of a bribe in the amount of 1.2 million rubles ($18 thousand) from a representative of DilSis Limited Liability Company (a bookmaker's office) for assistance in the retrieval of equipment seized by the operatives of the Department for Economic Security and Combating the Corruption in 2015 and subsequent protection of the bookmakers from police raids.
According to Petrovka 38 newspaper, police major general Vladimir Romanyuk joined the MIA in 1981. Romanyuk began his career as a policeman of the detached battalion of the Patrol and Guard Police Service of the MIA Administration of the Executive Committee for the Kirovsky District. In 1989, was appointed a criminal investigator at the Criminal Investigation Department of the same MIA Administration. In 1992–1996, was a senior investigator at the Criminal Investigation Department of the MIA Department for the Bibirevo District. In December 1996, became a Deputy Head of the Criminal Police of the MIA Department for the Severnoe Medvedkovo District. A year later, was appointed the Head of the Criminal Police of the MIA Department for the Severnoe Medvedkovo District. In 2003–2009, was the Head of the MIA Department for the Severnoe Medvedkovo District. In March 2009, became the First Deputy Head of the MIA Administration for the Northeastern Administrative District of Moscow and Head of the Criminal Police. In 2011, transferred to the Sverdlovsk region. Major general Romanyuk has resigned in June 2017.
In 2011, police lieutenant general Mikhail Borodin has transferred to Yekaterinburg from Moscow where he was the Head of the MIA Administration for the Southeastern Administrative District of Moscow. Borodin had reinforced his team in the Urals with officers from Moscow, including Vladimir Romanyuk. Shortly after that, the media started discussing another redistribution of the shady gambling market in Yekaterinburg under the auspices of the police.
“Whatever actions we perform, it is interpreted as a redistribution of assets. Take, for instance, gambling dens – we had always worked scrupulously. In the last year alone, 723 establishments have been shut down. This year, we shut down 88 dens! And rumors started circulating immediately: the officers from Moscow are redistributing the market and preparing the ground for themselves. Can you name a single officer from Moscow who has come and occupied this illegal business niche? The market is now actively discussed – but there is a trust line in place. We have established a special commission to verify all reports and even unconfirmed publications. General Viktor Yurievich Berdnikov is responsible for this. The commission involves the most experienced officers of various services and representatives of the public council and veterans’ organization,” – Borodin told the Ural press in 2012.
According to some information, the arrest of major Voronin and major general Romanyuk was a result of a multiyear inquest carried out by Department “M” of the Regional FSB Directorate under the command of Aleksander Kozubsky, former head of this department. He resigned in December 2017 amid a conflict with the MIA General Administration for the Sverdlovsk Region. His subordinates have carried out a special operation targeting some operatives of the Administration for Economic Security and Combating the Corruption of the MIA General Administration for the Sverdlovsk Region. Then an internal audit was launched by the FSB to verify the legitimacy of these actions. The resignation of Kozubsky was announced without disclosing its results. Therefore, the current criminal cases against Romanyuk and Voronin may be considered a counterblow delivered by the FSB.
Police lieutenant general Mikhail Borodin has been transferred to Voronezh a few weeks ago in the framework of the staff turnover and appointed the Head of the MIA General Administration for the Voronezh Region “to reinforce the law enforcement sector in the region”. The scandal with ‘patronage’ of casinos hasn’t affected him yet.
After the resignation, Vladimir Romanyuk got off the radar. The CrimeRussia found out that he was running a business while being the Head of the MIA Administration for the Severnoe Medvedkovo District of Moscow. Romanyuk was a cofounder of a company entitled P.A.R.us v XXI veke (Sail in the XXI Century) and featuring a weird sales booth near Medvedkovo subway station with a "Sweaters – Flowers" sign. According to the district newspaper, it had obstructed the passage of local residents through the sidewalk. Based on the report of the Head of the Administration of the Severnoe Medvedkovo District, the booth was demolished in 2014 as illegal.
Another co-owner of the booth was police colonel Petr Pavlyuk, ex-Head of the MIA Administration for the Central Administrative District of Moscow, who has resigned in 2010 in the rank of major general. Currently, he is the founder of Altair Private Security Company that has fulfilled governmental contracts for the total amount of 1.3 million rubles ($19.5 thousand). The company mostly guards schools and medical institutions.
In addition, Romanyuk used to own some Gloria company. The both legal entities have been liquidated in the first half of 2018 at the initiative of the tax authorities. No information about general’s business ties with Pichugin and his henchmen is available in official sources. However, it is necessary to keep in mind that the names of crowned thieves are rarely mentioned in official documents, especially tax-related.
By the way, the property and income declarations of Romanyuk make no references to any business. He had always declared only a home with a living space of 269 square meters and two apartments with a total living space of 149.4 square meters. Back in 2014, Romanyuk ceased to disclose the income and assets of his spouse.
According to The CrimeRussia sources, retired general Romanyuk had lived in Zhostovo township, Moscow region. However, he had only paid short visits there and used the property as a summer country home.
Zhostovo is known for its painted trays – an old folk craft. Dynasties of craftsmen live in the township also featuring a souvenir factory. Since the 1990s, wealthy Moscow residents started buying lands there and erecting private mansions. The once-quiet village has nearly disappeared – high fences, roadblocks, and security guards everywhere. It is impossible to inspect the entire settlement and find out who owns these properties. Zhostovo is located on the shore of a small water body not connected with Moscow Canal or Klyazma Reservoir. This is why the shoreline is not blocked by deluxe mansions yet and expensive yachts don’t cruise the lake.
It is unknown when thief-in-law Pichuga and ex-policeman Romanyuk have met each other. But both of them have homes in Zhostovo. According to The CrimeRussia sources, the friendship between them was so close that their lots were not separated by a fence. Reportedly, they had a number of common interests, including hunting and fishing.
An organized criminal group under the leadership of Pichugin had operated in the Komi Republic for 20 years. Its members had racketeered local businesses, committed frauds, armed robberies, and other crimes, and submitted criminal proceeds to the thieves’ pooled cash fund. In the course of searches, several arms caches have been found in various towns. Prior to his arrest in February 2017, Pichigin was considered in the criminal world one of the main contenders for the ‘throne’ of “thief № 1” Zakhary Kalashov (Shakro Molodoy) detained in summer 2016. In September 2018, Pichugin has been charged under Article 210 (creation of a criminal community (criminal organization) and participation therein), Article 222 (illegal storage of firearms), and Article 105 (murder) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. For the totality of the crimes committed, he is facing life in prison.
Interestingly, Yuri Pichugin was born in Azanka township, Sverdlovsk region and grew up in Zheshart township, Ust-Vym district, Komi Republic. However, there is a Pichugin dynasty of craftsmen in Zhostovo.
No one can say whether these people are somehow related to the thief-in-law. Yuri Pichugin never lived in Zhostovo permanently. The crowned thief was arrested in another elite cottage community of the Moscow region – Barvikha Hills – located on Rublevo-Uspenskoe highway. He owns a three-storey mansion there featuring a swimming pool, sauna, cinema, gyms, and a prayer room with antique icons and large library mostly consisting of Orthodox spiritual literature. According to a source of Kommersant newspaper, Pichugin had an armored Bentley, two Mercedes, and Toyota Land Cruiser vehicles whose total value exceeds 100 million rubles ($1.5 million). In addition, the operatives found in his residence annual certificates worth 1 million rubles ($15 thousand) each for accommodation in best Moscow hotels.
By the way, Aleksander Shestun, ex-Head of the Serpukhov District of the Moscow Region, detained on suspicion of exceedance of official powers also tells about the religious devotion of Pichugin. Shestun and crowned thief Pichuga are currently both kept in Lefortovo Pretrial Detention Center. According to the letter submitted to PASMI (First Anti-Corruption Media) by the official, they meet each other pretty rarely.
“I only know that he prays ten hours a day being a devoted Orthodox Christian and that he is charged under many articles and reportedly faces life in prison,” – Shestun wrote.
According to sources of Ura.ru, Romanyuk was allegedly involved in a murder somehow linked with the thief. The sources haven’t specified which murder was it.
Yuri Pichugin (Pichuga (Little Bird))
The operatives are currently checking retired general Romanyuk for complicity in other crimes. Of course, not all suspicions against him will be materialized in the very first criminal case. Some information provided by the former policeman may be kept in investigators’ files up to some point and pop up later.
Right now, the operatives are interested most of all in general’s exploits in the Urals. According to The CrimeRussia sources, Romanyuk is ready to testify against the supreme command of the MIA General Administration for the Sverdlovsk Region. This is indirectly confirmed by the arrest of Oleg Grekhov, Police Chief of Pervouralsk, for a corruption crime in early November. A criminal case has been instituted against him under Article 290 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (bribe-taking). It pertains to the scandal with surveillance on and murder conspiracy against Evgeny Roizman, ex-Mayor of Yekaterinburg.