Head of Federal Customs Service lost his cover

Head of Federal Customs Service lost his cover
Andrey Belyaninov, Head of the Federal Customs Service

Apparently, behind-the-scenes struggle of various enforcement agencies and their business interests lays behind the obvious and logical reason for the checks in the Federal Customs Service (FCS). After recent resignations of high-ranked Federal Security Service (FSB) officers, many corrupt officials have lost their ‘cover’, including those involved into the counterfeit alcohol case.

Officers of the Internal Security Directorate of the FSB and the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation arrived yesterday to Andrey Belyaninov, the Head of the Federal Customs Service, in the framework of a criminal case, initiated in the end of 2015 and related to alcohol smuggling (part 3 of Article 200.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). According to the CrimeRussia source, hard times for the Head of FCS have begun after the retirement of Evgeny Murov, the ex-Head of the Federal Protection Service (FPS), and general Viktor Voronin, the Head of the Administration K of FSB.

The main suspect in the alcohol smuggling case is Dmitry Mikhalchenko, a major St. Petersburg businessman, a principal of the Forum Holding Company, and, as some people say, ‘around-the-clock St. Petersburg Governor’. In his business affairs, he often used support of the Federal Protection Service because Nikolay Negodov, a former FSB officer, was his business partner. Negodov was familiar with Evgeny Murov, the former Head of the FPS, since the 1990s. In 2007 Atecks Federal State Unitary Enterprise, whose management were close to Mikhalchenko, was transferred under the jurisdiction of the FPS. Then Baltstroy Company, an affiliate of the Forum Holding Company belonging to Mikhalchenko, began getting large governmental construction and renovation contracts.

It is also believed that the Consolidated Documents Center was launched in St. Petersburg with support of the FPS. The Center is a structure belonging to Mikhalchenko; it used to provide services related to preparation and submission of applications for foreign travel passports.

In March 2016 the Forum Holding Company became involved into criminal cases related to embezzlement of budget funds allocated for restoration of cultural monuments. A number of high-ranked officials were arrested in that period: Grigory Pirumov, the Deputy Minister of Culture; Boris Mazo, the Director of the Department for Property Management and Investment Policy of the Ministry of Culture; Oleg Ivanov, the Director of Tsentrrestavratsia (Center for Restoration) Federal State Unitary Enterprise, and top managers of Baltstroy Joint Stock Company Aleksander Kochenov and Dmitry Sergeev.

At that time, Mikhalchenko managed to get off the hook. But only a month later he was arrested in the framework of the alcohol smuggling case. And very soon after this, in May 2016, Evgeny Murov has retired.

According to RBK Information Systems, in the next month general Viktor Voronin, the Head of the FSB Administration K, submitted a resignation letter. The Internal Security Directorate of the FSB was conducting a major audit of the Economic Security Service in that period. One of possible reasons behind Voronin’s resignation could be the criminal case against his subordinate Vadim Uvarov. According to RBK Information Systems, there could be protection racket episodes in relation to transportation and logistics companies of the Northwestern Federal District, including those involved in smuggling. In December 2015 Pavel Smolyarchuk, a former Federal Customs Service officer and a relative to Vadim Uvarov, the Head of the 7th Department of the Administration K of the Internal Security Directorate of the FSB, was arrested.

It is possible that the boss of Voronin – Yury Yakovlev, the Head of the Internal Security Directorate of the FSB, – has resigned due to the same reason. His successor is Sergey Korolev, who used to serve in the Internal Security Directorate of the FSB prior to this appointment.

By the way, back in the beginning of 2016, Andrey Belyaninov, the Head of the Federal Customs Service, recommended Georgiy Poltavchenko, the St. Petersburg Governor, and Vladimir Bulavin, the Presidential Envoy in the Northwestern Federal District, to grant exclusive goods declaration and clearance powers to customs stations in Bronka and Ust-Luga ports. Ironically, the Bronka Port belongs to Forum, while the counterfeit containers with alcohol were found in the Ust-Luga customs station – which resulted in a criminal case against Mikhalchenko.

It looks like some political powers use Mikhalchenko as a tool to perform large-scale staffing shuffles in special services. Apparently, the rumors that Andrey Belyaninov had submitted a resignation letter back in the beginning of 2016 have some substance behind.

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