How would Aman Tuleev pay for crimes of his deputies?
A criminal case has been initiated against two deputies of the Governor Aman Tuleev and the Head of the Investigations Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR) in the Kemerovo Region due to a fact of extortion on an especially large scale. Tuleev has stood up for his subordinates and called accusations against them absurd, the criminal case – framed up, and the whole situation – an attempt to pressurize the Head of Kuzbass. Would Tuleev be able to repel this attack, or is it finally the time for him to leave the lofty perch?
The CrimeRussia wrote earlier that enforcement structures have recently shown some activity in the Kemerovo region: after many years of idleness, they have initiated several criminal cases against Kuzbass officials. Experts interpreted this as a possible purge of Kuzbass before the change of power. The Prosecutor's investigation against Maksim Makin, the First Deputy Governor of the Kemerovo Region, has been considered the start of a new gubernatorial election campaign in the region. Makin was the most probable successor to Aman Tuleev, the Head of Kuzbass, and his prosecution was an attack on the Kuzbass-bashi – this is how Kemerovo residents nicknamed Tuleev.
Here is another indication that the perpetual rule of Tuleev in Kuzbass is about to end soon. The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR) has announced the initiation of a criminal case against two deputies of the Governor of the Kemerovo Region – Aleksey Ivanov and Aleksander Danilchenko – and Yelena Troitskaya, the Head of the Department of Administrative Structures of the Regional Administration. The list of suspects in this criminal case includes three enforcement officers: Sergey Kalinkin, the Head of the Investigations Directorate of the ICR in the Kemerovo Region; Sergey Kryukov, the Deputy Head of the Second Department for Investigation of Special Cases of the Investigations Directorate of the ICR in the Kemerovo Region; and Artemy Shevelev, the Senior Investigator of the Second Department for Investigation of Special Cases of the Investigations Directorate of the ICR in the Kemerovo Region, – as well as Aleksander Shukin, the ounder of Ugol (Coal) Production and Trading Company Limited Liability Company, his confidant Gennady Vernigor, and other unidentified persons. All of them are suspected of a crime under item (b), part 3 of Article 163 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (Extortion).
Aleksander Danilchenko was appointed the Vice Governor for the Coal Industry of the Administration of the Kemerovo Region in March 2016. In October 2016, after the resignation of Maksim Makin, he has been appointed the Acting First Deputy Governor of the Kemerovo Region.
According to the investigation, the suspects, acting by previous concert, had been extorting from a local businessman Anton Tsygankov his controlling block of shares (51%) in Razrez Insky (Insky Pit) Joint Stock Company, which is running underground coal mining in the Belovsky district of the Kemerovo region. The market value of the shares is at least 1 billion rubles – which allows to classify the offense as extortion on an especially large scale.
Pretrial restrictions for the suspects are currently under consideration; the investigation is preparing to lay charges. All the suspects have been detained for 48 hours by the Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation and the Main Investigations Directorate of the ICR and escorted to Novosibirsk where their case will be handled by the Fifth Investigations Directorate of the Main Investigations Directorate of the ICR specializing in most high-profile cases against high-ranked Siberian functionaries.
This is not the first time in Kuzbass when owners of coal mining enterprises are being forcibly replaced using the same criminal scheme – so, new episodes are likely to appear in this criminal case. According to sources close to the investigation, it is planned to verity information about forcible coercion of other businessmen to enter into deals disadvantageous for them using the administrative resource and enforcement structures. The first episode involved the Gramoteinskaya mine sold for only 10 thousand rubles to Lehram Capital Investments Ltd. registered in London. Shortly after this deal, the regional authorities have expressed their dissatisfaction with salary delays at the mine, and then Igor Rudyk, a Kazakhstan citizen and shareholder of Lehram Capital Investments Ltd., was detained for a violation of the migration legislation. Being in custody, he has signed the papers to sell Shakhta Gramoteinskaya Limited Liability Company to the above-mentioned Aleksander Shukin. The second similar episode has occurred with Boris Yakubuk, owner of Zenkovskoe Shakhtoupravlenie Limited Liability Company. He has also been arrested for a violation of the migration legislation and signed in a pretrial detention facility sale documents for all his assets: Shakhta (Mine) Koksovaya-2 Limited Liability Company, Shakhta (Mine) Zenkovskaya Limited Liability Company, Shakhta im. Dzerzhinskogo Limited Liability Company, and Koksovaya Coal Preparation Plant Limited Liability Company. Should the suspicions of the investigators be confirmed, the actions of regional functionaries and enforcement officers may be classified as creation of a criminal society. It cannot be ruled out that questions might also be asked to Tuleev – who used to defend Aleksander Shukin in the episode with the Gramoteinskaya mine, as the CrimeRussia wrote earlier.
Aman Tuleev has already shown his official stance on the issue at an urgent press conference held on November 15, 2016. First of all, the Kuzbass-bashi has stated in public that he does not see any reasons to dismiss his deputies suspected of extortion: “They shall remain at their posts. What are the reasons to remove them? They are decent and honest people, governmental servants”. Tuleev called all accusations against his subordinates absurd. The Kuzbass-bash’ has taken their prosecution as a veiled attack on himself: “Danilchenko, Ivanov, Troitskaya – no one really needs them. Most probably, somebody needs the Governor. I have been feeling this for a while already, for some two years – an intense fight is ongoing”. According to Tuleev, many people are unhappy that, due to the growing environmental pressure, the Kuzbass authorities have stopped issuing permits for development of new coal deposits in the region and started requesting to perform land remediation. “Such a Governor is not convenient. Therefore, monies are paid, and following every sneeze, a smear campaign against the authorities is being launched”. However, Aman Tuleev did not specify who is opposing the Head of Kuzbass and said that he does not know the names.
According to Tuleev, his deputies have been masterfully framed up. The Head of the region has provided his own version of the events. According to him, tensions have been mounting at the Inskaya mine since the end of the last year due to the lack of specialists to start works on a new coal bed. “Since November 2015, salary delays have begun on the Inskaya pit”, – Tuleev said. – “You know the attitude of the President towards such things; you know my attitude towards a situation when a person works underground and does not get money for this. The arrears have reached 34 million rubles. All the letters to the owners have not brought any result. We addressed all law enforcement authorities. By July 2016, the total amount of debts to the miners has increased to 62 million rubles, while tax arrears – to 154 million rubles. On July 8, the miners went on strike, and the regional authorities had to intervene. Simultaneously, the investigation has arrested Tsygankov for non-payment of salaries”. Aman Tuleev reminded that he had repeatedly warned about the uneasy situation at this mine, while the local media reported that Tsygankov is negotiating its sale with the same Novokuznetsk-based businessman Shukin.
As per Tuleev, the negotiations with Shukin were not about the sale of the pit: the regional authorities had addressed the founder of Ugol (Coal) Production and Trading Company Limited Liability Company for help because his mines are located close to the Insky pit and use same technologies: “It was decided to ask him to provide specialists. I would like to emphasize: only specialists. And then you make a decision yourself, together with the owners”. Later Shukin has started negotiations with the true – Moscow-based – owners of the mine regarding the recovery of resources invested to resume the mine operations. However, after these negotiations, Shukin “returned pale and scared and has torn all papers related to the deal preparation”. On the second day, he took back all his specialists from the Insky pit. Then Danilchenko and Ivanov had negotiations with Tsygankov. “There was no coercion at all. If somebody says that we wanted to grab something and give it to Shukin – it is absurd,” – Tuleev emphasized.
Tuleev strongly believes that all actions of his deputies had a sole purpose: reduce the social tension at the Inskaya mine – although this could involve some legal incompetence. “I gave them (Danilchenko, Ivanov, and Troitskaya – the CrimeRussia) a resolution: sort out the situation and report to me. The second resolution was: provide the materials to law enforcement structures. What has allegedly happened – let’s transfer the controlling block of shares to that person and consolidate the enterprises – it was done to resume works at the mine, to prevent strikes and mass layoffs”.
Aleksey Ivanov, the Deputy Head of the Governor of the Kemerovo Region for Coordination of Work of Law Enforcement Structures and Military Administration Structures, has been holding this position since March 2014. Prior to this appointment, he used to work in structures of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the Russian Federation; has advanced through ranks from a criminal investigator to the Deputy Head of the Russian MIA General Administration for Economic Security in the Kemerovo Region.
Svetlana Petrenko, an official representative of the ICR, has commented the speech of Tuleev as follows: “The loud statements about allegedly absurd accusations – especially made by those who are totally unfamiliar with the criminal case materials – raise eyebrows”. According to Petrenko, all statements made by the ICR are based on collected operative materials.
Razrez Insky Joint Stock Company was founded in 2002; the mine has been put into operation in 2011. Since the beginning of its work, the enterprise has been unprofitable; in 2015, the losses have exceeded 1.7 billion rubles. Anton Tsygankov has acquired the controlling block of shares in Razrez Insky Joint Stock Company – whose debts at that time were estimated at 12 billion rubles – in the beginning of 2016. Some creditors had already attempted to declare the pit bankrupt. Salary arrears continued to accrue; according to TASS, in the end of April 2016, those exceeded 50 million rubles. Pit employees whose salaries have not been paid for months were going on strikes and rallied protest meetings. Still, the management of Razrez Insky Joint Stock Company had expected to pay out debts after commencing mining operations on a new coal bed and normalize the work of the enterprise since May. These plans, however, have been delayed due to high ash content in the coal: by June, the salary arrears have exceeded 43 million rubles.
On July 12, the official web site of the Administration of the Kemerovo Region has announced that the Regional Directorate of the ICR had arrested Anton Tsygankov and initiated a criminal case against him under part 2 of Article 201 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (Abuse of Authority, which has involved grave consequences). However, the Investigations Directorate in the Kemerovo Region has noted that Tsygankov was only detained for 48 hours. Investigators of the Main Investigations Directorate of the ICR believe that the criminal case was initiated against the owner of the Insky pit only in order to force him to sell the controlling block of shares in the enterprise. Two days after the Prosecutor’s inquiry, Tsygankov has been released. Simultaneously with his release, rumors started circulating about the sale of the Insky pit to Aleksander Shukin. Aleksander Danilchenko, the Vice Governor for the Coal Industry of the Administration of the Kemerovo Region, had also strongly recommended to find a new owner for the enterprise. According to an employee of Razrez Insky Joint Stock Company, in July, Aleksander Shukin appeared at the enterprise and announced that the pit belongs to him now. The links between the criminal case initiation, displeasure of the regional administration with the situation at the enterprise, and replacement of the owner are pretty clear.
But today the main question is: how would all these events affect the career of the Kuzbass-bashi? So far, Aman Tuleev is considered a witness in this case. But irrespective of whether the Head of the Kemerovo Region was aware of illegal activities of his subordinates or not, he would have to bear liability for them. “This is an alarm bell for the Governor in any event,” – Aleksey Chesnakov, the Director of the Center for Current Policy, believes. – “Even if this is just a purge campaign against second-level regional functionaries, it is a serious signal for the head of the region”. According to Dmitry Fetisov, Director of NPR Group, these arrests would fatally affect the future of Tuleev: “Decisions of that level can’t be made without an approval from the Kremlin, and if the Kremlin has allowed these arrests, apparently, a replacement for Tuleev would be presented shortly”.