“It is not about locking up them all.” New wave of anti-corruption purge in Dagestan
Several new criminal cases against corrupt officials have been instituted in Dagestan. The high-ranked suspects include Abdulmedzhid Suleimanov, ex-Mayor of Izberbash; Amir Magomedov, ex-Head of the Izberbash Administration; Magomed Dzhelilov, Head of the Derbent District; and El’dar Karagishiev, Head of the Babayurt District. In the past, all of them were suspected of similar crimes – but somehow managed to get off the hook. The new arrests occur amid the anti-corruption campaign in the republican law enforcement structures. What are the true reasons behind the new wave of the personnel purge? Can the anti-corruption slogans conceal a fierce battle waged by local clans for redistribution of assets with the purpose to create a new ‘untouchable’ elite in Dagestan?
On April 12, 2019, the Investigations Directorate in the Republic of Dagestan of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR) announced the institution of a criminal case against Abdulmedzhid Suleimanov, ex-Mayor of Izberbash, under part 2 of Article 286 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (exceeding official powers committed by the head of a local self-government body).
According to the investigation, in mid-November 2017, Suleimanov has signed an illegal order and agreement transferring a municipal apartment to a local resident on a free-of-charge basis. The lady was not on the housing waiting list and did not need to improve her living conditions. After getting the apartment for free, the woman has privatized it and then sold for 1.2 million rubles ($18.8 thousand). The investigators believe that the actions of Suleimanov have caused considerable damages to the municipal budget. His pretrial restrictions are currently under consideration.
Abdulmedzhid Suleimanov was born on May 4, 1956 in Ulluaya township, Levashi district, Dagestan. In 1989, has remotely graduated from the Moscow Institute of Business and Law. In 1993–2000, was the Head of the Izberbash Branch № 7659 of Sberbank. In 2002–2007, was the Head of the Interdistrict Inspectorate № 6 for the Republic of Dagestan of the Federal Tax Service of Russia. In 2006, graduated from the Dagestani State University with a major in National Economy. In 2007, was appointed the First Deputy Head of the Izberbash Administration. In 2007–2008, was the Head of the Town of Izberbash Urban District. In 2008, became the Izberbash Mayor. In December 2018, after sharp criticism of republican head Vladimir Vasiliev, has voluntarily resigned. On February 27, 2019, the Assembly of Deputies of the Izberbash Urban District has authorized the early termination of his powers. Suleimanov is a Secretary of the Political Council of the Izberbash Branch of Edinaya Rossiya (United Russia) Party, member of the Presidium of the Political Council of the Dagestani Regional Branch of Edinaya Rossiya Party, Honorary Economist of the Republic of Dagestan, President of the Izberbash Freestyle Wrestling Federation, and Vice President of the Chess Federation of the North Caucasus Federal District.
This is not the first such incident involving Abdulmedzhid Suleimanov. Three years ago, a criminal case was instituted against him under the same part 2 of Article 286 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (exceeding official powers committed by the head of a local self-government body). According to the investigation, in 2007, the Izberbash Mayor made a generous gift to his sister Shamai Asadulaeva. In a brotherly way, Suleimanov granted to her a federally-owned land lot 5 thousand square meters in size at the Caspian Sea shore. The value of this ‘present’ was estimated at 11 million rubles ($172.5 thousand).
Surprisingly, the criminal case was instituted in relation to this episode only on October 7, 2016 – i.e. nine years after it. A year later, the Investigations Directorate in the Republic of Dagestan of the ICR has addressed the court requesting to remove Suleimanov from the post of the Izberbash Mayor. However, on June 7, 2017, the Sovetsky District Court of Makhachkala refused to remove him from office. Lawyer Arslanali Abumuslimov representing Suleimanov requested to terminate the criminal proceedings against his client because the period of limitation has expired in 2012. The investigators had to satisfy the lawyer's request.
Vladimir Vasiliev, Head of the Republic of Dagestan, managed to evict Suleimanov out of his post. In November 2018, he has sharply criticized the Izberbash Mayor for poor progress of the sewage facility construction in the town. “It is easier for me to fire you and, taking the social unrest among the people, prepare a person able to do this. And bring the matter to a close,” – Vasiliev said.
The budget has allocated 12 million rubles ($188.2 thousand) to build sewage treatment facilities in Izberbash. Initially, Abdusamad Gamidov, ex-Prime Minister of Dagestan and cousin of Abdulmedzhid Suleimanov, had supervised this project. After the arrest of Gamidov, the Izberbash Mayor has taken charge of it. Suleimanov got the message of Vasiliev and resigned voluntarily.
Interestingly, prior to the sweeping purge in Dagestan, the republican law enforcement authorities had completely ignored an obvious conflict of interest: since 1997, Shamai Asadulaeva, who has received a land lot by the seaside from her loving brother, has been in charge of Izberbash Boarding School Class III–IV Municipal Budgetary Education Institution for blind and visually impaired children. The boarding school is 100% funded by the Town of Izberbash, and the principal arbitrarily administers its budget. For instance, in the academic year of 2016–2017, the boarding school received 44 million rubles; the majority of this sum was used to pay salaries to the personnel.
The law enforcement structures had already noted that Asadulaeva uses family ties in her own interests. For instance, in 2000, the Ministry of State Property of the Republic of Dagestan found out that Magomed Suleimanov, brother of Abdulmedzhid Suleimanov and Izberbash Mayor in 1997–2008, made a generous present to Shamai Asadulaeva: 2 ha of republican lands have been transferred to her boarding school. According to some information, the land was allocated for subsidiary farming. The Ministry of State Property concluded that this land deal could be fraudulent and asked the law enforcement authorities to investigate the situation. However, at that time, the operatives decided not to institute a criminal case against Magomed Suleimanov.
Magomed Suleimanov was born in 1959 in Izberbash. In 1989, graduated from the Moscow Cooperative Institute with a major in Economy and Trade. Obtained a higher legal education. Since 1977, held various senior positions in the consumer cooperation sector. In 1994, became the Chairman of the Board of Izberbash Bank. In 1997, became the Head of the Izberbash Administration. In April 2007, was elected the Chairman of the People’s Assembly of the Republic of Dagestan. In March 2010, was appointed the Director of the Dagestan Republican Compulsory Medical Insurance Fund. In April 2014, was appointed the Acting Makhachkala Mayor by the republican head. Shortly after that, Suleimanov lost the trust of Ramazan Abdulatipov, which was announced in public. In July 2015, Suleimanov resigned from the post of the Makhachkala Mayor. He took charge of the Dagestan Republican Compulsory Medical Insurance Fund again and resigned after the institution of a criminal case against him. Was awarded the Order of Friendship and Order of Merit for the Fatherland IV Class by Decrees of the Russian President; an Honorary Economist of the Republic of Dagestan.
Magomed Suleimanov became a suspect in a criminal case in August 2018 – by that time, he has already transferred the Mayor’s post to his brother and was in charge of the Dagestan Republican Compulsory Medical Insurance Fund. Suleimanov junior has been charged under part 3 of Article 210 (creation of a criminal community (criminal organization) committed by a person through his/her official position) and part 4 of Article 159 (swindling on an especially large scale) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. According to the investigation, more than 210 million rubles ($3.3 million) have been embezzled from the compulsory medical insurance fund since 2010. Forged documents were used to transfer funds for allegedly rendered medical services; the payments were made via insurance companies controlled by affiliated persons. The CrimeRussia already wrote about the arrest of Magomed Suleimanov and suggested that Abdulmedzhid Suleimanov, as well as other members of the Mekegi clan, would inevitably be prosecuted, too. However, the operatives came to the former Izberbash Mayor much later than expected.
Another powerful member of the Mekegi clan – Amir Magomedov, ex-Head of the Izberbash Administration – has been charged under part 1 of Article 286 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (exceeding official powers) on March 25, 2019 – i.e. two weeks before the lodging of charges against Abdulmedzhid Suleimanov. Magomedov is an old comrade and right-hand man of Magomed Suleimanov. When Suleimanov has taken charge of the Dagestan Republican Compulsory Medical Insurance Fund for the first time, Magomedov was his deputy. Prior to this, he was a Deputy Head of the Izberbash Administration governed by Magomed Suleimanov. After the arrests of Gamidov and Magomed Suleimanov, many experts had predicted the arrest of Magomedov as well. This prognosis came true – but again, not as quickly as expected.
The criminal case against Magomedov was instituted on the basis of a probe carried out by the Republican Prosecutor’s Office. The watchdog authority found out that an 8-storey apartment building near the Izberbash Central Hospital was built with numerous violations. In 2015, Magomedov has illegally transferred a land lot 450 square meters in size to the developer for free, thus, inflicting damages in the amount of 1.4 million rubles ($22 thousand) to the municipal budget. In 2018, a tender was illegally carried out; as a result, the same developer received another adjacent lot. Then an illegal construction permit was issued to erect on these two lots an 8-storey apartment building with commercial premises. There was no approved territorial survey. Furthermore, the urban development, sanitary–epidemiological, and fire regulations prohibit the construction of high-rise buildings 6 meters apart from a hospital. In addition, this lot that accommodates a high-pressure gas pipeline and gas reduction facilities.
Similarly with Abdulmedzhid Suleimanov, a criminal case was earlier instituted against Amir Magomedov under a more grievous article of the Criminal Code – abuse of official powers. In October 2015, the Investigations Directorate in the Republic of Dagestan of the ICR has charged Magomedov under part 1 of Article 285 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (abuse of official powers). According to the investigation, the suspect has illegally provided to citizens having no need in additional lands and not put on the housing waiting list lands with a total area of 3.2 thousand square meters worth some 4 million rubles ($62.7 thousand). In April 2016, Magomedov was charged with eight counts of abuse of official powers committed in the period since August 2014 and until May 2015. On May 18, 2016, the Izberbash Town Court has delivered a sentence to Amir Magomedov, but its text was never published. No information on this verdict can be found on the web sites of the Prosecutor's Office of the Republic of Dagestan or Investigations Directorate in the Republic of Dagestan of the ICR. Interestingly, on March 25, the Prosecutor General's Office of the Russian Federation has reported the institution of a new criminal case against the ex-Head of the Izberbash Administration referring to the similar news posted on the official web site of the Prosecutor's Office of the Republic of Dagestan – but no such reports were published there.
It might seem that the cases against Abdulmedzhid Suleimanov and Amir Magomedov are a logical continuation of the crackdown on the Mekegi clan launched after the arrest of Gamidov. However, the current personnel purge also includes a number of criminal cases instituted nearly simultaneously against Dagestani officials having nothing to do with this clan. All the suspects were criminally charged in the past but somehow managed to get off the hook. For instance, on April 11, the ICR has announced that, “in the framework of the focused efforts to decriminalize the Republic of Dagestan”, a criminal case was instituted against Magomed Dzhelilov, Head of the Derbent District, for three criminal episodes falling under part 4 of Article 160 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (misappropriation or embezzlement committed by a person through his official position, as well as on a large scale). And again, this information was not published on the official web site of the Investigations Directorate in the Republic of Dagestan of the ICR.
According to the investigation, in 2015, Dzhelilov has illegally granted, using his official powers, three land lots in the Derbent district with a total area of 3 ha located along Caucasus Federal Highway to his relatives for free. The cadastral value of these lots is over 3 million rubles ($47 thousand), while their market price may exceed 20 million rubles ($313.6 thousand).
In the framework of the investigation, the residence of Dzhelilov and Administration of the Derbent District were searched. The operatives have detained the district head in his home and published the video of the arrest on the official YouTube channel. The court has satisfied the motion brought by the investigation and remanded Dzhelilov in custody for two months – until July 9, 2019.
Interestingly, on March 4, 2018, Dzhelilov was suspected on land machinations, suspended from office, and placed under home arrest. A criminal case was instituted against him under paragraph “c” of part 3 of Article 286 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (exceeding official powers with the infliction of grave consequences). According to the investigation, in 2016, Dzhelilov has illegally signed orders to grant land lots, 1 ha in size each, to two local residents for subsidiary farming. The damages inflicted to the budget were estimated at 2.2 million rubles ($34.5 thousand). However, on December 2, the charges laid against Dzhelilov were dropped, he was released from home arrest, and the decision to suspend him from office was annulled.
Another criminal case was instituted against El'dar Karagishiev, Head of the Babayurt District, for embezzlement of budget funds allocated for road repairs. On April 14, the Sovetsky District Court of Makhachkala remanded him in custody for two months.
On April 12, the Investigations Directorate in the Republic of Dagestan of the ICR announced that the criminal case has been instituted not only against Karagishiev – but also against Mairbek Budaev, Head of Bisma Limited Liability Company specializing in construction. The both suspects have been charged under part 2 of Article 292 (official forgery), part 4 of Article 160 (misappropriation or embezzlement on an especially large scale), part 2 of Article 327 (forgery, manufacture, or sale of falsified documents committed for the purpose of concealing another crime or facilitating its commitment), and part 5 of Article 33 and part 4 of Article 160 (complicity in misappropriation or embezzlement on an especially large scale) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.
According to the investigation, in 2018, Karagishiev and Budaev have embezzled over 2 million rubles ($31.4 thousand) allocated from the budget on road repairs in L’vovskoe township, Babayurt district. The repairs were, in fact, performed by local people at their own expense.
A few more criminal cases against not so high-ranked Dagestani officials were instituted nearly simultaneously. On March 26, the Investigations Directorate in the Republic of Dagestan of the ICR announced the institution of a criminal case against the Head of the Administration of Gunib Township Municipal Unit. He has been charged under part 2 of Article 286 (exceeding official powers) and part 2 of Article 292 (official forgery) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.
According to the investigation, in August 2016, the township head has produced a fake excerpt from the rural household register falsely stating that a local female owns a land lot 600 square meters in size in Gunib township. The corrupt official has signed and sealed the fake document. The illegally transferred land lot was located within a nature park and could not be privatized.
On April 4, the Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Dagestan has announced the institution of a criminal case against the Acting Head of the Administration of the Alikhanmakhi Rural Council. It was established that the female official has received 70 thousand rubles ($1.1 thousand) for the needs of the rural settlement by negotiating a cash voucher and appropriated 35 thousand rubles ($550) out of that amount.
On April 12, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) for the Republic of Dagestan announced that the institution of a criminal case under Article 204 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (bribery in a profit-making organization) against the head of a rural council administration in the Gergebil district is under consideration. The official is suspected of purchasing a fake diploma for his wife at the budget expense. In December 2016, he has transferred 100 thousand rubles ($1.6 thousand) to the bank card of the principal of a nongovernmental education establishment in Makhachkala. The funds were transferred as a payment for the illegal issuance of a law school diploma to the spouse of the rural head.
On April 16, the Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Dagestan has announced the institution of a criminal case against the Head of Eminkhyur Rural Settlement under part 2 of Article 292 (official forgery) and part 3 of Article 159 (swindling committed by a person through his official position on an especially large scale) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. According to the investigation, the head of the rural settlement has produced a fake excerpt from the rural household register stating that his spouse owns a land lot 5 thousand square meters in size since 1997. The suspect has signed and sealed the fake document. The cadastral value of the land exceeds 307 thousand rubles ($4.8 thousand).
The simultaneous institution of numerous corruption cases likely manifests a new wave of the sweeping purge launched in Dagestan after the inauguration of Vladimir Vasiliev. Milrad Fatullaev, Editor-in-Chief of Derbent News Agency, believes that this is not quite the case: "I wouldn't say that this is a new wave of the personnel purge. It is rather the next stage of it. In early 2018, an operative and investigative group consisting of 38 prosecutors and ICR and MIA investigators had arrived in the republic. After working for two months in Dagestan, these people returned back. But Denis Popov, Prosecutor of the Republic of Dagestan, continues their work... And the arrests made last week became the next stage".
Vladimir Vasiliev, Head of the Republic of Dagestan
A year ago, Vasiliev had promised journalists to combat the corruption – but assured that "it is not about locking up them all". In December, the republican head said that it was time to shift from combating the corruption to its prophylactics. In February, Vasiliev claimed that the main corruption prevention principle has changed in Dagestan – the anti-corruption campaign allegedly does not heavily rely on the "repressive work" anymore. "In the past, we had prosecuted for involvement in corruption and creation of criminal communities. Now we put emphasis on the elimination of prerequisites for corruption," – Vasiliev explained. However, it turns out that the repressions continue. A year ago, the law enforcement structures had focused their efforts on the incarceration of the most prominent corrupt functionaries and let their low-ranked colleagues go. And now the time has come for the ‘small fish'.
Albert Esedov, Head of the Dagestani Branch of Yabloko Russian United Democratic Party, believes that the new wave of the sweeping purge was expectable: “Last year, the mass purge was carried out at the high level and affected the chairman of the government, his deputies, republican ministers, directors of governmental agencies, and heads of municipal units. In the new year, this work expectedly continues at the municipal level”. However, the politician does not rule out that the demonstrative anti-corruption campaign may have other goals as well: “I want to believe that the current purge of officials is carried out for the benefit of Dagestan and its residents – i.e. that it is not yet another redistribution of assets with the purpose to create a new caste of so-called ‘untouchable’ elite”.