Khabarovsk region government searched in case of forest stealing worth $155mn

Khabarovsk region government searched in case of forest stealing worth $155mn
Khabarovsk Region Governor Sergey Furgal

Otkrytye Media reported searches at Sergey Furgal’s deputies, noting that he is one of the so-called ‘protest’ governors elected in 2018.

The Khabarovsk region government has been searched in case of forest stealing, RIA Novosti reports referring to a source in regional government. The searches were previously reported by a number of media sources and Telegram channels. According to the information, the damage from theft is estimated at about 10 billion rubles ($155 million).

RIA Novosti's source said that the searches were associated with the involvement of the son of one of the former regional government officials in stealing. Press Secretary of the Khabarovsk Region Governor Sergey Furgal, Nadezhda Tomchenko, has not commented on the searches, but noted that he had previously initiated a check of the forest industry. 

“The check is carried out against ex-members of the former government,” Tomchenko said. 

Otkrytye Media reported searches at Sergey Furgal’s deputies, noting that he is one of the so-called ‘protest’ governors elected in 2018. It is reported that the searches are being carried out at Regional Minister of Finance Aleksandr Katsuba, Minister of Economic Development Viktor Kalashnikov, First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Averin, and Deputy Chairman of the Government for Social Affairs Natalya Pudovkina. Otkrytye Media believes that all the ministers mentioned were approved by the governor himself after his election. 

Some of these ministers have worked in the structures of the regional government for many years; various accusations have been filed against them. In particular, a criminal case was initiated in 2003 against Aleksandr Katsuba for allocating 330 million rubles ($5.12 million) at a reduced rate of 18% to five enterprises of the Khabarovsk region. Later, it turned out that the minister issued money to enterprises without return guarantees, and later postponed the return periods and reduced interest rates, first to 15% and then to 1.8% per annum. The MIA Regional Directorate has estimated the damage to the region at more than 232 million rubles ($3.6 million). As a result, the criminal case was terminated after the intervention of Russian Deputy Prosecutor General Viktor Grin’. 

The second criminal case was initiated against Katsuba in late 2000s due to the reception of a loan of 4 million rubles ($62,168). The case was terminated four days after its initiation. 

Igor Averin worked as Assistant to former Governor of the Khabarovsk region, Viktor Ishaev, who headed the region from 1991 to 2009. The media accused Ishaev of having links with the criminal world.

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