Miraculous taiga. Relatives of Rustam Minnikhanov ‘gathered’ 713.7 million rubles ($11 million) in the forest
Rustam Minnikhanov, the President of Tatarstan, is completely focused on municipal issues – while his brother and nephew prefer to spend time closer to the nature. The nature gladly returns the affection of the Minnikhanov family – scarce Tatarstan forests brought the President’s relatives as much as 713.7 million rubles ($11 million). The generosity of mother nature to the Minnikhanov family seems suspicious to the Federal Antimonopoly Service.
Who said FAS?
The forest fund of the Republic of Tatarstan is not big – woodlands occupy only 17% of the region. However, some families manage to extract huge amounts of money from these forests. For instance, clan Minnikhanov has earned 713.7 million rubles ($11 million) on timber in three years. In fact, this is the only example in the republic: the Minnikhanov family is well aware that the resource is limited and closely watches its ‘feeding grounds’. The Administration for the Republic of Tatarstan of the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) has also noticed this.
The antimonopoly agency has uncovered a cartel conspiracy in Sabinskoe Forest Enterprise State Budgetary Institution – one of the richest in the republic. Its forests are dense and abundant – like a small taiga surrounded by plains and steppes. Even a small piece of taiga potentially contains big money that must be protected against rivals and competitors. United by the common greed, two companies – Sabinsky Leskhoz and Sabinskie Lesa – have created a conspiracy. The FAS Administration for the Republic of Tatarstan believes that all agreements between them were verbal. Both companies belong to the same person – some Khazi Faizrakhmanov – and do not have to negotiate anything with each other. However, they have to make arrangements with Vasil Gizzatullin, head of the forest enterprise.
Vasil Gizzatullin, Director of Sabinskoe Forest Enterprise
Khazi Faizrakhmanov used to be a subordinate of Gizzatullin – he was an engineer in above-mentioned Sabinskoe Forest Enterprise State Budgetary Institution. The former boss turned out to be an accommodating person – in three years, the two companies belonging to Faizrakhmanov have won in competition with each other 22 governmental acquisitions. Nobody was harmed by their competitive struggle except for the republican budget – the starting prices at these tenders were reduced only by 0.05%. As a result, Sabinsky Leskhoz and Sabinskie Lesa have earned 713.7 million rubles ($11 million). The sum seems really huge – but everything is relative; after all, such amounts are pretty ordinary for Moscow.
One absolutely happy village
Perhaps, Bogatye Saby settlement – the administrative center of the Saby district – is very prosperous? In 2018, the budget of this district inhabited by 31 thousand people was 1.46 billion rubles($22.6 million). To compare: in the same year of 2018, Khazi Faizrakhmanov alone has got some 200 million rubles ($3.1 million) through the prearranged tenders. It is necessary to keep in mind that the Saby district is not an ordinary territorial unit of Tatarstan. The ‘small motherland’ of Rustam Minnikhanov still remains the domain of his big clan. It is not a coincidence that all the tenders won by the members of the cartel conspiracy were initiated by the Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Tatarstan.
Rustam Minnikhanov, President of the Republic of Tatarstan
The presence of the President of Tatarstan can be felt everywhere in this district. For instance, Azat Minnikhanov, nephew of the republican head, is responsible for the commercial affairs of Sabinsky Leskhoz. In addition, he is a Deputy of Meshinskoe Rural Settlement. It is normal in the Saby district to combine public and commercial duties – everybody close to clan Minnikhanov does so. The only exception is Rais Minnikhanov, brother of Rustam Nurgalievich and perpetual Head of the Saby District since 1999.
Brothers Minnikhanov (in suits)
It is unclear though what forest enterprise was patronized by him – Sabinsky Leskhoz, which was caught in a cartel conspiracy, has several twin companies. Three of them belong to Vasil Gizzatullin – who also combines business with civil service. In addition to the above ‘triplets’, he owns five more companies. The main asset of Vasil Gizzatullin is a home in Leskhoz township, Saby district, next door to the residence of Rais Minnikhanov. Their homes clearly stand out from the rest of the township – immediately making one thinking about the money earned by cartel member Khazi Faizrakhmanov whose home surprisingly does not catch the eye.
Azat Minnikhanov, nephew of the President of Tatarstan
It might also be of interest for the FAS Administration for the Republic of Tatarstan that Sabinskie Lesa makes arrangements not only with other companies belonging to Faizrakhmanov – but also with Gizzatullin, director of a state forest enterprise. While the cartel was winning governmental contracts one by one, the official made another deal with Faizrakhmanov – and Sabinskie Lesa has got one more contract worth 500 thousand rubles ($7.7 thousand). It is necessary to note that, by that time, a criminal case was instituted against Sabinskie Lesa for cartel conspiracy – and although later it was suspended, the tender commission had to take this fact into consideration.
Forest for friends, law for all others
Interestingly, Vasil Gizzatullin is an Honored Forester of the Republic of Tatarstan – this title is awarded personally by Vladimir Putin. It is safe to assume that the President has learned about the achievements of Gizzatullin and his very existence from Rustam Minnikhanov – who had likely kept silence about the eight companies belonging to his protege.
Gizzatullin wears not even two – but three hats. Aside from his commercial operations and governmental service, he is also the General Director of Sabinskaya Forest Industry Company. In all his capacities, Gizzatullin enjoys good company: he works in Sabinsky Leskhoz side-by-side with the nephew of the President of Tatarstan, lives next door to the brother of Minnikhanov, while Sabinskaya Forest Industry Company is co-owned by businessman-turned-briberSergei Polevikov. He was a suspect in a criminal case pertaining to the bribing of the ex-Head of the Udmurt Republic. Now Polevikov can share his extensive experience with the Tatarstan forester and tell him about questionings, face-to-face interrogations, and other investigative actions.
On the other hand, Gizzatullin may not need such knowledge – after all, he is a neighbor of Rais Minnikhanov. Overall, the Tatarstan authorities take good care of the republican forest resources. If somebody tries to steal a single tree, an entire special operation is launched. For instance, a criminal group of retirees was busted in Tatarstan last year. The elderly people had tried to seize a piece of forest by submitting false documents to the cadastral chamber. The investigators estimated the damages inflicted by the gang at 849 thousand rubles ($13.1 thousand) and promised to add new episodes totaling 4 million rubles ($61.9 thousand) to the case file. The size of the forest lot nearly seized by the retirees was never disclosed.
Ramil Makhmutov, ex-Deputy Minister of Forestry
Ramil Makhmutov, ex-Deputy Minister of Forestry, was more lucky. In 2014, he resigned from the Ministry for health reasons – Makhmutov had suffered from chronic amnesia during the submission of income and tax declarations – and then became the Director of Kamskoe Forest Enterprise. In the lap of the nature, he recovered and created in 2016 a criminal scheme involving forest auctions. The investigation estimated damages sustained by the republican budget at 4.8 million rubles ($74.3 thousand) – but ultimately, the Ministry of Forestry has abandoned all claims against its former deputy head. Apparently, Makhmutov has learned the lesson well: ‘right’ neighbors are more important than high posts.