Most high-profile arrests of Russian governmental functionaries in 2016
The year of 2016 was especially abounding with corruption scandals and high-profile criminal cases against top rank functionaries. The arrest and detention of Nikita Belykh, Governor of the Kirov Region; scandalous dismissal of Aleksey Ulyukaev, Minister of Economic Development; criminal case against Grigory Pirumov, Deputy Minister of Culture, – the outgoing year has demonstrated that even most high-ranked officials might be transferred any time from a top corner office to a prison cell: the special services are watching everybody. The CrimeRussia remembers most high-profile arrests of 2016.
Grigory Pirumov, ex-Deputy Minister of Culture
Grigory Pirumov, ex-Deputy Minister of Culture, was arrested in March 2016 in Rostov-on-Don in the framework of a criminal case related to embezzlements of budget funds during the construction and restoration of cultural heritage monuments – so-called ‘case of restorers’.
The Deputy Minister of Culture arrived to Rostov-on-Don with his wife and a company of 12 people to celebrate Shrovetide and birthday of one of the friends. The cost of their accommodation in a central hotel of the city was 223 thousand rubles. Since March 2016, a wave of arrests in the framework of that case, including businessmen Dmitry Sergeev and Aleksander Kochenov from BaltStroy company, has swept through the country. During the searches in the office of BaltStroy, the operatives have also found evidence of Dmitry Mikhalchenko’s complicity in smuggling.
According to the Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation, in 2012, Pirumov has created a criminal group under his leadership; members of this group were awarding governmental contracts for restoration of cultural heritage at overcharged prices to commercial structures affiliated with them.
In return, the officials had been receiving kickbacks. Damages sustained by the budget exceed 100 million rubles – although the exact amount hasn’t been determined yet.
Six months after the arrest of Pirumov, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has officially terminated him.
Currently the official is in custody in Lefortovo Pretrial Detention Facility. Other suspects in the ‘case of restorers’ are: Boris Mazo, Director of the Department for Property Management and Investment Policies of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation; Oleg Ivanov, Head of the Tsentr Restavratsii (Center for Restoration) Federal State Unitary Enterprise; Dmitry Sergeev, Head of BaltStroy company; and some other officials and businessmen. Evgeny Murov, former Head of the Federal Protection Service, was familiar with a number of people involved into that case.
In September 2016, Pirumov – the last one among the suspects – has finally agreed to testify.
Igor Pushkarev, Vladivostok ex-Mayor
Igor Pushkarev, who had been the Mayor of Vladivostok since 2008, was detained overnight into June 1, 2016. Operatives of the FSB and Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR) performed searches in the municipal administration, including the office of Pushkarev. According to the investigation, in the period of 2009–2014, Vladimir Pushkarev had arranged acquisitions of large amounts of construction materials by Dorogi Vladivostoka (Vladivostok Roads) Municipal Unitary Enterprise from Vostoktsement Group of Companies.
Interestingly, Vostoktsement is controlled by close relatives of the Mayor, while the Municipal Administration of Vladivostok is the founder and owner of Dorogi Vladivostoka.
According to the ICR, the construction materials had been purchased at artificially high prices; the investigation believes that Pushkarev personally received at least 45 million rubles from these deals.
According to the FSB, the actions of the ex-Mayor have resulted in damages to Dorogi Vladivostoka Municipal Unitary Enterprise in the amount of some 160 million rubles and a creditor indebtedness in the amount of 800 million rubles.
Pushkarev denies any guilt. In the end of November 2016, the Basmanny District Court of Moscow has extended the detention period for Igor Pushkarev until February 28, 2017.
His Brother Andrei Pushkarev, General Director of Vostoktsement, has been charged with bribery in a profit-making organization. He has been placed under home arrest.
Nikita Belykh, ex-Governor of the Kirov Region
Nikita Belykh, ex-Governor of the Kirov Region, remains in detention since June 2016. A bribe-taking criminal case has been initiated against him. The politician was arrested in a popular Moscow restaurant Lotte Plaza during the handover of €100 thousand.
The circumstances of the arrest have raised doubts among the media: how could the official expose himself to such a risk by accepting a bribe in broad daylight in a well-known Moscow restaurant? The operative photos show Belykh sitting at the table covered with a white cloth. There are a bottle of wine and a glass of water on the table – and bundles of money.
According to the investigation, in total Belykh has received – personally and via intermediaries – €400 thousand. In exchange for that sum, the Governor of the Kirov Region had been providing patronage to Novovyatsky Ski Factory (NSF) Joint Stock Company and Forestry Management Company (FMC) Limited Liability Company controlled by him. On July 28, 2016, Vladimir Putin has dismissed Nikita Belykh due to loss of trust.
The court has sanctioned the detention of the ex-Governor – despite requests from his attorneys to limit his pretrial restrictions to home arrest.
The criminal case against the ex-Governor of the Kirov Region is based on testimonies provided by businessman Albert Laritsky, a native of Belorussia, and Yuri Zudkhaimer – the previous and current heads of Novovyatsky Ski Factory (NSF). Laritsky remains in custody for a year already, while Zudkhaimer, a German citizen, has given the money to Belykh under control of FSB operatives. According to Zudkhaimer, he had already been giving money to Belykh in the past: €200 thousand in 2014 and €50 thousand in 2016. When the Governor demanded additional €150 thousand “for the elections”, Zudkhaimer has understood that “this lawlessness would never end and went to the FSB”.
It is necessary to note that in the last six months, the media have published plenty of news with regards to the condition of Belykh and details of his case. For instance, in the end of November 2016, Alexey Navalny has stated that representatives of the Kremlin had offered a deal to Belykh promising to release him under home arrest should he testify against Navalny. Vedomosti newspaper had also reported this episode citing sources from the inner circle of Nikita Belykh.
In addition, the defense attorney for ex-Governor reports that his health is deteriorating on a regular basis. In particular, the lawyer noted that Nikita Belykh has gained some 20 kg since the arrest and submitted some 30 petitions to the medical staff. The attorney states that the detainee suffers from a hormonal disease and diabetes.
The former Governor insists that the arguments provided by the investigator to justify his detention are formal and not consistent with the reality.
Vadim Ivanov, the Kolpino Mayor
Vadim Ivanov, the 46-year-old Mayor of Kolpino, has been arrested in his office on September 28, 2016 on suspicion of robbery. According to the investigation, in September 2003, Tatiana Sorokoumova, a drug-addicted resident of St. Petersburg, had addressed Vadim Ivanov, Anton Vasilenko, and Dmitry Bolshakov asking to assist in robbing her sister. On October 4, 2016, Ivanov and Vasilenko have assaulted the victim and her companion at gunpoint in a lobby of her home, seized 1.4 million rubles and fled in the car belonging to Bolshakov. According to Fontanka.ru, at that time, Vadim Ivanov was a private security guard.
By fall 2013, when first arrests have started, the total amount of damages has increased to $46 thousand.
Sorokoumova, Bolshakov, and Vasilenko have already been found guilty and sentenced to various prison terms.
Vadim Ivanov denies any guilt and states that he is a victim of the ‘waste lobby’. According to the official, the criminal case against him has been framed-up by people willing to build a waste incineration plant in Kolpino, on the territory of Krasny Bor (Red Pine Forest) polygon where some 2 billion kg of toxic wastes are stored. Ivanov is an opponent of this project.
The Oktyabrsky District Court of St. Petersburg has placed Kolpino Mayor Vadim Ivanov in custody.
Vladimir Torlopov, ex-Head of the Republic of Komi
Vladimir Torlopov was the Head of the Republic of Komi in the period of 2002–2010. Then Vyacheslav Gaizer has become the Head of the Republic; on September 19, 2016 he was arrested on suspicion of swindling and bribe-taking.
Torlopov was arrested on October 6, 2016 in Moscow on suspicion of swindling on an especially large scale. A criminal case has been initiated against the ex-official under Article 210 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (creation of a criminal community (criminal organization) and participation therein). His case is directly linked with another high-profile case against Vyacheslav Gaizer and his organized criminal group; in fact, Torlopov and Gaizer are suspects in the same criminal case. Gaizer has also been charged under part 4 of Article 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (swindling on an especially large scale).
Vladimir Torlopov has become the last suspect in the high-profile case against the organized criminal group of Vyacheslav Gaizer. According to the investigation, he was, jointly with Gaizer, the creator and leader of a criminal community specializing in bankruptcies of enterprises and embezzlements of state assets.
The investigation estimates damages sustained from the actions of the ex-Head of the Republic of Komi at 2.5 billion rubles.
In total, there are 18 suspects in the criminal case related to the creation of an organized criminal group in the top leadership of the Republic of Komi: in addition to ex-Heads of the Republic Torlopov and Gaizer, the list of accomplices includes Aleksei Chernov, Deputy Head of the Republic of Komi; Igor Kovzel, Chairman of the State Council; Konstantin Romadanov, Vice Prime Minister of the Republican Government; and some other officials and businessmen.
In the course of the court proceedings, Vladimir Torlopov has admitted his guilt in swindling on a large scale and creation of a criminal community and testified against other group members. Taking this, the investigators asked the court to place him under home arrest. He is not allowed to leave his Moscow apartment without a permission from the investigator, communicate with anybody except the close relatives, lawyers, and officers of the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia, and use communication means, Internet, or mail.
In addition, two more persons have been arrested on September 5, 2016 in the framework of the criminal case related to the bribing of the top leadership of the Republic of Komi: Evgeny Olkhovik, Managing Director of Renova company, and Boris Vainzikher, General Director of T Plus Energy Company, a subsidiary to Renova. Mikhail Slobodin, ex-Head of VimpelCom who was the Director of T Plus in the period of 2003–2010, has been put on the wanted list. According to the investigation, these people had been giving bribes to Vyacheslav Gaizer to set tariffs profitable for them. The investigators believe that the total amount of bribes exceeds 828.395 million rubles. Renova is the largest asset of Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.
Aleksey Ulyukaev, ex-Minister of Economic Development
The most high-profile corruption case against a governmental functionary in 2016 was, of course, the arrest of Aleksey Ulyukaev, the Minister of Economic Development.
According to Timofei Gridnev, an attorney for the ex-Minister, Ulyukaev has been arrested on November 14, 2016 in the office of Rosneft company. Investigation believes that Ulyukaev has received $2 million for a positive evaluation of the acquisition of the state portfolio of shares in Bashneft by Rosneft, a Russian oil and gas company. The cost of the purchase was 329.6 billion rubles ($5 billion). According to an official statement issued by the ICR, the ex-Minister was caught red-handed; he is suspected of extortion and threats against Rosneft. Ulyukaev has been charged under part 6 of Article 290 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (bribe-taking on an especially large scale).
The suspect denies any guilt. On November 28, 2016, Ulyukaev has been placed under home arrest by a court decision. The court prohibited the ex-official from going out for a walk twice a day and dismissed the motion brought by his lawyers to allow Ulyukaev to give one interview to the media.
According to some sources, Ulyukaev had been under investigation for more than a year. The surveillance against him had been initiated by Oleg Feoktistov, Head of the Security Service of Rosneft and former First Deputy Head of the Directorate for Internal Security of the FSB.
After the high-profile arrest of Aleksey Ulyukaev, it became clear that even top rank functionaries belonging to so-called “A” category (members of the Government and Presidential Administration) can easily fall under surveillance and be prosecuted. Rosbalt.ru has reported, citing sources close to the special services, that 99% of high-ranked officials are being closely watched.
Case files of law enforcement authorities include scores of volumes containing foot surveillance and telephone eavesdropping reports.
Denis Koshurnikov, the Pereslavl-Zalessky Mayor
The Mayor of Pereslavl-Zalessky has been arrested on November 16, 2016 on suspicion of embezzling RUSNANO funds. Searches have been carried out in the municipal administration, Mayor’s home, and two enterprises earlier managed by Koshurnikov. He has been charged 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), while other accomplices in that criminal case – Rustam Ataullakhanov and Evgeny Sultanov, respectively, the founder and head of NT-Pharma Limited Liability Company, – have been charged under part 4 of Article 160 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (misappropriation or embezzlement on an especially large scale). The charges against Koshurnikov are related to the provision of a land lot for construction of a plant for NT-Pharma. RUSNANO State Corporation had started investments into the construction of the pharmaceutical factory in 2009; however, later the funding has been put on hold due to the absence of progress with the construction. According to the investigation, the acquisition of land in the Pereslavl-Zalessky district was a part of a criminal scheme used to embezzle 1 billion rubles from RUSNANO.
Earlier local authorities had complained on the Mayor of Pereslavl-Zalessky in relation to the communal and public utilities sphere; in addition, in 2015, it became known that Koshurnikov had been concealing a business in Germany, and the Prosecutor of the Yaroslavl Region has recommended to remove him from the post.
Marat Oganesyan, ex-Vice Governor of St. Petersburg
Marat Oganesyan, who was responsible for all construction-related matters in St. Petersburg in the period of 2013–2015, has been arrested in November 2016 in Moscow on suspicion of swindling during the construction of a soccer stadium on the Krestovsky Island. Oganesyan has been charged with embezzlement of 50 million rubles allocated for installation of video equipment at Zenit Arena (part 4 of Article 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation).
As the CrimeRussia wrote earlier, Oganesyan had been under surveillance of law enforcement authorities for a while. The special services were aware of close links between the chief builder of St. Petersburg and the clan of ‘crowned thief’ Aslan ‘Ded Khasan’ Usoyan, who had helped Oganesyan to take up this post and then to bring a criminal team from Moscow to St. Petersburg. Further activities of Oganesyan involved financial scandals, huge advance payments to suspicious companies, and awarding profitable contracts to them. According to some sources, amounts of such contracts could exceed 1.5 billion rubles. The termination of the official in April 2016 was caused by the conflict of interest: he had brought to the Smolny Palace a team of managers who started awarding governmental contracts to Moscow-based companies – which has attracted the attention of the FSB and Chamber of Control and Accounts. In November 2016, the former Vice Governor of St. Petersburg has been arrested. During the rule of Oganesyan, Transstroy had signed contracts with Teatralno-Dekoratsionnaya Masterskaya (Theater Scenery Workshop) Company (TDM) to supply a video display and build the loadbearing structure for the sliding roof of Zenit Arena – which was not done. A criminal case has been initiated due to this fact. According to the investigation, TDM had entered into a criminal complicity with Oganesyan and cashed the advance payments.
StroyElektroMontazh № 5 company is also suspected of embezzling 74 million rubles during the construction of Zenit Arena. The contract to supply decorative lighting equipment had been signed with this company during the rule of Oganesyan.
On November 18, 2016, the Smolninsky District Court has arrested Marat Oganesyan and detained him in Kresty Pretrial Detention Facility.
Vyacheslav Kudryavtsev, Deputy Head of Odintsovo
Vyacheslav Kudryavtsev has been arrested red-handed during the handover of a bribe of 4.5 million rubles in his office in the municipal administration. According to the investigation, this was a part of a larger bribe of 8.25 million rubles that the official supervising land and property relations had demanded from a local businessman.
In exchange for that sum, Vyacheslav Kudryavtsev was supposed to approve a relocation of a land lot and its enlargement by 40 square meters. According to some sources, the official promised to render this service to NBM-Stroyservis development company. Mikhail Babel, the owner of that company, was arrested a day earlier on charges of double selling of apartments in Terletsky Park residential complex. According to the Committee of the City of Moscow for Implementation of Investment Construction Projects and Control in the Field of Co-funded Construction Projects, 300 agreements of shared participation in the housing construction had been signed for Terletsky Park residential complex located on Novogireevskaya street, while the register of hoodwinked investors already includes 72 persons.
According to the Government of the Moscow Region, there were over 1.4 thousand unfulfilled contracts in Zapadnye Vorota Stolitsy (Western Gate of the Capital) residential complex.
The Main Investigations Directorate in the Moscow Region of the ICR has initiated a criminal case against Kudryavtsev under part 6 of Article 290 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (bribe-taking on an especially large scale).
The Babushkinsky District Court of Moscow has taken the Deputy Head of Odintsovo into custody in a pretrial detention facility.
Sergei Sidorenko, ex-Vice Governor of the Primorsky Region
Sergei Sidorenko, Vice Governor of the Primorsky Region supervising agriculture and fishery, has been arrested on December 21, 2016. According to the Investigations Directorate in the Primorsky Region of the ICR, no criminal case has been initiated against the official so far. However, according to Primorye24.ru, a local Internet portal, the deputy head of the region is suspected of embezzling 40 million rubles allocated from the state budget to pay compensations for damages inflicted by Typhoon Lionrock.
It was also reported that searches have been carried out in the residence of Sidorenko’s brother. Avrora Rimskaya, Senior Investigator of the Investigations Directorate in the Primorsky Region of the ICR, has noted that the investigative actions against the official are supervised by the FSB.
On December 22, it became known that Vladimir Miklushevsky, the Governor of the Primorsky Krai, has approved the resignation of his deputy Sergei Sidorenko.
The Frunzensky District Court of Vladivostok has placed the former Vice Governor of the Primorsky Region under home arrest.
The special services believe that Russian Interior Ministry officials could have cooperated with the press to sell passport applications and border-crossing data of the two men suspected of poisoning the Skripals in Salisbury.