Open rear of Ikhtiyar Urazalin. Changes in the evidence theft case after MIA intervention
The story with disappearance of almost 45 million rubles ($778 thousand) seized as evidence in the case pertaining to a group of underground ‘cashiers’ and bankruptcy of Bogorodsky Bank in Niznhy Novgorod has made an unexpected twist. The arrest of Ikhtiyar Urazalin, ex-Rear Services Commander of the MIA General Administration for the Nizhny Novgorod Region, indicates that the funds have disappeared not without a trace.
The former policeman became the first suspect in a high-profile criminal case instituted after a theft of a large amount of cash from the General Administration for the Nizhny Novgorod Region of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA). At the moment, the investigation is unable to provide any direct evidence against Urazalin, but colonel has screwed the situation himself. During the court session held to determine pretrial restrictions for Urazalin, he had asked who had turned him in so insistently, that the court decided to remand the colonel in custody for two months.
The criminal case for the theft of more than 44 million rubles ($760.7 thousand) by “unidentified police officers” has been instituted on March 30, 2016 – but up until now, there were no suspects in it. The ‘cashiers’ case went public in 2012. At that time, a criminal case had been initiated against Nizhny Novgorod-based businessman Maksim Osokin on suspicion of illegal banking activities. In the course of two searches, sums of 22.7 and 22 million rubles (392 thousand and 380 thousand) were seized, recognized material evidence, and entrusted to the MIA custody. Allegedly, Osokin had been siphoning off funds through various dummy companies; one of such companies was located in the same building with the bank branch. Originally, Maksim Osokin was charged with embezzlement of 155 million rubles ($2.7 million) belonging to Bogorodsky Bank. The investigation tried to prove that the businessman has failed to repay this amount in cash to the bank via Platezhnye Tekhnologii (Payment Technologies) Limited Liability Company providing ATM cash collection services to Bogorodsky Bank and controlled by him (de jure, Master Bank was involved into the encashment procedure as an agent).
As a result, a ‘hole’ has appeared in the balance of Bogorodsky Bank that could lead to the license revocation – and a bank shareholder has plugged this budget hole by injecting his personal money. While examining this episode, the investigator has concluded that Maksim Osokin neither has any relation to Platezhnye Tekhnologii nor to the entire situation. Therefore, the version involving the theft of 155 million rubles ($2.7 million) from Bogorodsky Bank – the main reason behind the arrest of the shady banker – has collapsed in the course of the investigation. In 2014, the charges against Osokin have been reclassified into illegal enterprise, and the case was closed under an amnesty. However, in 2015, the businessman has been charged with illegal banking operations with deriving profits on an especially large scale; currently he is tried in a district court of Niznhy Novgorod as the leader of a criminal community of ‘cashiers’.
Bogorodsky Bank was declared bankrupt in June 2016
According to the investigation, the 13 defendants under the leadership of Maksim Osokin, Timofei Shishkin, Vitaly Kamentsev, Ekaterina Chistyakova, and Nina Smiryagina had maintained an elaborate network consisting of some thirty dummy companies with ‘straw’ founders and directors. This system had provided cashing-out services to various organizations and enterprises willing to reduce their taxes. In 2013–2015, the dummy companies controlled by the defendants have processed over 10 billion rubles ($172.7 million) belonging to their clients under various sham contracts. The ‘cashiers’ had charged 4% commission and earned some 418 million rubles ($7.2 million) in total. The cash handling center of the underground network was located on Yablonevaya street in Niznhy Novgorod (in the same building with a branch of now-bankrupt Bogorodsky Bank); however, the network also had representation offices in the Republics of Tatarstan, Mari El, and Chuvashia; in Ulyanovsk, Kostroma, and Yaroslavl regions; and in St. Petersburg. Cash couriers and armored vehicles of the Russian Encashment Association of the Bank of Russia and private security companies were retained to transport large amounts of cash. Some of the suspected leaders of the cashing-out network have also been charged with illegal registration of legal entities and legalization (laundering) of funds acquired by other persons illegally, including the acquisition of seven vehicles. Maksim Osokin denies any guilt and claims that this criminal case and his detention in custody for more than two years is the revenge of high-ranked regional police functionaries for his testimony about the disappearance of 44.7 million rubles ($771.9 thousand) seized by the police as evidence in 2012 in the framework of the ‘Bogorodsky Bank case’.
At that time, after the institution of the criminal case, the operational investigation team had arrived to the underground cash handling center to seize its funds. The policemen did not make a difference between the Osokin’s cashing-out company and branch of Bogorodsky Bank (located in the same building) – they have seized all the cash from both organizations, drawn up a respective report, and transported the money recognized material evidence to the Regional MIA Administration for safe storage. After the failure to prove the fact of cashing-out, the charges have been reclassified into illegal enterprise, and the case was closed under an amnesty. The seized cash has been returned to Osokin against a signed receipt. Representatives of Bogorodsky Bank became aware of this and requested Osokin to return 22.7 million rubles ($392 thousand) belonging to the bank and seized from it by mistake. Then it became known that the return of the cash was fictitious. According to shady banker Osokin, the policemen had offered him a deal: in exchange for the signed receipt, he has got not the money but reclassification of the criminal case to a lighter Article of the Criminal Code and amnesty. Then he received bricks wrapped in newspapers in the security bags. This scene has been staged to create an alibi for the authors of the swindling scheme: the extra-departmental guards involved into it have later confirmed that they had delivered some sealed bags to Osokin. When the bank requested to return a portion of funds to it, the policemen have directed its representatives to Osokin with a clear conscience. But the bankers have addressed not Osokin (who failed to purchase freedom: after being amnestied in one criminal case, he has been immediately arrested in the framework of another one) but the court. The shady banker understood that he may become liable for almost 23 million rubles ($397.2 thousand) and told the court about the criminal scheme. The judge has provided this information to the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR) and it launched an inquest. Ultimately, a criminal case has been initiated in 2016 for swindling on an especially large scale committed by “unidentified officers of the MIA General Administration for the Nizhny Novgorod Region”.
Lawyers working for Bogorodsky Bank have proved in numerous arbitration instances that a portion of the seized cash in the amount of 22.3 million rubles ($385.1 thousand) had belonged not to the company of Osokin, but to bank’s clients. The case was heard in the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation that has ruled to collect the money from the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation at the expense of the state treasury for the benefit of Bogorodsky Bank or, more precisely, for the benefit of the Deposit Insurance Agency – because the Central Bank had revoked the license of Bogorodsky Bank in 2016. The police, in turn is trying to recover the above 22.3 million rubles ($385.1 thousand) from detained Osokin – but courts of general jurisdiction have dismissed the police claim to seize accounts of a number of companies controlled by Osokin. However, according to the most recent information, on April 13, 2017, Sovetsky District Court has satisfied the claim of the MIA General Administration.
A paradoxical situation has been emerged: according to the court verdict, the MIA must return a large amount of money to the bankrupt bank; the MIA does not have that amount of money and must find it first. Therefore, the police are searching Osokin for the money, while the ICR is searching the police for that money. In the light of recent events, there is a chance that the missing sum is to be recovered not from the prosecuted shady banker.
The investigation of the theft of more than 44 million rubles ($760.7 thousand) by unidentified police officers had shown no progress for a while. The case could even be put to the archive. However, on the New Year’s Eve, operatives of the MIA Administration for Internal Security and Regional Directorate of the Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation have performed searches in offices and residences of some officers of the MIA General Administration for the Nizhny Novgorod Region responsible for the credit and financial sphere. Later it became known that these ‘some officers’ were senior commanders in the Administration for Economic Security and Combating the Corruption of the General MIA Administration – Sergei Nikitin, Deputy Head of the Administration, and Evgeny Kosov, Deputy Head of a department supervising the banking sphere. Millions of rubles, valuables, computers, and title deeds for undeclared real estate belonging to these officers have been found during the searches. Sources close to the investigation had linked the searches with the missing evidence case. A number of high-profile resignations in 2017, including the termination of Ivan Shaev, Head of the Russian MIA General Administration for the Nizhny Novgorod Region, were also linked with that case. In spring, a petition to dismiss Nikitin and Kosov has appeared on Change.org; its author claimed that Nikitin, in fact, supervises all the operations of the Administration for Economic Security and Combating the Corruption and ‘covers up’ the underground cashing-out business.
But what does Ikhtiyar Urazalin have to do with this story and what is his role in the disappearance of funds seized from Osokin?
MIA Сolonel Ikhtiyar Urazalin has joined the police ranks in 1991 after completion of compulsory military service. After graduating from the Krasnodar Secondary Specialized Police School, he has risen through the ranks from a highway patrolman to the Head of the State Automobile Inspection Department of the Krasnoyarsk District. In 2004, he was appointed a Deputy Chief of the Department of Internal Affairs and Head of the Public Security Police. In 2006, was appointed Deputy Regiment Commander of the Road Patrol Service of the MIA General Administration for the Krasnodar Krai. Later he became the Acting Head of the State Automobile Inspection of the MIA General Administration for the Krasnodar Krai. In 2007, Ikhtiyar Urazalin was appointed the Head of the Administration of Inventory and Logistics of the MIA General Administration for the Krasnodar Krai. In 2011, has been appointed the Rear Services Commander of the MIA General Administration for the Nizhny Novgorod. Has a Ph.D. in law. Has been awarded “Honorable Serviceman of the MIA of Russia” badge and medals “For Devotion to Duty”, “For Distinguished Service in the State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate” II class, and “For Valor in Service”.
In early August, the Minister of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation has signed an order dismissing three supreme commanders of the MIA General Administration for the Nizhny Novgorod. Ikhtiyar Urazalin, Rear Services Commander of the MIA General Administration for the Nizhny Novgorod Region, and Igor Petrov, Head of the Administration for Economic Security and Combating the Corruption, have been pensioned off, while Sergei Nikitin, Deputy Head of the Administration for Economic Security and Combating the Corruption, who used to oversee the struggle against cashing out, tax crimes, and budget embezzlements, has been dismissed due to downsizing. It might seem that there is nothing unusual in this personnel decision – except for one detail: the three colonels have been dismissed in a great hurry. They have submitted their resignation letters exactly 24 hours prior to the order issuance. Furthermore, it became known that Urazalin managed to take retroactively a sick leave on the day of termination. According to the law, if the resignation letter has been submitted while being on a sick leave, there is a chance to be reinstated in the job through legal action. Apparently, the supreme command of the MIA General Administration for the Nizhny Novgorod Region were not willing to reinstate Urazalin in the future – all the documents related to the Rear Services Commander have been seized from the medical unit and a pre-investigation check launched to find out on what grounds was the sick leave granted. Sources in the Regional MIA General Administration link the dismissal of the three senior officers with personnel purges in the team of general Shaev before the appointment of the new chief – police major general Yuri Kulik – introduced to the personnel only on September 22, 2017.
Last week, it became known that the termination of Urazalin has nothing to do with the staff purges prior to the appointment of the new commander. Ikhtiyar Urazalin became the first official suspect in the criminal case instituted after the theft of the above-mentioned 44 million rubles ($760.7 thousand) by unidentified police officers. The investigators and FSB operatives have performed 23 searches in apartments and private homes of the former Rear Services Commander located in Niznhy Novgorod and Krasny Yar settlement of the Astrakhan region. The criminal case has been instituted under part 4 of Article 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. The operatives haven’t found the sought millions of rubles – but instead discovered collections of expensive alcohol, books, silverware, clothes, and appliances. The total value of the real properties and belongings is not consistent with the official income of the former Rear Services Commander.
On September 25, Moskovsky District Court of Niznhy Novgorod has arrested the MIA colonel in the framework of the criminal case instituted for the theft of seized cash. ‘King of cashing-out’ Maksim Osokin recognized a victim in that case has provided indirect evidence against Urazalin, while some classified witness nicknamed ‘Kolotoltsev’ (a namesake of the Minister of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation) has directly named him a participant of the criminal scheme. Another important detail detrimental for Urazalin was that during his questioning as a suspect, he had asked the ICR investigator about the names and procedural statuses of witnesses testifying against him. The investigation decided that this interest is caused by the colonel’s intention to put pressure on the victim and witnesses. This was one of the arguments presented by the investigator seeking to detain the colonel. During the court session held to determine pretrial restrictions for Urazalin, it was also noted that the suspect has inserted his SIM card into a new iPhone shortly before his arrest and got rid of the old smartphone that could store correspondence in messengers sought by the investigation. The old cell phone of the colonel was not found during the searches, and the investigation concluded that he might be hiding evidence. Overall, despite the indirect evidence of the involvement of Urazalin into the disappearance of the material evidence, the court has remanded Ikhtiyar Urazalin in custody for two months to prevent him from putting pressure on the investigation and witnesses.
Urazalin denies any guilt and claims that he does not understand on what grounds he is charged. He has also accused the investigation of illegal actions. According to the former Rear Service Commander, he “is not familiar” with the victim and witnesses who had “calumniated” him – while his job duties do not include work with seized materials, neither does he have access to the storage room. Stanislav Ryabtsev, a defense attorney for the colonel, has supposed that the investigators were unable to find any evidence against officers of the MIA General Administration for the Nizhny Novgorod Region during the 1.5 year of investigation and decided “to quickly make Ikhtiyar Urazalin a scapegoat despite his 28 years of honorable service”.
But is the service record of Urazalin really perfect? In the last years, he was in the middle of several corruption scandals. He managed to get off the hook in all such situations – despite pretty serious allegations brought against him. Sources close to the supreme command of the MIA General Administration for the Nizhny Novgorod Region say that Urazalin had evaded all the problems with support and patronage of Ivan Shaev, the former Head of the MIA General Administration for the Nizhny Novgorod Region, whose ‘right hand’ he was believed to be.
In 2015, a district court of Nizhny Novgorod has sentenced businessman Ramazan Sefibekov to four years behind bars. The businessman claimed that back in 2012, a person presenting himself as Ikhtiyar Urazalin had demanded to transfer a share in the charter capital of NGK-Nerud Limited Liability Company to his wife in exchange for patronage of the MIA General Administration and guarantees that Sefibekov gets a contract for the entire volume of sand required for the construction of the backup Borsky Bridge. According to Sefibekov, after his refusal, a swindling criminal case has been initiated against him. There are other third-party testimonies indicating that Sefibekov and Urazalin were interrelated.
It is also known that in the same year of 2012, Urazalin had signed tender documentation for the construction of an academic building for the Nizhny Novgorod Academy of the MIA of Russia – but somehow charges of inflicting damages to the budget in the amount of more than 505 million rubles ($8.7 million) due to the overpricing of works were laid against Oleg Nazarov, Deputy Head of the Administration of Rear Services of the MIA General Administration for the Nizhny Novgorod Region. The details of that case are pretty interesting.
According to the investigation, in November 2012, on the basis of the tender results, the MIA General Administration for the Nizhny Novgorod Region has awarded a governmental contract to construct an academic building for the Nizhny Novgorod Academy of the MIA of Russia to a contractor. According to the governmental acquisitions web-site, the contract by the end of 2014 worth 871.917 million rubles ($15.1 million) has been signed with Tornado Limited Liability Company. This company was the only bidder at the tender carried out on November 12, 2012 by a commissioned chaired by Ikhtiyar Urazalin, Rear Services Commander of the MIA General Administration for the Nizhny Novgorod Region. According to the original version, he had also signed acceptance certificates according to forms KS-2 and KS-3 – that have attracted the attention of the Regional Prosecutor’s Office (as of December, the total amount of allocated budget funds had exceeded 423 million rubles ($7.3 million); this amount has been transferred to the contractor). Later the investigation has concluded that the documents were signed by Urazalin’s deputy Nazarov. The discrepancies between the actual volume of performed works and signed certificates had totaled 105 million rubles ($1.8 million), and the Prosecutor has submitted the inquest results to the investigative authorities to institute a criminal case under Article 286 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (exceeding official powers) against officials of the Regional MIA General Administration. In spring 2013, investigators of the 2nd Department for Special Cases of the Investigations Directorate in the Nizhny Novgorod Region of the ICR have consolidated the criminal cases instituted under part 1 of Article 193 (neglect of duty) and under paragraph “c” of part 3 of Article 286 (exceeding official powers) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation in relation to the spending of funds allocated for the completion of the academic building for the Nizhny Novgorod Academy of the MIA of Russia into a single case. On April 20, 2013, Oleg Nazarov has been arrested as a suspect. But originally Ikhtiyar Urazalin was suspected of complicity to the embezzlement of the budget funds allocated for the construction of the academic building for the Nizhny Novgorod Academy of the MIA of Russia. However, after a series of questionings, all the charges against the colonel have been dropped. Furthermore, the investigator of the Investigations Directorate in the Nizhny Novgorod Region of the ICR has officially apologized to the Real Services Commander for the illegal prosecution and notified of his right to rehabilitation. Later the embezzled sum was reduced to 57 million rubles ($984.3 thousand). The Regional Prosecutor’s Office had refused to submit this criminal case to court, and currently the 3rd Investigations Directorate of the Main Investigations Directorate of the ICR is conducting an additional investigation.
Detainee Ikhtiyar Urazalin
Interestingly, in the middle of the investigation, Urazalin had planned to resign from the police service by running for the Head of the Krasnoyarsk District of the Astrakhan Region – a municipal entity with the population of 13 thousand people and his place of birth – in summer 2014. His desire to transfer from the MIA to a local authority could be caused by the ongoing investigation of the high-profile criminal case pertaining to the improper spending of budget funds during the completion of the academic building for the Nizhny Novgorod Academy of the MIA of Russia.
No one can predict the outcome of the case pertaining to the theft of material evidence for Urazalin – especially taking that he neither holds a superior position nor has a high-ranked patron in the MIA anymore. Who may become the next suspect in that case? Who has stolen the 44 million rubles ($760.7 thousand) seized from ‘king of cashing-out’ Maksim Osokin? Hopefully, the investigation of that crime is to be completed – the MIA is not willing to compensate the theft committed by its officers from the state treasury – and the 22.3 million rubles ($385.1 thousand) owed to bankrupt Bogorodsky Bank are returned to the budget.