Police makes children buy alcohol asking shops for bribes
The City of Samara police exploited minors for illicit enrichment pretending to protect their health.
Rinat Trengulov, the Young Offenders Department district police officer, and Anastasiya Shcherbakova, the Administrative Legislation Implementation Group inspector, used to work at the police station №21 of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation in the City of Tolyatti. They are no longer police officers due to having committed several corruption crimes. What is noticeable about the case is that the former police officers exploited children in their crimes.
Blackmailers among police officers
Anastasiya Shcherbakova and Rinat Trengulov committed their crimes as a group by previous concert, according to the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation in the Samara Region. They instructed the minors to buy something alcoholic and then asked shop owners for bribes.
The former police officers were prosecuted under the following articles of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation: Art. 159 (Swindling); part 1 of Art. 169 (Obstruction of Legal Business); Art. 286 (Exceeding Official Powers); Art. 290 (Bribe-Taking). The Avtozavonsky Court, Tolyatti sentenced Rinat Trengulov to 2 years in prison; Anastasiya Shcherbakova, the scheme organizer, to 4 years in prison. However, both sentences are suspended ones.
Anastasiya Shcherbakova (the picture is taken from her Odnoklassniki social network page)
The opportunistic police officers would promptly solve administrative offences they had provoked. Ms Shcherbakova talked local minors into buying alcohol in the December of 2015 and beginning of 2016. The police officers would immediately show up at a store and accuse its administration of an administrative offence punishable under part 2.1 of Article 14.16, of the Administrative Code (Retail sale of alcoholic products to a minor).
Ms Shcherbakova and Mr Trengulov threatened the entrepreneurs with large fines and other negative consequences while pretending to write protocols. They would then hint it was possible to settle it down for somewhere between 10 to 30 thousand rubles.The criminals knew they were not entitled to prosecute sole proprietors and legal entities for administrative offences; this is courts’ job. However, the entrepreneurs did not know that and gladly paid bribes once offered after having been caught red-handed.
Police officers threatened entrepreneurs with large fines, but would eventually go easy on them
Mr Trengulov turned out to be the former Young Offenders Department employee; this made it easy for him to find minors and make them collaborate. The former police officers exploited 2 minors, a boy and a girl, according to the Volny gorod newspaper.
Rinat Trengulov (the picture is taken from the official web-site of the Main Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the Samara Region)
Rinat Trengulov gave one of the minors 200 rubles and sent him to the Dobra Znachka shop one day; he bought cider, a low-alcohol beverage, as he was told to do. The mystery shopper then left the shop and told the officer he had completed the first stage of the operation; Mr Trengulov picked up from there, acting upon the scheme.
Rinat Trengulov entered the shop right away and asked for the management. The sole proprietor of the shop happened to be there at the time. The officer accused them of selling alcohol to minors and started threatening, saying the shop owner may end up paying up to 100.000 rubles in fines. Once he saw the owner was intimidated, he changed his attitude and started sympathizing with them; he mentioned he understands the owner is having problems due to economic crisis.
The intimidated shop owner gave a bribe once the officer mentioned they could settle the case down for only 10.000 rubles.
The officer refused to take cash and asked the owner to transfer the money to his bank account; he wanted to secure himself in case of litigation. Perhaps, Mr Trengulov was afraid the money could be marked or the owner could write their serial numbers down. He shared his illicit income with Anastasiya Shcherbakova.
They acted in the same fashion in the Kokobar drinking establishment: 2 minors bought 2 beers there, following the officers’ instructions. The convicts threatened with a 300.000 rubles fine this time, since the owner was a legal entity. They asked for 10% of the fine again. The criminals took cash this time, although not personally, but thought another woman acting as an intermediary.
It is worth mentioning the both establishments are located at the Sverdlova Street. Ms Shcherbakova and Mr Trengulov visited their potential clients one after another, it seems.These are not the only victims. Anastasiya Shcherbakova also asked for bribes in the same fashion, according to the case papers. Moreover, the officers used these cases to improve their employment histories.
Police against alcohol sellers
The victims did not know police officers are not entitled to prosecute sole proprietor and legal entities for administrative offenses; that it is courts’ job. Moreover, the 1st instance of selling alcohol to minors does not result in such big fines. Besides, it is impossible to accuse a shop owner of deliberate violation of Administrative law, since all the shops have workplace training records; this means employees were educated about what is legal and what is not.
This is how entrepreneurs’ lack of legal literacy and inability to protect themselves from police misconduct promotes corruption in the Russian Federation.
It is worth mentioning that the Samara Region and Tolyatti police fight crimes concerning alcohol sale as they are supposed to, to be fair. However, they do it too zealously and for show sometimes. The web-site of the regional Division of the Ministry on Internal Affairs publishes reports on new trade rules violations almost every day. The police administration raids shops and bars every now and then; they invite members of the public and reporters to participate. They find shops that sell alcohol to minors, then products that do not have associated documents and confiscate them.
A police officer and Narodny control (Public Control) activist on a raid
It seems quite plausible that police could also exploit children in the light of the Tolyatti incident. It is possible police could do the same thing as their former colleagues, Anastasiya Shcherbakova and Rinat Trengulov.
Entrepreneurs complain about misconduct
Entrepreneurs selling alcohol in Tolyatti are very dissatisfied with local police; tap beer producers and sellers claim there is police misconduct taking place in the whole city. However, they are afraid of local police and prefer to remain anonymous even when sharing their stories with media outlets.
For example, the TLTgorod media outlet published the following opinion: the Main Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the Samara Region systematically and methodically puts pressure on entrepreneurs effectively suspending their business operations; campaign against alcohol is just a cover.
“It would be nice if someone checked the local police for compliance with law; they intimidate local beer businesses. They used to carry out inspections in response to citizens’ complains. Now they do it whenever they want to. They carry them out significantly more often in Tolyatti compared to Samara, too. But how lawful are these inspections? I wonder what the Prosecutors Office has to say about that”, one Tolyatti entrepreneur said.Entrepreneurs claim police turned against everyone; they confiscate all the goods even if a shop has proper price tags and documents but happens to display even minor violations.
Entrepreneurs claim it is all due to career goals of Sergey Solodovnikov, the Head of the Main Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the Samara Region; the general wants to take office in a federal establishment. That is why he needs an impressive record containing campaigns against public alcoholization among other things.
However, interfering with work of legal alcohol selling shops causes more damage that it stops, according to local alcohol entrepreneurs; this makes consumer buy low quality product from dubious sellers.
There is no doubt police should fight violations concerning alcohol sale methodically and without compromise; no one challenges the statement. However, it is a crime to allow local police to go too far, and especially to ask for bribes.
Moreover, police exploiting children for such purposes and making them buy alcohol is simply ridiculous; such a fight against public alcoholization ends up only helping it happen.
The law on limitations and restrictions of anonymizers and VPN services, which obliges them to block websites banned in Russia, has been in force for three months already. However, not a single service has performed it yet.