Prosecutorial overreach in Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District: how to make business leader’s life a living hell
Chief Yamal Prosecutor Aleksandr Gerasimenko treats his job very seriously. A single entrepreneur – Oleg Sitnikov – was inspected 600 times on Gerasimenko’s order. Gerasimenko personally ensures compliance with the environmental law by building real estate in forests and indulging in pouching.
Prosecutors still have seemingly limitless power despite a significant loss of authority after establishment of the Russian Investigative Committee. This is especially true outside metropolitan areas. Chief Yamal Prosecutor Aleksandr Gerasimenko is the best example. He openly defies Russian Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika’s orders.
Measure 600 times and cut once
Aleksandr Gerasimenko still remembers prosecutors’ main duty is to oversee compliance with law. However, his interpretation of the duty is quite unique. City of Novy Urengoy business leader Oleg Sitnikov has a good grasp on Gerasimenko’s double standards now. He was attacked in September of 2013. An armed attacker stabbed and sliced him 19 times. The police opened a criminal case for violation part 3of Article 162 (Robbery) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation despite the attacker not stealing anything. Sitnikov’s attorney failed to force the police to change the charge to Attempted Murder.
President of the Opora Rossii Russian Public Association of Small and Medium Enterprises Aleksandr Brechalov tried standing up for the entrepreneur. He filed a complaint listing numerous instances of misconduct by the case investigators to the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office. Acting Head of the Department for Oversight of Criminal Procedure and Investigations Osipov’s response made it clear what his stance on the matter was: a recommendation to remedy the law violation was issued but was not dealt with due to officials who were to inspect the case being on vacation. It is worth mentioning Osipov had been the Head of the Novy Urengoy Public Prosecutor’s Office.
Aleksandr Gerasimenko has nothing to do with Oleg Sitnikov’s misfortunes, once would think. But, for starters, Gerasimenko was the Chief Yamal Prosecutor during that time. He was to deal with those violations even before anyone filed complaints to the Prosecutor General’s Office. Yet, it was something else that tingled his sense of professional duty. Strange as it may seem, Gerasimenko took notice of ‘robbery’-survivor Oleg Sitnikov.
Gerasimenko started making Sitnikov’s life a living hell by exploiting Russian Deputy Prosecutor General Aleksandr Buksman’s order on inspection of compliance with the law on production, storage, and sale of motor fuel. He even was as bold as to documents his actions. Aleksandr Gerasimenko’s order № 7/5-1970-2015/130 as of May 13, 2015 virtually copies Buksman’s one, thus not violation any law. However, Gerasimenko then issued several more orders. For example, certain Oleg Sitnikov’s companies were to be inspected under the order № 7/2-2580-2015 as of June 9, 2015. This included Korporatsiya Rosneftegaz and Korporatsiya Rost Nefti i Gaza Companies. Other players on the market were not even mentioned. There is another Aleksandr Gerasimenko’s order demanding lower level prosecutors made sure tax and agencies and bailiffs (roughly equivalent to US marshals, translator’s note) complied with laws on unpaid back taxes recollection. It is worth mentioning that the only companies whose unpaid back taxes Gerasimenko is interested in are those of Oleg Sitnikov.
The outcome of Gerasimenko’s initiatives was impressive, since the order specifying the companies was given to 3 city courts and 3 district prosecutors while the order № 7/5-1970-2015/130 conveniently keeping Gerasimenko’s initiative under wraps was sent to every single Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District prosecutor. Oleg Sitnikov was subjected to more than 600 prosecutorial investigations that almost brought Korporatsiya Rosneftegaz to a standstill.
The entrepreneur put up a fight and filed a lawsuit accusing Gerasimenko of overstepping his authority. Sitnikov won the case in the Salekhard Town Court, although the Court dismissed some of his claims. The judge agreed Gerasimenko overstepped his authority by adding urban planning, land, and water laws to the list of laws compliance with which was to be ensured during the inspections carried out under the order № 7/2-2580-2015. The reader will have an opportunity to learn how concerned Gerasimenko is about water, land, and construction.
Sitnikov did not stop with filing the lawsuit; he decided to make use of his administrative resources. The entrepreneur was able to meet PM Dmitry Medvedev twice thanks to how large his business is. Russian Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika took disciplinary action against Aleksandr Gerasimenko after that. Chaika mentioned Sitnikov’s complaints in his order, too.
However, Gerasimenko seems to have paid no attention to the action. He wrote a letter to Head of the Department of the Russian Federal Tax Service in the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District Elena Gorgots after Chaika’s order. He asked her to file a bankruptcy lawsuit against Korporatsiya Rosneftegaz. Gerasimenko later ‘forgot’ he wrote the letter. Nonetheless, tax agencies got Gerasimenko’s hint and inspected Sitnikov’s companies 176 times and filed a bankruptcy lawsuit against Korporatsiya Rosneftegaz which they lost in courts of every jurisdiction.
Moreover, Gerasimenko appealed the abovementioned Salekhard Town Court ruling. He decided to flaunt his prosecutorial power and legal knowledge in court of second instance. For example, Gerasimenko knew quite well a ruling could be easily canceled if it is not signed by a judge. And, lo and behold, the signature disappeared from the ruling. Or rather the whole page with the signature did. Sitnikov’s copy he had received before the case was appealed does have it. The judge is ready to confirm they signed the ruling any time. But who cares about such procedural minutia? Appellate court will hear the case anew; something tells us Gerasimenko will not be found guilty of overreach this time around.
‘Brazen Prosecutor Reserve’
Anyway, upon a closer look, turns out the campaign against Sitnikov is not the only Gerasimenko’s misdeed. Gerasimenko is fond of the environmental law, as mentioned earlier. He is as attracted to nature as wolfs to lambs. He was having the time of his life in the Taymyr Nature Reserve while city and district prosecutors were following his order and inspecting Korporatsiya Rosneftegaz over and over again. There is still a video of Gerasimenko scarring endangered animals by flying on a helicopter on the Internet. It is worth mentioning it is only allowed to fly over the Reserve at the height of at least 2 000 meters.
Video: Yamal Prosecutor scares away Taymyr Nature Reserve
There is also a picture of a man looking just like Gerasimenko holding an Arctic char. He is accompanied by someone looking exactly like Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District Governor Kobilkin. There are mere dozens of Arctic chars left on the planet. This means the Chief Prosecutor and Governor’s doppelgangers will have driven the species extinct before they leave Yamal. On a side note, Governor Kobilkin awarded Gerasimenko a medal for fighting poaching in 2014 despite him not exactly resembling an animal rights activist.
Aleksandr Gerasimenko poaching
It seems Aleksandr Gerasimenko acquired and honed his approach to environmental protection at his previous job in Tyumen Region. He saved a beautiful pine forest there in a spectacular manner. The forest was unfortunate enough to neighbor the Chernaya Rechka Elite District, also known as Tyumen Barvikha (an elite village on the outskirts of Moscow, translator’s note). Tyumen elite ran out of free space at one point. That is when prosecutor Gerasimenko helped them expand at the expense of the forest.
The Tyumen District № 610 Administration issued an order on February 5, 2009. It granted a namesake of Tyumen Deputy Chief Prosecutor Aleksandr Gerasimenko the right to rent land lot № 303. The Administration had assigned the land lot to the Chernaya Rechka village a year earlier. This means Gerasimenko was granted a land lot in the pristine forest for “private husbandry”. Unfortunately, the Prosecutor’s namesake was not any good with land use terminology; a construction began there soon afterwards.
One of the houses built on land lot № 303
These facts are listed in the case № А70-1600/2011 filed to commercial court. The Department of the Russian Federal Agency for State Property Management in the Tyumen Region won its case. Court ruled the forest was illegally assigned to the village. This means renting it was illegal, too. However, the ruling has yet to be enforced despite it having taken effect 6 years ago. The land lot rented to Gerasimenko was partially covered with buildings. Several others are being built. It seems as if the ‘tenant’ shared the land lot with other namesakes of ‘men of law’ and ‘environmentalist’.
Saburova believes that the Russian authorities violated articles 2 and 5 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, guaranteeing the right to life, as well as the right to freedom and personal inviolability.