Russia’s Sudak: prosecutors asked to launch inspection against clan of “family and friends”
Here is what Vladimir Putin said during a meeting of the Russian Presidential Council for Combatting Corruption held not long before the New Year: “I would like to emphasize that it is not possible to fight corruption efficiently without a civil society. Period. This is why the state bodies of every level are to not only listen to those concerned and willing to share information, but to actively engage patriotic and constructive activists in the fight against corruption. As we have come to understand, excessive spending often accompanies corruption. There is more than enough proof this is true. This is why activity of a civil society is crucial in the fight”
Let us examine the resort Town of Sudak located on the southern bank of Crimea which is one example of the said issue.
Russian Anticorruption Bureau Directorate in Sudak head Eduard Yamanov complained to Crimean prosecutor Oleg Kamshilov about former Sudak head Vladimir Serov possibly being involved in criminal activities and asked for a prosecutorial inspection. Serov is the Crimea vice PM now. Vladimir Serov and his trusted people – Deputy Aleksandr Koval, Chief Physician Konstantin Skorupsky, former Ukrainian Security Service head Vasily Rudakov, and others – use the town resources to make money for themselves, according to the complaint. Serov was appointed the Sudak Town Hall head in 2010. He had worked as the Lvovskaya Zhelezhnaya Doroga National Union’s Lvovsky Zheleznodorozhnik resort CEO prior to that. Serov’s sister Nadezhda Rudik was appointed the Sudak head. In August 2013, the Sudak Town Council allowed to assume communal ownership of an unfinished building called Korpus No.4 at the Ushakova Street 1. The building was registered with the abovementioned resort and was located on a 3 400 m2 land right on the Sudak Embankment.
The building’s net book value amounted to UAH 1 243 310 ($44 600) on August 1, 2013, according to a letter of information issued by Lvovsky Zheleznodorozhnik. This means the state company gave away its property and the right to rent the said land out to the town territorial community. This was done in order to be able to later privatize it; it was nearly impossible to privatize federal property in Ukraine. But it was much easier to privatize communal property since Serov was the Sudak Mayor.
The scam went down in flames after Crimea became a part of Russia. Lvovsky Zheleznodorozhnik was nationalized and renamed into Pansionat Krymskaya Vesna. Rudik remained its CEO.
It is worth mentioning that the unfinished building was never transferred into Sudak community’s ownership. However, it did not remain in Pansionat Krymskaya Vesna’s ownership either. The property with a net book value of more than ₽4m ($71 300) disappeared due to Serov, Rudik, and others being in cahoots. The property should have being transferred to either Serov or Crimea. One could easily find proof of that by checking whether all property was transferred during the Lvovsky Zheleznodorozhnik nationalization.
There is another interesting issue, namely a 9-storey apartment building that is being illegally constructed in the park of the Sudak hospital complex on the Gvardeyskaya Street by Krym-Daliya incorporated by Serov’s mother Tamara Serova and Skorupsky’s relative Aleksey Skorupsky. The building is being constructed in the restricted area of a morgue and near other hospital buildings in violation of numerous laws. Serov’s sister Rudik’s husband Andrey Rudik is the Krym-Daliya CEO. Moreover, Serov’s son-in-law is the incorporator of Primorie, LB Konsalting, Sudak-Akvamir, and Alleya. They all have a lot of vending spots on the Kiparisovaya Alley, the Sudak main market place. He also owns the Solnechnaya Dolina village resort that is 20 meters away from the Black Sea, as well as a parking lot near the Town Hall and many other facilities. Andrey Rudik is also the Surozh Sudak Football Club CEO. Surozh owns local sports fields which Serov’s family use at their own discretion.
Serov’s wife Ivanna Serova is the incorporator of: Sugdeya-Kruiz specializing in providing motor boats, steamers, and beach services; Firma Soyuz-Krym, specializing in retail business in Simferopol; Elefant that owns a gigantic hotel in Sudak; Kataliya; River; Marina VEY MAKS; Ktek. The Serovs make their employees incorporators, too. One such example is Astarta hotel administrator (Elefant) Oksana Karpenko who was made the incorporator of Krym Parking, Upravlayushchaya Kompaniya Sudak, Perspektiva-Yug, and Professorsky Ugolok. Karpenko is their CEO. Is it not one too many companies for one family and its trustees? Spouses, brothers, sisters, sons-in-law...
Now, let us focus on the civil society represented by activists Dmitry Dzhigalov and Oleg Semenov from the Sudak’s Crimean Anticorruption Bureau. They have rallied against Serov’s clan of “family and friends” for years. Is it a coincidence that both were charged with violation of part 1 of Article 282 (Incitement of Hatred or Enmity) of the Russian Criminal Code in January 2018? They published a video that someone did not like. Dzhigalov was imposed travel restriction on. Semenov was put in jail. Major of Justice Aleksandr Kormilitsin is the one investigating them.
“We asked many questions that were hard to answer for officials. This includes questions regarding the top town officials being involved with companies that win all tenders and rights for acquiring land on privileged terms and building apartment building in violation of the law. This is probably why they fought back against us. It is worth noting that the Town Hall head was promoted to the Crimean PM the day we became causes for investigations. The truth damaged his reputation. Moreover, they had to appoint someone loyal to Serov’s former position to make sure any complaints filed with the Town Hall will not be investigated and their clan with remain just as influential”, Dzhigalov said. Dzhigalov is the chairman of the Committee for Control and Fight against Corruption and Terrorism of the Coordination Council of Crimean Non-Governmental Security Organizations. He is also the head of Souz Desantnikov Kryma.
Oleg Semenov in court
“It is obvious investigators were not able to prove Dzhigalov published the video, which means the charge was groundless. This means Sudak Investigative Committee is not interested in objective and legal investigation”, attorney and human rights activist Zhan Zapruta noted.
It is worth mentioning that Town of Alushta deputy Pavel Stepanchenko and Tvoya Gazeta Chief Editor Aleksey Nazimov were accused of extortion and arrested in October 2016. They are known for their persistent battle against abuse of power by local officials. For example, they rallied against the coastal line seizure for private construction. This is what happening across the peninsula, according to sources.
“People see social downfall, devastation, corruption, theft, bribery, and idle talking. Meanwhile, more than ₽30m ($535 000) were transferred to Sergey Aksenov’s wife’s bank accounts in 2016. What does she do? Where did the money come from? No one is doing anything for development of Crimea. You will see villages are in terrible condition if you go as little as 10 km away from Simferopol. All these bribe-takers – even the most low-ranking ones - are appointed by top Crimean official!” Communists of Russia Crimean branch chairman Leonid Grach noted.
“People are outraged by illegal construction activity and state-run construction companies building without permissions and getting them after constriction is complete. They are building more and more buildings in parks. New buildings leave less and less space for Simferopol residents. People are outrages by plans for construction of a new micro-district called Krymskaya Roza by Motolit. I will occupy hundreds of hectares. Motolit is going to sell apartments there under partnership agreements. Yet the town will be responsible for connecting the building to all utility services and developing nearby infrastructure. Someone will make money on the project while the town will lose money”, social activist and lawyer Ilia Bolshedvorov noted.
“The system and policies that are detrimental to people and corruption that permeates throughout all authorities are monolithic. The authority is communal: officials draining money from businesspeople, merchants, restaurateurs, and hotel owners do not publish any data on it. They bring money to the top officials and are allowed to continue. Meanwhile, if someone wants out they will be crushed by the state machine consisting of tax, firefighter, sanitary, and other agencies taking bribes and not allowing entrepreneurs to develop their businesses. In Sudak, many people discuss selling state land and property of state resorts and hospitals built in the USSR. When you mention corruption around local residents, they start speking about Vladimir Serov, Konstantin Skorupsky, Aleksey Koval, Boris Deych. By the way, Sudak has long been down as “Deutschland”, Dzhigalov said.
“We are trying to oppose officials and corruption police officers’ illegal actions. We are fight against them abusing their official power and virtually creating a gang in Sudak. I believe that Russian investigative agencies will deal with this issue. I believe the law can be enforced and that not every police officer is corrupt. However, I am starting do doubt the law protects social activists and regular citizens in Russia and Crimea due to the recent events”, Dzhigalov summarized.
Sudak Town Court Judge Evgeny Rykov considered a motion by the Russian Investigative Committee Directorate in Crimea during a hearing on extension of Oleg Semenov’s arrest on January 16. He decided Semenov will stay in jail until February 20, 2018. Rykov also wrote a letter to Russian Investigative Committee Directorate in Crimea Main Office of Investigations head Lieutenant-General of Justice Mikhail Nazarov to show how serious he was about his ruling. Rykov disregarded the defense team’s arguments. Oleg Semenov has been put in jail on October 13, 2017.