“We are poor, only one home...”: What is the guilt of Vladimir Zubakin, ex-Prosecutor of Engels?
A luxury villa, jewelry, animal skins, servants from Asia – this is what operatives of the Federal Security Service found during searches in the mansion of Vladimir Zubakin, the ex-Prosecutor of the Town of Engels of the Saratov Region. He has been charged with 5 swindling episodes, two bribe-taking episodes and one abuse of official powers episode. The wife of Zubakin said in court that their family has no money – while the defendant compares the trial with a theatrical play.
Scope of corruption
Vladimir Zubakin was arrested in August 2015. According to the Press Service of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR), a criminal case has been initiated against a high-ranked prosecution officer due to eight deeds of crime committed in the past years.
Operatives of the Third Investigations Department of the Main Investigations Directorate of the ICR based in Nizhny Novgorod have charged Vladimir Zubakin under part 3 of Article 159 (Swindling committed by a person through his official position), part 5 of Article 290 (Bribe-Taking on a large scale) and part 1 of Article 285 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (Abuse of Official Powers).
As per court decision, the ex-Prosecutor had been waiting for the trial in a pre-trial detention facility. The high-profile criminal proceeding has started on October 25, 2016 and was marked by a series of scandals from the very beginning.
Vzglyad-Info web portal has published the speech of the State Prosecutor Viktor Ladin in the Engels District Court. According to the investigation, the scope of corruption activities of Vladimir Zubakin was truly impressive – both by the amount of bribes taken and number of unlawful acts.
The career of Vladimir Zubakin has been successful from the very beginning. In 2000, he started working as an investigator in the watchdog agency, and four years later – at the age of 25 – became the Deputy Prosecutor of the Town of Balakov of the Saratov Region. In 2007, the young lawyer was promoted to the Prosecutor of the Town of Engels.
Victimized brothers Manashirov
On July 28, 2011, a criminal case had been initiated against the head of Myasnoi Soyuz (Meat Union) Limited Liability Company under part 4 of Article 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (Swindling committed on an especially large scale). Founders of the company – brothers Semen and Ilyagu Manashirov – have come to the Prosecutor’s Office of Engels and asked Vladimir Zubakin to help.
The Prosecutor promised to help in exchange for 1 million rubles. It was agreed that the businessmen pay the first installment of 400 thousand as soon as possible and the rest of money – after the dismissal of the criminal case. Zubakin received the first installment from Semen Manashirov in his office, but did not keep his promise.
The investigation has found that back in 2010, the Prosecutor had already borrowed 500 thousand rubles from the brothers–businessmen. In summer 2012, Zubakin asked to lend him additional 500 thousand – although he never intended to repay the debt. The high-ranked enforcement officer had estimated his patronage at that sum.
Photo: Vladimir Zubakin, the ex-Prosecutor of Engels
Computers and bribes
On January 15, 2015, law enforcement operatives have seized computers and documentation of Revvork Limited Liability Company in the framework of a criminal check. Vitaly Soldatov, the head of the company, addressed Vladimir Zubakin for help; he asked to return the equipment and dismiss the criminal proceedings.
The Prosecutor agreed but demanded 300 thousand rubles from the businessman. Upon receipt of the bribe, the documentation and computer have been returned to the owner, and the watchdog authority has declined to initiate a criminal case.
On February 20, 2015, being in his office, Vladimir Zubakin has demanded additional 150 thousand rubles from Vitaly Soldatov for general patronage. The businessman agreed; he gave the money to the Prosecutor a few days later and far from prying eyes – near a traffic control post at a bridge across the Volga River.
On February 17, 2015, Zubakin demanded from Aleksey Vishnyakov, the head of Waste Management Close Joint Stock Company, 60 thousand rubles – allegedly, to purchase computer equipment for the Prosecutor’s Office. But in reality, the Prosecutor has just pocketed the money.
On the next day, on February 18, 2015, Vladimir Zubakin has addressed private entrepreneur Andrei Kondaurov with the same request – but this time he demanded 67 thousand rubles. The entrepreneur has immediately brought the required sum to the Prosecutor.
Vodka for the Prosecutor
Another victim – Roman Dyuzhev, the Deputy Police Chief for Operational Work of the Engels Inter-Municipal Administration of the Ministry of Internal Affair (MIA) of the Russian Federation in the Saratov Region, – has also testified at the trial of Vladimir Zubakin. In the period of 2012–2015, he was the Head of the Department for Economic Security and Combatting the Corruption – and the defendant had been extorting bribes from him.
According to Versia-Saratov Information Agency, the police officer tried to maintain good relations with the Prosecutor overseeing the work of law enforcement structures. Because Zubakin could affect the career of Dyuzhev, he was fulfilling all the requests of his high-ranked acquaintance. They even had been going out for recreation together.
“On February 13, 2015, during a teleconference, I noticed a missed call; then I called back. The secretary connected me with Vladimir Yurievich. He invited me to his office on 15 Pushkina street. At 9:30 I came to his office; he was alone there. He addressed me, asked about the situation with alcohol. He said that 4–5 boxes of vodka are required”.
When the State Prosecutor asked why had Zubakin addressed this witness with such a request, the policeman replied that he does not know.
“I asked when it is required. It became clear that it is urgent. I promised to address this issue. Then I went to the exit door. Vladimir Yurievich called me back. He said that there is another issue. Is there a sponsor to pay for installation of an Internet network in the Prosecutor’s Office of Engels?” – Roman Dyuzhev continued his testimony. – “I responded that there are no sponsors. He said that I have to look for one. I had one week for the searches”.
The witness told the court that his brother–businessman has sold him 4 boxes of vodka for 10 thousand rubles – i.e. at the cost price.
“This was my own money. In the evening, I called to the office of Vladimir Yurievich. I said that I can not come because of a staff meeting. I asked whether my deputy could come to him? According to the deputy, he has driven over and transferred the vodka to him,” – Dyuzhev said.
On February 19, 2015, Zubakin called the policeman to his cell phone and asked about the progress with the searches for funds to connect the Prosecutor’s Office to the Internet.
“I arrived and went into the office of the Prosecutor. He was alone there. I gave him an envelope with 27 thousand rubles,” – the witness told.
In exchange for this money, Roman Dyuzhev expected to gain general patronage of Vladimir Zubakin and connivance of the watchdog agency should any violations be found in the operational work. Because the salary of the policeman at his previous position was 55 thousand rubles per month, he considers the financial damage sustained from the defendant a significant one.
“Poor, only one home...”
Viktoria Annenkova, spouse of the ex-Prosecutor and Rector of the Volga Cooperative Institute, has made a scandal in court. She has openly expressed her opinion on this matter.
Photo: Viktoria Annenkova
First of all, she suggested the law enforcement officers to reconsider priorities of their work.
“Your methods are truly amazing. Instead of looking for those who join ISIS (organization is banned in Russia), how many Saratov residents have died there and are being recruited, you put in prison normal, decent people. You deprived a child of his father and put a 36-year-old man onto my neck,” – Viktoria Annenkova resented.
Secondly, she accused the participants of the legal proceedings of corruption.
“Look at yourself, you buy apartments with huge discounts. We will verify this information!” – the spouse of the ex-Prosecutor promised with menace.
And thirdly, the called her family a poor one.
“They seized the travel passport and employment record book... They say: Where is the money, Vladimir Yurievich? I never had money in my life. What money? I have more loans than I can afford. We are poor; the only one home and his weight (Zubakin is a big man) – these are the two arguments they use,” – Viktoria Annenkova criticized the position of the investigation.
Court marshals asked the rampant woman to calm down because her loud screams obstructed other hearings taking place in other courtrooms. Then the outraged lady has left the district court.
NTV company has recently shown the home of a poor Prosecutor’s family. Chrezvychainoe Proisshestvie (Emergency Event) TV program of October 25, 2016 has demonstrated a police operational footage filmed during the search in the suspect’s mansion.
According to the TV program, prior to his arrest, Vladimir Zubakin lived in a two-storey home estimated by experts at 40 million rubles. Animal skins (Zubakin liked hunting), jewelry, and monetary funds had been found in the home. NTV journalists have noted that the mansion of the high-ranked enforcement officer included a separate room “for servants from Asia responsible, according to some information, for cleaning of the cottage”.
Interestingly, in February 2016, Vladimir Stepanov, the currently–former Prosecutor of the Saratov Region, had commented the criminal case against the ex-Prosecutor of Engels and noted that he personally does not have such a luxury home as Zubakin has.
“The sentence is already known”
The trial of the ex-Prosecutor of Engels has started with a series of scandals, including an attempt by lawyer Andrei Eremin to recuse judge Yulia Tarasova-Bolgova, which resulted in verbal exchanges between the participants of the legal proceedings.
“I hereby request your recusal. The court violates the right of defense, does not allow to justify the position of the defense, the court interrupts, falsely interprets the protocol, and gives rein to the State Prosecution by not reproving them and prejudicing the rights of the defense. The court is not willing to listen to the arguments, treats the participants of the proceedings with disdain; and the impression is that she (Yulia Tarasova-Bolgova) hates us all,” – defense attorney Andrei Eremin stated.
The defendant has supported the position of his lawyer. He noted that since his arrest, all actions of the investigation had a sole purpose – put him behind bars by all means.
“I have spent 14 months in detention; and nobody allowed me to speak out. I had been constrained for all that time. The investigation had been telling me since the first day: Admit your guilt, and everything would be OK. They told me from the very beginning: You will be in jail, we will arrange this. Still, I hoped that this is the position of Nizhny Novgorod (i.e. the Third Investigations Department of the Main Investigations Directorate of the ICR based in Nizhny Novgorod), but when I come to court... Finally, I have got access, but they try to constrain me in everything. Somebody wants me in jail. The situation is that my fate has already been determined. We all gathered here – like for a theatrical play: now everybody has to play his role – and the sentence is already known,” – Vladimir Zubakin lamented.
The ex-Prosecutor has also disclosed some illegitimate, in his judgement, methods used by the investigators.
“They throw mud at me! Operatives had approached my wife and tried to convince her that they have a video record of myself committing adultery on a table in my office, tried to convince her to divorce me and stop bringing me parcels to the pretrial detention facility. I have a feeling that somebody wants to push this case through with force because the State Prosecution has no proof that I was taking bribes,” – the ex-Prosecutor stated to the court.
Yulia Tarasova-Bolgova declined the motion by defense attorney Andrei Eremin to recuse the judge.
The trial of Vladimir Zubakin, the ex-Prosecutor of Engels, promises to be unpredictable and scandalous.