End of Cheburashka? Enforcement structures and former ‘colleagues’ ruin crowned thief’s empire 

End of Cheburashka? Enforcement structures and former ‘colleagues’ ruin crowned thief’s empire
While Cheburashka is sunbathing in Argentina, his money bag in Kirov deflates through a hole pierced by ‘loyal’ friends Photo: The CrimeRussia

The affairs of thief-in-law Vadim Sabrekov are pretty deplorable. He has been put on the wanted list, thus, making it impossible for the fugitive to return home. Furthermore, old friends are defrauding Sabrekov and trying to seize his hardly – although illegally – earned assets.

For the last few years, crowned thief Vadim Sabrekov (Cheburashka (Toppler)), has been living outside of Russia and trying to remotely control his native city of Kirov. However, based on recent episodes, his resources – both human and economic – are nearly exhausted. Apparently, Sabrekov has placed confidence in wrong people. Currently, he is under pressure on all sides: law enforcement structures accuse Sabrekov of the murder of criminal ‘authority' Sergei Gushchin and two his henchmen committed more than 20 years ago, while his assets are quietly sold out.

According to some information, the triple murder allegations against Cheburashka are based on testimonies of his former partners – Mikhail Prokop’ev (Prokop) and Sergei Gunbin (Gunba, Gunbik), leaders of Prokopovskie and Gunbikovskie gangs respectively.

Сергеи Гунбин (на заднем плане) со своим адвокатом

Sergei Gunbin (on the right) with his lawyer

In the meantime, direct subordinates of Cheburashka decided to capitalize on the situation and make some money in the hope that their boss won't become aware of this – and even if he does, won't be able to do anything. 

In late October, a home belonging to Kirov businessman Vasily Bochkin specializing in construction went up in flames. This was an arson – security cameras recorded an unidentified person getting over a fence and throwing a Molotov cocktail on the roof of the newly-built home.

Coincidentally or not, but a day earlier, some people had tried to seize from the businessman a land lot that used to belong to Cheburashka through court action.

Sabrekov went on the run after the conviction of Prokop’ev in December 2016 – the court has sentenced the gang leader to life in prison. The criminal group led by Sabrekov had close ties with Prokopovskie – therefore, Cheburashka has assessed the situation rationally and, instead of languishing in a cold prison cell, he is currently sunbathing in Argentina.

Burnt down home belonging to Bochkin Burnt down home belonging to Bochkin Burnt down home belonging to Bochkin
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Prior to fleeing, Sabrekov has transferred all his assets, including a land lot on Moskovskaya street in Kirov, not far from Metro, to his 78-year-old mother Lidia Prokhorovna Sabrekova. The old lady was not really concerned with this and lived the sweet life up until recently: in early 2018, it became known that this lot has been sold more than once. 

On January 16, 2018, Lidia Sabrekova has filed a lawsuit with the Oktyabrsky District Court of Kirov to recover the lot 5.6 thousand square meters in size allegedly belonging to her. The lawsuit has been filed against some Olga Kostina who, according to the Uniform State Register of Taxpayers, was the new owner of the land. 

However, prior to the first hearing, Sabrekova has submitted an abandonment of the claim to the court. The litigation has been ceased – this became another surprise for thief’s mother because, according to her own words, she had never signed such an abandonment. The document was delivered to the court by mail; Sabrekova claims that her signature was forged. The court has reviewed the above facts and resumed the legal proceedings. 

The case was transferred from the Oktyabrsky District Court of Kirov to the Kirov Regional Court and back again several times; at some point, the judge prohibited the Administration for the Kirov Region of the Federal Service for State Registration, Cadastre and Cartography (Rosreestr) from making any registrations involving that lot.    

Тот самый оспариваемый земельный участок

Disputed land lot

At this point, the above-mentioned fire victim – businessman Vasily Bochkin – has appeared claiming that the disputed lot belongs to him and he does not understand why, being a bona fide owner, he should be deprived of his asset – especially taking that it does not belong to defendant Kostina anymore. 

It is necessary to note that none of the parties had attended the court sessions in person – all the oral statements were made and arguments conducted by their representatives. 

In response to the claims brought by Bochkin, the plaintiff party has stated that the lot was sold without the knowledge of Sabrekova – i.e. Kostina had owned the disputed property illegally and had no right to sell it. In addition, Sabrekova filed a lawsuit against Bochkin. 

The court found out that Kostina has purchased the lot from some Eduard Salimov in November 2016. Salimov claims that the defendant has purchased the disputed property legitimately – especially taking that it had, in fact, belonged not to the plaintiff, but to her son Vadim Sabrekov. According to Salimov, Sabrekov has instructed his mother to issue a power of attorney in his name to enable him to sell this asset any time.

A notary confirmed in court the issuance of this power of attorney on January 30, 2014. 

According to Salimov, at some point, the thief-in-law told his mother to sell this lot – and Salimov fulfilled his instruction and delivered all the sale proceeds – 40 million rubles ($591 thousand) – to Sabrekova, which is confirmed by a written receipt.



According to Sabrekova, the situation was different: Salimov, being a “close friend of her son”, betrayed her trust and asked to give him, for the sake of security, all documents pertaining to her real properties and issue a power of attorney she does not remember for what purpose. As a result, she currently does not have documents confirming her rights to the disputed lot; she had never provided consent for its sale; and her signature on the receipt dated November 28, 2016 and presented to the court is forged. In addition, the plaintiff has challenged the actual date of this document alleging that it could be produced in late 2017 – early 2018 and backdated after the beginning of the litigation.

It is necessary to note that Salimov was the ‘right hand’ of the thief-in-law and maintained close ties with him. .

For instance, back in 2006, the media reported the arrest of Sabrekov and several other people, including Salimov, by the side of the Vyatka River. A criminal case was instituted against them under Article 256 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (illegal procurement (catching) of aquatic biological resources by a group of persons by previous concert). The investigation and trial had lasted for 1.5 years; Cheburashka spent half of that time in a pretrial detention facility. Ultimately, ordinary members of the group have been sentenced to 1 year behind bars with a 6-month reprieve, while ‘authoritative' members – to 1 year behind bars with an 8-month reprieve.

Apparently, Salimov was the closest associate of Sabrekov – and after the departure, the crowned thief has entrusted his empire to the loyal henchman. Salimov, in turn, decided to capitalize on the exile of Cheburashka and take ‘good care’ of his assets. 

Furthermore, Kostina turned out to be the wife of Salimov – and they sold the lot belonging to the thief-in-law to Bochkin a year after its acquisition by Kostina at a price twice as low as the purchase cost – 21 million rubles ($310.3 thousand).

Страница Ольги Костиной-Салимовой в соцсети

Another weird fact: Bochkin has paid the full price for the land – but became concerned about its official registration only on January 16 – i.e. after the filing of the first claim by Sabrekova. By the way, a person running a construction business in Kirov for years could not be unaware whose land it was. 

Still, from the formal perspective, all the deals were perfectly legal. The Rosreestr Administration for the Kirov Region confirmed that the disputed lot – zoned residential lands where use and maintenance of production buildings are permitted – belongs to Bochkin based on the agreement of purchase and sale dated December 27, 2017. 

A complex forensic assessment confirmed that the signature of Sabrekova on the receipt for 40 million rubles ($591 thousand) was authentic – although affixed under the influence of "distracting" factors, including "age-specific changes of the signer's organism and associated illnesses". 

It was impossible to establish the true date of the receipt. The expert assessment has shown that the document was exposed to lighting and thermal effects causing artificial aging of the paper and ink. 

On September 19, 2018, the court ruled that the plaintiff has failed to present evidence sufficient to establish that Sabrekova was deprived of the disputed property contrary to her will and dismissed her claims against Kostina and Bochkin.

Overall, this entire story seems pretty weird: payment of 40 million rubles ($591 thousand) to thief’s mother (if that was true), subsequent loss of a large sum due to the sale at a lower price, and arson of the home belonging to the new owner. By the way, the businessman abstains from comments and refuses to answer any questions.

Then it turned out that the family of the crowned thief has lost not only the above lot – but other assets as well.

On January 16, 2018, Sabrekova has filed not only a lawsuit against Kostina – she has also filed a detinue claim against E.V. Bakulina (apparently, entrepreneur Elena Valer’evna Bakulina specializing in rentals) with the Leninsky District Court. Shortly before that, thief’s mother became aware that the defendant owns 100/200 shares in former Katran Restaurant – a two-storey nonresidential building 1.1 thousand square meters in size. The portion of the restaurant was also sold by Salimov – although Sabrekova had never asked him to do so.

Здание на Воровского, 104, где когда-то находился ресторан "Катран"

Katran Restaurant was located at 104 Vorovskogo street

Katran was a legendary restaurant in Kirov. For a long time, it was the sole establishment in the city offering seafood delicacies, including Atlantic salmon, halibut, and frog legs.

Similarly with the above-mentioned case against Kostina, the court has received a written abandonment of the claim allegedly sent by the plaintiff prior to the first hearing. According to this document, the plaintiff has entrusted Salimov, by a power of attorney dated January 30, 2014, to administer the disputed real property. The power of attorney is still in effect; the sale proceeds have been received; and the plaintiff is aware of the implications of the termination of proceedings. 

A representative of the plaintiff had objected to the satisfaction of the plaintiff’s motion to terminate the proceedings – but this time, due to a different reason. According to the plaintiff, the abandonment of the claim was a compulsory measure because, at that time, the motion to recognize Sabrekova (!) legally incapable was under examination. 

Salimov insisted that the real estate deal was authorized by the owner, and the sale proceeds have been received in full, which is confirmed by a receipt. 

Unlike the first litigation, this legal proceeding is still ongoing, but it is known that the Leninsky District Court of Kirov has recognized Sabrekova legally incapable on May 15, 2018 and appointed a guardian to her. 

To explain the significance of the above restaurant, it is necessary to go back to the trial of Prokop held in a few years ago. 

Numerous witnesses testified that the leader of Prokopovskie organized criminal group used to control Katran. For instance, some Vladimir Degtyannikov told in 2015 that in the 1990s, he used to work as the senior accountant in a cooperative. Once a group of racketeers has visited them. Then director Oleg Tuinis addressed brothers Koikov – active members of Gagarinskie gang – for help. They had guarded the enterprise against other organized criminal groups.

Михаил Прокопьев

Mikhail Prokop’ev

Degtyannikov heard from brothers Koikov that there were disputes between their group and the gang led by Prokop’ev with regards to the businesses ‘protected’ by them. According to the witness, he was aware that Prokopovskie organized criminal group involved Sergei Krivoshein (Krivoi (Crooked)) responsible for all criminal matters and brothers Sitnikov administering the business affairs. In 1998, one of the brothers – Roman – was killed, and almost all enterprises controlled by Gagarinskie, including Katran Restaurant, have been seized by the gang led by Prokop.

At one of the hearings held in summer 2016, witness Sergei Ovechkin told the court that in the mid-1990s, he was in charge of Beta company guarding Katran Restaurant. He was aware of conflicts between the criminal groups operating in Kirov. According to Ovechkin, after the relocation of Gagarinov to Moscow in the 1990s, other gangs emerged in the city: Derendyaev and Gorodchikov became independent, and groups lead by Prokop’ev, Gunbin, etc. entered the criminal market. Initially, all of them had maintained friendly ties – but then gang leaders, including Prokop’ev, started showing their ambitions. Based on the testimony of Ovechkin, there was a war between Prokopovskie and Gagarinskie organized criminal groups, Katran was indeed seized by Prokopovskie, and then mass arrests of gangsters have begun. By 2000, only two strong groups remained in Kirov – Prokopovskie and Gunbikovskie.

Businessman Grigory Palei, familiar with the defendants, told the court that Sabrekov was appointed the overseer of the city after 1997, and the power of Prokop'ev has drastically increased after that. According to the witness, the gangs had multiple conflicts accompanied by numerous contract killings, including murders of Gushchin, Gorodchikov, and Pinaev. Palei also confirmed that Katran Restaurant was seized by Prokop'ev: "Krivoshein was involved in the seizure of Katran; later, several people were killed for that. By the end of the 1990s, Prokopovskie had controlled nearly entire Kirov”.

Григорий Палей

Grigory Palei

In September 2018, it became known that Palei has died. The official cause of death is stroke. According to the unofficial version, the 53-year-old businessman broke down under stress: Prokop could testify against him and accuse Palei of masterminding the murder of his business partner Anatoly Gorbushin in 2003.

The information about the ‘shady’ owners of the restaurant was also confirmed by people familiar with this business. For instance, Olga Ryzhova said that the defendant (Prokop’ev) had ties with Sergei Luzyanin, ex-Deputy of the Legislative Assembly of the Kirov Region and ex-Director of the Central Market. Luzyanin died in a penal colony in fall 2015.

In 1997, some Andrei Shishkin, a friend of Ryzhova, suggested her to purchase 50% in Katran Restaurant offered for sale by Vladimir Gagarinov (officially, it belonged to Elena Gagarinova). The price was $600 thousand; a half of that sum had to be paid on closure, while the other half – in installments within a year. 

According to Ryzhova, after the closure of this deal, the restaurant continued operating as usually. Shishkin was taking all the revenues to Moscow. In 1998, he was killed. Upon becoming aware of this, Ryzhova came to the Prosecutor's Office to clarify the situation. An unknown man met her there and asked why has she sold her share in Katran Restaurant? Ryzhova told the court that he had shown her documents allegedly endorsed by herself and Shishkin. She addressed the notary, who has executed the deal with the restaurant, – and the notary confirmed that this deal was legitimate.

Сергей Лузянин

Sergei Luzyanin

Later the business lady became aware that the deal was orchestrated by Luzyanin, who had connections in the Registration Chamber, as per instructions from Prokop’ev. 

The name of Luzyanin has popped up during the trial of Prokopovskie organized criminal group. He has been detained in early 2014 and charged with abuse of powers while being the Director of the Central Market, use of violence against a representative of the power, and embezzlements. Luzyanin has been sentenced to three years in a general regime penal colony. 

Witness Natalia Zhuikova told the court about other business projects of Prokop. She became familiar with the criminal ‘authority’ via his ex-wife Tatiana Kokareva, owner of Kolizei (Coliseum) company specializing in catering and food delivery, Karabas-Barabas (real estate rentals), and Tochka (Outlet) (retail). Since 2006, Zhuikova was employed with Tochka Limited Liability Company as an accountant. By the way, Tochka Trade Center currently operates at 104 Vorovskogo street where the restaurant was located. Kokareva still controls the above legal entities: she shares Tochka Limited Liability Company with Elena Sitnikova, wife of an active member of Prokopovskie gang, and Karabas-Barabas Limited Liability Company – with Alisa Prokop’eva, daughter of the criminal ‘authority’.

Алиса Прокопьева

Alisa Prokop’eva

Therefore, Salimov could act in the interests of Prokop, thus, betraying his close friend Sabrekov. This may explain the audacity of his actions – especially taking that Prokop had repeatedly promised to disclose information compromising many powerful figures in the Kirov region – politicians, businessmen, high-ranked law enforcement functionaries, and criminals. After all, he has nothing more to lose. 

Apparently, the criminal ‘authority’ got tired and sick with languishing in prison alone – while others are relaxing at foreign resorts. Furthermore, Prokop could already start sharing information with the operatives – in early 2018, he has been transferred from harsh Penal Colony № 56 located in the Sverdlovsk region and nicknamed “Black Eagle” to his native Kirov region.



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