2018 to become the year of Article 210. Russian enforcement structures vs. thieves in law: New round of battle 

2018 to become the year of Article 210. Russian enforcement structures vs. thieves in law: New round of battle
Part 4 of Article 210 of the Criminal Code is increasingly frequently applied to thieves-in-law Photo: The CrimeRussia

The past year highlighted a new tactics used by the Russian law enforcement authorities in their struggle against the top criminal caste. Thieves-in-law now have a very little choice – either go to jail for a long time (or even for life) for creation of a criminal community or flee abroad. Those unwilling to leave the country voluntarily face deportation. The CrimeRussia attempts to forecast the main trends in the eternal battle between law enforcement structures and the criminal world in the year of 2018.

The struggle against thieves-in-law literally went global nowadays. All the European countries, especially Spain and France, are now hunting down crowned thieves. In late December, the U.S. Department of the Treasury has officially designated thieves-in-law from former Soviet republics a “Eurasian transnational criminal organization”.

Among the post-Soviet states, Ukraine and Georgia take the most active efforts to clamp down on criminal generals. Ukraine reports arrests and deportations of thieves-in-law on a regular basis and managed to reduce the number of its own crowned thieves from 28 to 7 within a year. According to Vyacheslav Abroskin, Deputy Head of the National Police of Ukraine, the number of foreign crowned thieves residing in the country does not exceed 15 persons and is going to decline further over time. A criminal analysis administration is currently being created in Ukraine, its main objective will be the struggle against the organized crime led by thieves-in-law. According to the statistics, Georgia is the native land for more than half of all the crowned thieves – the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs states that 325 thieves-in-law are of Georgian heritage. The country has been pursuing a tough policy against the criminal elite since 2005. During the rule of Mikhail Saakashvili, Article 223 has been incorporated into the Criminal Code of Georgia; it provides clear legal definitions for such terms as “thief-in-law”, “quarrel”, and “criminal world”. The article stipulates a punishment of 5 to 10 years behind bars just for “a membership in a thieves’ society”.

Russia has a legal framework for purposeful struggle against thieves-in-law as well. The State Duma has approved amendments to the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation increasing the criminal liability for leaders of organized criminal groups back in 2009. Article 210 (Сreation of a Сriminal Сommunity (criminal organization) and Participation Therein) has got part 4 stipulating deprivation of liberty for a term of fifteen to twenty years or life imprisonment for persons holding supreme positions in a criminal hierarchy. It was planned to institute criminal cases under this article for creation of and leadership in gangs, coordination of operations, distribution of spheres of influence, and participation in thieves’ congregations held to settle criminal issues.

Initially, thieves-in-law were leery of this ‘innovation’; many of them had even considered the possibility to emigrate – but it turned out soon that the amendments to the Criminal Code were, according to Vladimir Ovchinsky, Advisor to the Chairman of the Constitutional Court, “dead-born”.

It was extremely difficult, sometimes even impossible, for investigators to justify in court an indictment brought under part 4 of Article 210 – in 2010, Alexander Bastyrkin, Chairman of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR), has admitted that “leaders of the criminal world are well-covered” and often use dummy persons to carry out criminal operations. Ultimately, thieves-in-law have relaxed, while investigators and operatives continued prosecuting crowned thieves in the old-fashioned way – for petty crimes, including storage or drugs (sometimes planted) or firearms, punishable by minor prison terms.

The situation has drastically changed in fall 2016. The Investigative Directorate of the Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation has set a new trend – prosecute thieves-in-law under part 4 of Article 210 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation – by laying charges under that article against thief № 1 Zakhar Kalashov (Shakro Molodoy) arrested for extortion.

How is Shakro doing?

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Zakhar Kalashov

The most authoritative so far crowned thief was sentenced in Georgia to 18 years behind bars in absentia in the framework of a case pertaining to the kidnapping and murder of a co-owner of Golden Palace Casino in Moscow. He has served a prison term in Spain for money laundering and creation of a criminal community. In 2014, Kalashov returned to Russia where operatives of the General Administration of Criminal Investigation of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the Russian Federation had a ‘prophylactic talk’ with him and then released. After his arrest in June 2016 for extortion of 8 million rubles ($140.2 thousand) from the owner of Elements Restaurant, rumors had circulated that he could be charged with creation of a criminal community. In the case file, Zakhary Kalashov is named the keeper of the entire thieves’ pooled cash fund. He had distributed funds between members of the Russian criminal society. The thief-in-law had appointed and controlled heads of subordinate structures and controlled illegal financial flows and other assets. According to the investigation, Shakro Molodoy had established “strong ties between independent criminal groups”, developed criminal plans for them, and distributed spheres of influence. In addition, the document instituting the criminal case for creation of a criminal community states that all the orders of Shakro Molodoy were mandatory for leaders and members of organized criminal groups. However, after spending 1.5 year in the pretrial detention facility, Kalashov is still charged only with extortion. Article 210 is rarely mentioned in relation to thief № 1 these days. None of the some 20 suspects in criminal cases linked with Kalashov were charged with participation in a criminal community. The investigation insists that Shakro is “the leader of the Russian criminal world”, but so far, the evidential base is insufficient. The CrimeRussia had already mentioned earlier that there is no such legal term as “the leader of the Russian criminal world” in the domestic legislation.

Heavier charges to be laid against Pichuga 

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Yuri Pichugin

Another criminal ‘heavyweight’ Yuri Pichugin (Pichuga (Little Bird)) has been arrested in February 2017. A criminal case has been instituted against detained members of the organized criminal group led by Pichuga (Oktai Efendiev, Sergei Vanuito, Akhmed Isaev, Aleksei Rokhlin, Sergei Soldatov, Khadis Azizov, and Maksim Abubakarov) under Articles 210 and 222 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (Creation of a Criminal Community (criminal organization) and Participation Therein; Illegal Acquisition, Transfer, Sale, Storage, Transportation, or Bearing of Firearms, its basic parts, and ammunition). Aleksander Egorov, another suspect in this case, has been arrested soon. Two suspects remaining on the loose – Makhach Azizov and Viktor Karpov – have been put on the federal wanted list. 

According to the investigation, the gang of Puchugin had been running criminal operations in the Komi Republic for the last 20 years. Searches performed in various cities have uncovered several arms caches. The investigation believes that the criminals had racketeered local businesses, committed frauds, armed assaults, and other illegal operations, and transferred the criminal proceeds to the thieves’ pooled cash fund. Together with Vladimir Tyurin (Tyurik), Oleg Shishkanov (Shishkan), and Aleksei Petrov (Petrik), Yuri Pichugin was considered one of the main contenders to the throne of thief № 1 Zakhar Kalashov (Shakro Molodoy) arrested in summer 2016. 

In July 2017, Sergei Isaev, Head of the Investigations Directorate in the Komi Republic of the ICR, announced that new grievous and extremely grievous charges are to be laid against Pichugin and other members of his gang, including murders and economic crimes. According to Isaev, the investigation of the case against Pichuga’s gang currently remains at the evidence collection stage. 

The first one 

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Mamuka Chkadua

In late April, an Altai court has sentenced Georgian thief-in-law Mamuka Chkadua (Mamuka Galsky) to a lengthy prison term. He became the first thief-in-law convicted for creation of an organized criminal group in the last several years. Some twenty members of his gang have been sentenced to prison terms as well. According to the investigation, the crowned thief has created a criminal community in the Altai krai in 2012. Upon growing to a certain size, the criminal community has been divided into two groups. One gang specialized in the extortion of money from businessmen, while the other one had eliminated rival criminals. All the defendants had denied any involvement with these crimes, but the investigation managed to prove their guilt in full. Thief-in-law Mamuka Chkadua and his associate Sherali Khatamov have been sentenced to 17 and 16 years in a maximum security penal colony respectively for Creation of a Criminal Community, Leadership, and Participation Therein (parts 1, 2, and 4 of Article 210 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). Other gang members were sentenced to prison terms varying in the range from 2.5 to 13 years for Attempted Murder (part 3 of Article 30 and item (g), part 2 of Article 105 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation), Murder (part 1 of Article 105 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation), and Extortion (items (a and b) of part 3 of Article 163 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). Four of them have been also convicted for Swindling (part 2 of Article 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation).

Crowned member of Edinaya Rossia

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Tkach during his work in Edinaya Rossia

In late June 2017, operatives of the Moscow Criminal Investigation Department, jointly with their colleagues from the Altai krai, have arrested thief-in-law Andrei Tkachenko (Tkach Nyagan’sky) on Varshavskoe highway in Moscow. The crowned thief was put on the federal wanted list for Swindling committed by an organized group on an especially large scale (part 4 of Article 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). According to sources, in addition to swindling, Tkach may be charged under part 3 of Article 210 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (Creation of a Criminal Community by the person holding the supreme position in a criminal hierarchy) as well; should his guilt be proven, the thief-in-law may face a life in prison. 

It is known that Tkachenko has no criminal record and used to work in Edinaya Rossia (the United Russia) Party up until 2008 – he had handled youth policy affairs in the Nyagan branch of the party. In addition, the future crowned thief was a trainer in the Karate-Do Federation of the Town of Nyagan. In the police databases, he was referred to as the leader of a ‘sports’ organized criminal group entitled “Fighter”. Tkach was crowned in 2013, together with Radzhik Nizhnevartovsky, by associates of Ded KhasanPichuga, Miron, Vasya Voskres, and Tyurik. In November 2014, Tkach was arrested among others at a large congregation held in Bochka (Barrel) Cafe in the Presnensky district.

Vitya Pan follows the trend

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Another prominent thief-in-law facing charges under Article 210 is Viktor Panyushin (Vitya Pan). 

In became known in summer that the overseer of the Kursk region has been charged with creation of a criminal community. The investigation believes that Panyushin, a thief-in-law since 2000, has organized a gang; its members, including Pan, are wanted for a number of grievous and extremely grievous crimes, including real estate frauds, appropriation of monetary funds, and kidnapping. It is known that the gang of Vitya Pan had tortured an abducted victim for a long time, including electrocuting, in order to get the required information. 

However, the operatives managed to detaine only a few gang members, while the thief-in-law and several his associates have escaped. 

According to The CrimeRussia sources, the law enforcement authorities had spotted the crowned thief last time in June 2016. At that time, Vitya Pan was arrested at a congregation held to crown a member of the Kursk criminal society. The operatives were unable to charge the thief-in-law with a serious crime and had to release him after a ‘prophylactic talk’. 

Guli, Kakha Galsky, Volchok, etc.

According to The CrimeRussia sources, all the listed above thieves-in-law are among those facing charges under one of the most severe articles of the Criminal Code. In late June, the Moscow police has raided Marani Restaurant on Rublevskoe highway where a congregation involving famous crowned thieves Kakhaber Parpalia (Kakha Galsky) and Elgudzhi Turkadze (Gudzha Kutaissky) was held.

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Kakhaber Parpalia (Kakha Galsky)

In addition, criminal authorities from Siberia – Ruslan Slyusar and Pavel Brusentsev (Pasha Besheny) considered a candidate for the overseer of the Novosibirsk region – had attended that congregation. In total, 11 people were detained in the course of the special operation. 

The sources state that the police raid in Marani was performed in order to document the creation of an organized criminal group by persons holding supreme positions in the criminal hierarchy. However, all the detainees were escorted to the police station, checked for involvement in past crimes, and released. 

In July, FSB operatives have arrested thief-in-law Ara Muradyan (Ara Armavirsky) in Armavir on suspicion of swindling.

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Ara Armavirsky

Following a motion brought by the investigation, the court has remanded Muradyan in custody. The CrimeRussia wrote earlier that in addition to swindling, the crowned thief, who used to supervise the construction of Olympic facilities in Sochi, may be charged with creation of a criminal community as well.

A month later, another thief-in-law – 53-year-old Georgy Manukyan (Chinka, Zhora Tbilissky) – has been arrested in the Krasnodar krai. Manukyan is suspected of creation of a group of extortionists – but despite the ‘gang’ nature of the committed crimes, Zhora Tbilissky hasn’t been charged under Article 210 of the Criminal Code yet.

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Georgy Manukyan

In early October, the oldest Slavic thief-in-law Vladimir Volkov (Volchok) charged with creation of a criminal community in absentia 5 years ago has been arrested in the Kuban River region. The 67-year-old closest associate of Ded Khasan accused of creation of a criminal community in the Republic of Adygea and Kuban River region had remained on the federal and international wanted lists for 5 years. Crowned thief Roman Kashchaev (Kashchai), another suspect in the same criminal case, has been charged under Article 210 of the Criminal Code and put on the wanted list by the MIA General Administration for the North-Caucasian Federal District in late September.

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Vladimir Volkov

In mid-December, it became known that thief-in-law Nadir Salifov (Guli) – released recently from an Azerbaijani prison after serving a lengthy term and having no direct ties with Russia – may also face charges under Article 210 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. On December 18, Presnensky District Court of Moscow has arrested him in absentia for masterminding kidnappings of Azerbaijan natives in Russia and extorting money from them.

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Nadir Salifov

According to the investigation, Guli had orchestrated operations of an organized criminal group under his control directly from the Azerbaijani jail. He has been charged in absentia under Article 126 (Abduction) and Article 163 (Extortion) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. In addition, the crowned thief currently creating his own clan in Istanbul has been put on the international wanted list. 

Motherland awaits 

Deportation is another method used in the struggle against thieves-in-law and becoming increasingly popular among the Russian law enforcement structures nowadays. Following the example of Ukraine and Georgia, the Russian Federation deports several crowned thieves every year. 11 criminal lords have been deported from Russia in 2016, while 16 more thieves-in-law were notified that their presence in the country is undesirable. According to Vladimir Kolokoltsev, Minister of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation, as of early November 2017, seven crowned thieves have been deported from the country since the beginning of the year, while 11 more thieves-in-law were notified of their undesirability.

For instance, early in the year, Georgian thief-in-law Suliko Sharikadze has been arrested and notified that his presence is undesirable. In March 2017, crowned thief Gaik Nikogosyan (Aiko Karabakhsky), just released from the Vladimir Central Prison, has been deported from Russia. In the same month, all the Belarusian thieves-in-law (Pashtet (Pate), Medvezhonok (Bear Cub), Mumu, Lebed’ (Swan), Galei, and Sasha Kushner) have been declared personae non gratae for life by a decision of Minister of Internal Affairs Vladimir Kolokoltsev.

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Sasha Kushner

Later crowned thief Shalva Avdoiyan (Shaliko Tbilissky) has been declared in Russia a persona non grata for life as well. Thief-in-law Revaz Bukhnikashvili (Petso), released from a Tatarstan penal colony on parole, has been deported in August. In the next month, Georgian criminal lord Miron Gorgidze (Miriko Kutaissky) has been deported to his native country immediately after the release from the penal colony where he had served a 4-year term.  

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Revaz Bukhnikashvili (Petso)

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Overall, it can be said that the noose around thieves-in-law is tightening. The law enforcement authorities are sending a clear message to crowned thieves still remaining on the loose: they are not welcomed in Russia. There are very few options for them – either prosecution under part 4 of Article 210 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation – a new Russian ‘trend’ – punishable by severe jail terms or even life imprisonment, or voluntary emigration, or forcible deportation. However, there are some ‘good news’ for thieves-in-law as well. 

After the approval of amendments to the Criminal Code by then-President Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian legislation became, in fact, compatible with the International Convention against Transnational Organized Crime – but the practical application of these amendments is still stalled. 

An illustrative example is the criminal case instituted against Shakro Molodoy by the Investigative Directorate of the FSB under Article 210 of the Criminal Code (Organization of a Criminal Community) 1.5 year ago – the investigation is still unable to lay official charges against the suspect. The longer than expected investigation indicates that it is really difficult to prove that Kalashov has indeed created a “federal-level” criminal community. To do so, the investigators must demonstrate hierarchical ties between Shakro Molodoy and criminal structures from other Russian regions, for instance, the Far East or Far North, and their obedience to the orders of Kalashov. 

In July, Sergei Isaev, Head of the Investigations Directorate in the Komi Republic of the ICR, said that the investigation against Yuri Pichugin may take at least a year. Criminal cases instituted under part 4 of Article 210 of the Criminal Code against other thieves-in-law – either detained or wanted – currently remain at the project stage – after all, it takes a while to collect evidence sufficient to lock up a crowned thief for a long time.

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