Vitya Pan’s empire collapse 

Vitya Pan’s empire collapse
Photo: The CrimeRussia

Thief in law Viktor Panyushin, better known as Vitya Pan, is on the run. In the summer of 2017, he and his henchmen became involved in a criminal case under Art. 210 of the Russian Criminal Code (Organization of a Criminal Community). The other day, it was reported that apart from this, the Investigative Committee had initiated criminal proceedings under article on occupying a higher position in the criminal hierarchy against him. Previously, sources reported that Vitya Pan’s legacy is still very much alive here in his homeland. Today, he continues to remotely control a number of entrepreneurs and profit from a number of shadow business areas.

Panyushin’s current situation cannot be called satisfactory. The total purge by the security forces of large criminal figures of the country, the impossibility of personal control of the situation, and the position of the fugitive prevent the thief from expanding his presence and increasing speed. In the best case, he will be able to maintain the “status quo” for a number of positions and temporarily stop the collapse tendency.

All this is superimposed by the consequences of personnel errors of the crime lord, which eventually led to mayhem in his “flock” and the reluctance of many of the thief’s supporters to follow the instructions of their leader who was removed from the epicenter of events. Sources told us how exactly the internal collapse of the traditional criminal structure in the Kursk region began and what actions of Panyushin along with obvious mistakes contributed to this process. 

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Vitya Pan was never lucky with his underbosses. After a while, all of them would sabotage the instructions of the “center,” or openly run their own game, aimed at undermining the power of Pan. The echoes of one of such conflicts, which cost the region’s “main criminal” the entire gang’s combat wing were described in detail in The CrimeRussia’s article Criminals were hiding in MIA Administration: Backstory of criminal case against thief-in-law Vitya Pan.

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Panyushin's house

Back then, we described in detail how the civil strife among the Kursk criminals, actively fueled by the brothers Igor and Eduard Yakovlev, who were losing powers, but wanted to claim the first roles, turned into a detective story that ended in serious showdowns, attempts to kill Panyushin’s supporters, kidnapping of unlucky killers, their torture, and the subsequent arrest of both sides of the conflict. Clearly, it was a mistake made of the OCC’s leader, who failed to timely recognize the threat and nip it in the bud.

We know for sure that Viktor Panyushin’s henchmen repeatedly informed him of the mood of their rebellious brothers and that only decisive inequality of forces restrained them from decisive measures. They had also warned him that the Yakovlevs could deliver an unexpected blow, had several (at least two) killers for this, and were capable of destroying both Pan and his entourage. Despite the warnings, the thief in law was in no hurry to use preventive actions, hoping to solve the matter peacefully, calm the situation, and extinguish the conflict by negotiations. Was it a mistake? Certainly.

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There was another miscalculation when Viktor Panyushin failed to subdue or timely liquidate the developing OCC of Dmitry Volobuev, thereby creating another center of power attractive to many criminal representatives.

Could he cope with these challenges? Of course, he could. At the initial stage. All he had to do was wrap his head around the scope of threats and start taking measures. He had to replace or at least “shuffle” people in his inner circle, attracting people who were not tarnished by convictions or thought differently than those who had served time. People who could anticipate an emerging problem and prevent it in advance. But Panyushin thought differently. Moreover, he allowed various intrigues and hoaxes in his entourage, mercilessly cracking down on those who raised doubts about loyalty, and often not giving them the opportunity to correct the mistake and make amends.

This is what happened to one of his henchmen, Ivan Polishchuk aka Vanya Gnuty. According to law enforcers, it was the only person who would be able to unravel the knot of contradictions between the gangster communities of the Kursk region and somehow knew how to find common ground and iron out the wrinkles using his diplomatic skills, and if necessary, did not shy away to use force, knowing most of the country’s and the neighboring foreign countries’ crime lords.

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Vanya Gnuty

Yet, he failed to climb to the very top of the criminal hierarchy of the Black Earth Region and enter the narrow circle of thieves in law. Although he was close to vetting and was even appointed Kursk underboss by Panyushin himself. So, what prevented him from becoming the head of the local underworld? On the one hand, it was coincidence. On the other hand, it was Pan's shortsightedness. There was one more reason. It was the interweaving of competitors’ intrigues and their own unseemly actions.

The fall of rapidly rising crime lord began with the fact that Pan, who convened one of the “gatherings” in the Moscow region, was detained along with all other participants by fighters against organized crime with the support of the SOBR special police. He himself was not injured, but some of the guests got into big trouble and were even arrested. Naturally, Panyushin was to settle these troubles. How could he do this? By giving a cash bonus to high-ranking officials so that the criminal prosecution of thieves be stopped. Unfortunately, this situation is quite common for the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Vitya Pan rushed to Kursk to settle the difficulties with the help of their “common fund.” Ivan Polishchuk was in charge of it. Pan, who suddenly required money, could not get it from Gnuty.

Sources’ opinions as to what he had done with the money are extremely varied. Some say he had lost it in slot machines and underground casinos. Others say that he had invested it somewhere and either it did not work out, or he did not manage to make a profit. One way or another, the fact was this. And it was precisely this, along with the intervention of one ill-wisher, that nearly cost Gnuty life and completely ruined his further “career.” Further events developed as follows.

Gnuty could have collected the required amount and brought it to the boss, but, of course, not immediately, but by receiving money in parts from large entrepreneurs, from those who regularly contributed part of their income to the common fund. The aforementioned ill-wisher, who was Polishchuk’s old enemy, the driver of Viktor Panyushin named Alexander Degtyarev aka Rylsky, intervened in the case.

He managed to convince Pan to close this loophole for the failed underboss, as a result of which businessmen did not give him anything.

Such a turn could become fatal for Gnuty. It almost did; by order of Panyushin, he was put into a car and taken to a remote place. Polishchuk narrowly escaped death. Crime lords from the Oktyabrsky district of the Kursk region, who have considerable weight in criminal circles, put in a word for him. Later, Polishchuk returned the money.

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Alexander Degtyarev

Vitya Pan also resolved his problems, but caused the first wave of instability within the criminal community of the region. For a number of reasons, the hasty massacre of Polishchuk and his deprivation of the ability to correct misconduct were not to the liking of many significant figures in the shadow sector. It gave rise to increasing tension in the previously stable team. And in the end, Panyushin could not stop these processes.

The thief in law could not find a contender to the role of underboss, which would suit the majority. Some of them (for example, Igor Yakovlev aka Zek, who later became Pan’s main opponent) was rejected immediately. Others (for example, Yury Kostin aka Kostyara) did not have enough flexibility and diplomat skills for such a position. Other heavyweights of the local underworld, such as the honored veteran gangster named Oleg Zvyagintsev (Aley), did not at all want such an “honor.”

All this and much more almost destroyed one of the key Black Sea OCCs and put Pan out of commission.

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