Gref’s hatchlings 

Gref’s hatchlings
Photo: The CrimeRussia

The news that Sberbank headed by German Gref regularly grants obviously bad loans and covers the resulting losses from the state budget has recently appeared on the Nezygar Telegram channel and spread all over the media.

Gref has been cooled off. Deliberately granting bad loans and then compensating for losses for their reorganization from the budget is Sberbank’s signature move.

The veiled corruption scheme, in which Gref’s structures provide bad loans and then reap benefits from imminent bankruptcy in their pocket, and the state plugs the financial hole of the reorganized enterprise, has long been used by Sberbank.

Similar schemes have reached truly ‘Olympic’ heights at Olympic facilities. The refusal of all relevant departments to provide additional benefits to Antipinsky Oil Refinery made it clear to Gref that the times of blatant using of scam schemes have passed. But apparently, he does not get it. The ministries refused, realizing that the consequences for the budget and for the ministers themselves who succumbed to pressure would be catastrophic. Instead of income from the operating Antipinsky Oil Refinery, the budget has already lost 10 billion ($151 million) in preferences, and the requested protection, estimated by the ministries at at least 24 billion ($363 million), is a bit too much.

The more responsible times begin, and Gref will not be shift responsibility for the failures of Sberbank to the state budget.

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Nezygar is telling us right. The description of the situation is also true. But the colossal damage from Sberbank’s actions is calculated not only by this episode. It includes large and small manipulations with finances literally across the country, and as a result, the consequences of such actions merge into one powerful stream of enormous amounts of money that disappeared without a trace. Sberbank has neither been immune to the murky but lucrative shadow activity such as cashing out for various kinds of scammers, criminals and other underground representatives, being often mentioned in the reports of law enforcement officers in cases involving money laundering.

In this case, successful operations by security forces do not guarantee that perpetrators will be held accountable. Today, The CrimeRussia will tell about one of such situations with the ‘softpedalling’ of a seemingly true episode where the perpetrators were detained red-handed.

The matter is simple. It is conveyed best in the official language of the prosecutor’s investigation documents that are at the disposal of the publication.

The criminal case No. 27/14 under part 2 of Art. 171 of the Russian Criminal Code was initiated by Senior Investigator of the Federal Security Service Directorate Investigations Department in the Kursk region, Major of Justice.... on 04.08.2014 against D.V. Sentishchev and unidentified persons. The grounds for the initiation of the criminal case was the results of criminal intelligence and surveillance operations into the fact that Sentishchev had carried out illegal business activities as part of an organized group.

At the time of the initiation of proceedings, it was established that working as head of the collateral sector, as a member of an organized group, Dmitry Vladimirovich Sentishchev was engaged in illegal business activities, performing banking operations without special permission, together with other unidentified persons in the period from December 2013 to January 2014.

This is clear; confusing his pocket with the budget, the mid-level manager decided to earn extra money in such an easy way. But he did not take into account that his ‘earnings’ would eventually be of interest to the competent authorities. So what exactly did he do?

The essence of these criminal acts was the creation of commercial legal entities without the intention to carry out entrepreneurial activity – that is, false enterprises – with the subsequent goal of extracting property benefits by transferring money from non-cash to cash form in exchange for monetary reward.

The scheme is as old as the hills. The whole essence of the ‘cashing-out’ business in Russia is outlined in several lines of the document. That’s how businessmen have their own stable (and quite large) profit, withdrawing money from the real sector of the economy to offshore companies, drug trafficking, child porn, black box offices of ordinary enterprises - well, wherever they get an order.

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Let us see in detail which firms were created for this purpose and how the ‘laundering’ took place.

Thus, in the period from December 2013 to February 2014, Sentishchev and other unidentified persons, using the accounts of organizations under their control, including Kurskaya Zernovaya Kompaniya (‘Kursk Grain Company’) LLC (INN 4632009816), Zarya LLC (INN 46321665981), Energiya LLC, Rakurs LLC, Faktor LLC, Gerkules LLC, Gormashservis LLC, Kristall LLC, and A.L. Volodchenko individual entrepreneur (INN 312307521805), purposefully opened with various additional offices (which is a clear sign of disguise and awareness of the obviously illegal operations – Editor’s note) of the Kursk branch No. 8596 of Sberbank of Russia, made transfers and cash withdrawals in the total amount of 115,997,000.00 rubles ($1.75 million) at the request of third parties, organizing the transfer of funds into cash by transferring them to the accounts of these organizations and subsequently withdrawing them in cash.

Needless to say, these are large transactions. At the same time, the kings of cash-out had a very modest share. Judging by the case materials, it was 1.6% of the cash withdrawn, which ultimately amounted to more than 1 million 800 thousand rubles ($27,252). FSB operatives identified and foiled the channel of illegal financial transactions, but then... the miracles began.

FSB Investigation referred the collected materials to the MIA Investigations Directorate in the Kursk region. They did not cause any excitement in the local police. Moreover, by his decision of 22.06.2017, Major of Justice A.S. Abakumov terminated the proceedings, and the case itself was suspended for failure to identify the person to be involved as an accused.

How was it possible? The fact of crime was evident, there was monetary movement, and the fictitious activity of these organizations was unequivocal. There were even telephone tapping materials - yet, no suspect. It turns out that even your own voice recorded by security officers during a telephone conversation may not be used as evidence...

For example, according to this extract from the criminal case, D.V. Sentishchev initially refused to testify using Art. 51 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation. Subsequently, he testified regarding the audio recordings of telephone conversations presented to him, but explained that he did not remember why he spoke with these people and what was the meaning of his words.

As for Sentishchev's alleged accomplices, E.V. Zatolokin, working as a senior specialist in the financial monitoring sector of Sberbank PJSC, explained that he met Sentishchev in the course of his work. However, he knew nothing about the cashing-out activity. Sentishchev could call him and ask information about some organizations (availability of accounts and their cash flow), but he believed that this was only for the sake of business. Before you say anything - anyone familiar with Sberbank’s inner workings and the paranoid catching of employees who disclosed bank secrets will not believe this story. Very often, employees of the banking security system or the monitoring department themselves have to write tedious requests for information on accounts. This applies even to urgent cases. As for our story, it says he gave information “on the phone.” That is, knowingly commit unlawful acts. However, Zatolokin left a loophole for himself and took precaution by issuing the corresponding papers.

He is familiar with the companies Faktor, Zenit, and others mentioned in the order on institution of criminal proceedings, since the accounts of these organizations carried out dubious operations. In this connection, the information about these companies was sent to Rosfinmonitoring. Zatolokin is not aware that Sentishchev could have been involved in the cashing-out.

“Run with the hare and hunt with the hounds,” they say. Most importantly, no one wants to prove the opposite and understand in depth the actions of the bank employee. For example, see what exactly the bank employee sent to the financial intelligence service and how he described the documents that caused his suspicion.

This is far from all weird things in this case, as a certain S.N. Gryzlov said that he met Sentishchev in the course of his activities. He would occasionally look for information on accounts of legal entities in the databases of Sberbank at his request (another one who did not hear about the banking secrecy), but though that Sentishchev needed this information for work. He knows nothing about the cashing-out activity either. When he was presented with the recordings of telephone conversations, he said that he did not know why and for what purpose he said these words and what they mean.

All this resembles either a bad comedy or a real wanton disorder. The defendants “don’t remember or know anything,” “can’t explain,” and the helpless investigator takes all their words for granted... It is as if he is not aware of such thing as ‘psychological and linguistic examination of dialog,’ which will easily show and explain what it was about, what was the mood of the interlocutors, whether they used veiled phrases, how they understood what was said, and what emotions were expressed. Whether it was a cooperation dialog, or was one of the parties struggling to understand what it was about... After such an examination, defendants usually their memory back. And the prosecution gets a powerful and absolutely legal trump card. But no such examination was carried out.

Moreover, the investigator does not believe the directors of ‘pumping’ companies (people who get their profit from illegal actions), who massively refuse to testify or change their evidence in the process. The fact that during the investigation, the location of the accounting documents, seals, check books, etc. of organizations controlled by the organized group was not established, is also of benefit for the investigation.

It begs the question... Does the investigator even know that there may be no such documents in case of obviously illegal operations? As for the tax statements, they are often drawn up on the spot and made up in accordance with the volume of cash flows. If the investigator is not aware of such features of conducting criminal cases, then this alone raises the question of their (investigator's) official compliance.

Though MIA is not the only one to blame here. The examining prosecutors (judging by the pictures) R.A. Shinakov and his ‘chief’ A.M. Mikitukho clearly turned a blind eye on the situation, signing documents that said that there were no grounds for the resumption of the preliminary investigation.

Of course, an experienced lawyer will not be tricked by this kind of verbal manoeuvres. Apparently, there are enough grounds for both reopening the case and sentencing. The problem is that there is no desire to conduct this investigation. Although, soon it will be too late to conduct anything, because part 2 of Art. 171 of the Russian Criminal Code is related to crimes of medium gravity, and according to Art. 78, its six-year statute of limitations expires in April 2020. There are only a few months left!

As long as such concealment of criminal episodes and letting go of the cases with clear evidence of guilt flourishes in the banking sector of Russia, there will be no order in the country's financial sector, and banks will often serve as a tool for illegal actions in the hands of interested parties.

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