‘Unsinkable’ Deputy Kanunnikov: The art of getting off the hook
Every big Russian city has ‘untouchable' people who are beyond the reach of the law enforcement authorities – generals, judges, mayors, etc. Despite overwhelming evidence sufficient to prosecute them, such persons cannot be busted without authorization from the federal center. There is also another type of corrupt officials: their deeds are well-known – but these people are so generous, hospitable, and understanding that no one is willing to arrest them.
In provinces, such people are flourishing – provided that their actions do not interfere with the interests of Moscow. They fill their pockets, enjoy impunity, and sincerely believe that law enforcement structures are unable to catch them.
The CrimeRussia has identified several such figures in Kursk. Their biographies are unique – as well as paths to success and ‘invulnerability’. However, the results of their efforts are pretty similar.
One of the regional ‘celestials’ is Andrei Vyacheslavovich Kanunnikov – Director of Elektroapparat Plant literally ‘occupying’ the historical center of Kursk and son of late fixer Vyacheslav Kanunnikov (Sliva (Plum)) who has seized control over this enterprise in the mid-2000s. Kanunnikov senior died under mysterious circumstances in a medical institution – while his son inherited the helm and continued his cause.
According to his official biography, Andrei Kanunnikov is a native of Tajikistan. He was born in Leninabad in 1977. Studied at the Faculty of Economy of the Kursk State Technical University and concurrently received a diploma of the Stockholm School of Economics. Graduated from the university in 2005. In 2007, became the General Director of Kursk-based Elektroapparat Management Company Limited Liability Company. A Deputy of the Fifth Convocation (2011–2016) of the Regional Duma from the Electoral District № 3, Deputy Chairman of the Permanent Committee for Industrial Policy, Construction, Transport, and Housing and Public Utility Sector, and member of the Permanent Committee for Legislation, State Structure, and Local Self-Government. A member of Edinaya Rossiya (United Russia) Party.
However, according to sources, the true story of his life is not that rosy at all – but pretty scary.
The youth of Andrei Kanunnikov is wrapped in a mystery – as well as his close circle. The origin of the family wealth is unknown. Only the archives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the Russian Federation and state security services still store information that, according to operational data, father and son Kanunnikov were involved in the cocaine traffic from South America to the European Union in the late 1990s – early 2000s. Kanunnikov managed to avoid prosecution by becoming a Deputy of the Kursk Municipal Duma in 2007. Three years later, he became a Deputy of the Regional Legislative Assembly and continued advancing his career. However, at some point, Kanunnikov got involved in squabbles between various clans of the Kursk region – and a criminal case was instituted against the freshly minted Deputy under part 4 of Article 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (swindling on an especially large scale) in relation to the illegal acquisition of an administrative building for the Kursk City Inspectorate of the Federal Tax Service of Russia.
According to the investigation, in 2008–2011, Andrei Kanunnikov, a Deputy of the Kursk Regional Duma and the CEO of Kursk Elektroapparat Plant Closed Joint Stock Company, acting in the framework of a group, has illegally appropriated, jointly with Andrei Labzin, Head of the Department for the Kursk Region of the Federal Tax Service, representative Ivan Kharabadzhiu, and other persons, federal budget funds allocated for the acquisition of an administrative building for the city tax inspectorate. It was established that the building purchased by the state for 147 million rubles ($2.3 million) was overpriced by at least 74 million rubles ($1.1 million); as a result, the budget sustained damages on an especially large scale. In order to conceal the involvement of his enterprise in the sale of this building, Kanunnikov has arranged a number of fictitious purchases and sales of the real property by persons and organizations controlled by him. As a result, Kharabadzhiu became the owner of the building whose cost was artificially inflated from 20 to 100 million rubles ($309.8 thousand – 1.5 million). Kharabadzhiu, in turn, sold the building to Labzin, Head of the Department for the Kursk Region of the Federal Tax Service, for more than 147 million rubles ($2.3 million).
Andrei Kanunnikov at a convention of Edinaya Rossiya (United Russia) Party activists
Former taxman Andrei Labzin, an accomplice of Kanunnikov, was convicted under part 3 of Article 286 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (exceeding official powers) and sentenced to 3.5 years behind bars. By contrast, Andrei Kanunnikov managed to get off the hook with the support of the Regional Prosecutor’s Office and contrary to the stance of the investigation. The only charge laid against him pertained to the nonpayment of taxes (case № 695 of April 14, 2014).
Andrei Labzin (on the left)
In the course of the searches, investigator Davydov of the Investigations Directorate in the Kursk Region of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR) has seized complete and clear plans written by Ivan Kharabadzhiu and describing the resale of the building and other tricks pulled off by the criminal group. But still, Kanunnikov just compensated the damages caused by an alleged tax fraud and got off with a whole skin, thus, diminishing the authority of law enforcement structures and inspiring others with the sense of impunity. The allegedly almighty ICR was even unable to arrest the supposed fraudster because the Prosecutor’s Office and court were standing in the way of the investigators and Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation providing operative support to the investigation. How could the businessman earn the loyalty of the servants of Themis?.. In any case, the collective solidarity of prosecutors and judges saved him from criminal liability.
According to Aleksander Mikitukho, Deputy Prosecutor of Kursk and son of the Head of the Department for the Seimsky District of Kursk of the Civil Registry Office, the criminal case was under investigation for more than 1.5 years. For all this time, Kanunnikov was a witness, appeared on summons in a timely manner, and never obstructed the investigative activities. Therefore, the Prosecutor's Office declined the requirement to arrest the Deputy–businessman.
The court and Prosecutor’s Office dismissed the arguments of the ICR stating that Kanunnikov has a travel passport and may abscond abroad. A similar stance was taken by the judicial authority with regards to Ivan Kharabadzhiu considered one of the primary accomplices of Kanunnikov by the investigation.
The both suspects were released from the courtroom.
Many people are remanded in custody in Russia on the basis of police reports stating that the suspect may abscond. But in this case, the court has ignored the existence of a travel passport and regular trips abroad. According to our source in the Investigations Directorate for the Kursk Region of the ICR, some officers of the Department for Special Cases were displeased with such a turn in the inquest, realized their powerlessness, and decided to ‘join the feast’ and ‘milk’ the suspect, too. Kanunnikov hadn’t argued and voluntarily paid the requested bribe.
It is possible to resolve any difficult situation if you have enough officials loyal to you and eager to continue receiving ‘gifts’ from you. These people will do everything to release and vindicate you.
Therefore, in the midst of the inquest into the sale of the building to the tax inspectorate, Andrei Kanunnikov, being under investigation, has purchased at an auction the following buildings of the former Kursk Tractor Parts Plant: B27, B9, V, V-1, V2, V31, V30, V29, V33, and V32 at 115 Engelsa street, Kursk. The Committee for Municipal Property Management of the Kursk Region could not deny requests of such a respected suspect: on August 7, 2013, it has issued the Decision № 01-19/2132 leasing out the territory of former Elektroapparat Closed Joint Stock Company. Then, on December 24, 2013, the committee has transferred these areas to the leaseholder for next to nothing by signing on December 30, 2013 the agreement of purchase and sale of lot № 640-13s. Earlier, on January 12, 2008, Elektroapparat Closed Joint Stock Company had already purchased assets of the collapsed plant, and a delivery acceptance report № 2 was produced on January 14, 2008.
This was fine but for one thing: a petroleum depot 0.6 ha in size belonging to Kurskagroneft Closed Joint Company was located on this massive of lands – on the lot № 46:29:103029:314. The company was, in fact non-operating – but it officially existed and owned petroleum tanks, fuel pumps, fuel and lubricant depots, and other valuable assets. The company was split from the Kursk Tractor Parts Plant (Kurskagromash Closed Joint Stock Company): the enterprise transferred to it the pump station, fuel tanks, pipeline, gas station, and an SD pump located in certain buildings as the payment for a portfolio of plant’s shares.
Andrei Kanunnikov became the sole proprietor of the plant and decided to demolish the above buildings. He retained some Chernyshov, Sizov, Mirkin, and Lednov for that purpose – and in summer 2014, when their client was a Deputy, they bulldozed down the petroleum depot. However, all pump stations, tanks, gas stations, etc. have disappeared from the territory of the petroleum depot prior to its demolition.
On March 11, 2016, the Investigation Department of the MIA Administration for the City of Kursk instituted a criminal case under part 1 of Article 167 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (willful destruction or damage of property) in relation to the above facts. The operatives have quickly identified all persons involved in the demolition, questioned them, established that Kanunnikov, who had ordered to demolish the petroleum depot, was a Deputy of the Kursk Regional Duma in 2014, and transferred the materials to the ICR because crimes committed by elected officials fall under its jurisdiction.
On August 28, 2016, investigators of the Department for Special Cases of the Investigations Directorate in the Kursk Region of the ICR have established additional facts and instituted the case № 7740 in relation to the illegal acquisition of the petroleum base’s territory by Elektroapparat Plant. The cases were merged together under number 9407.
According to our sources, this made Andrei Kanunnikov nervous because the statute of limitation for the demolition had almost expired by that time, while the statute of limitation for swindling expires only ten years after the commission of the crime.
The Deputy had no choice but to bring in the big guns – i.e. his connections in the law enforcement structures. They could not terminate the investigation – but managed to close the criminal case on March 31, 2018 through lengthy and Jesuitical repeated questionings of key witnesses and sophistical conclusions. Contrary to the common sense, the case was handled by more than ten investigators, and its volumes are full off supplementary sheets and procedural documents.
Overall, the wheeler-dealer, who was earlier briefly remanded in a temporary detention facility, managed to get off the hook again. He reaped good profits from the above machination by selling the land previously occupied by the petroleum base and some other areas to Lenta Hypermarket and Leroy Merlin, thus, violating the permitted use of the lands zoned for the construction of industrial facilities or residential housing. The question is: could the Administration of the Kursk Region, in the person of the Committee for Municipal Property Management, make this deal itself – without granting large pieces of land to a person with so tarnished reputation? Of course, it could. Therefore, shady schemes, informal arrangements, and bribes are more than likely in that story.
According to our sources, there are plenty of law enforcement officials in the region eager to receive ‘supplements’ to their salaries on a regular basis. Therefore, Andrei Kanunnikov may rest assured: no one is going to come for him, and nothing threatens his comfortable life in a huge (although not very new) mansion.
Mansion belonging to Andrei Kanunnikov
Kanunnikov takes every effort to be on the safe side and actively establishes ties with new people. Reportedly, he has recently granted a two-level apartment (The CrimeRussia possesses its address) to a very important person in the Kursk region. But this is a different story...
General’s son Mikhail Sal’nikov, Professor of the Department of Theory of Government and Law at the St. Petersburg University of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the Russian Federation, has been detained for real estate fraud. Amid other corruption crimes hitting the headlines, this offense does not seem a high-profile one. But the point is that this is not the first criminal case instituted against professor Sal’nikov, and he is not the only relative of MIA general Viktor Sal’nikov having problems with the law.