Zotochkin: Ex-prosecutor, swindler or "cashier"? 

Zotochkin: Ex-prosecutor, swindler or "cashier"?
Artem Zotochkin

A criminal case against Stanislav Tretyak and Artem Zotochkin has been submitted to the Smolninsky District Court of St. Petersburg. They are charged with swindling on an especially large scale. Tretyak is basically unknown to the public, but Zotochkin is a former Deputy Transport Prosecutor of St. Petersburg and brother of a prominent Karelian businessman Igor Zotochkin. In addition to swindling, the former prosecutor is accused of legalization (laundering) of funds and other property acquired by other persons illegally on a large scale committed by a person thorough his official position (paragraph b of part 4 of Article 174 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation).

Golden real estate

Artem Zotochkin was arrested in the end of September, 2015. A longtime investigation preceded the arrest. Much later the general public heard that operatives of the Administration for Economic Security and Combatting the Corruption have caught a big fish. Initially media only reported a detention of a 40-year old citizen suspected of attempted assets seizing from a commercial organization. It is necessary to note that by the time of arrest, Zotochkin was not bearing shoulder straps anymore and did not work in the law enforcement. 

Artem Yurievich Zotochkin is a brother of Igor Zotochkin, the ex-Minister of Press, Information and Public Relations of the Republic of Karelia. Artem Zotochkin served in law enforcement for the most of his life. After the graduation from the Faculty of Law of the Petrozavodsk State University, Zotochkin started working in the regional Transport Prosecutor’s Office. He has come up through the ranks and became the Senior Deputy of the Petrozavodsk Transport Prosecutor; then he was appointed the Transport Prosecutor of the Komi Republic. In 2011 he was promoted to Deputy Transport Prosecutor of St. Petersburg, and in 2012 he resigned due to unknown reasons. Since 2014 he is the Director of the Center for Language Testing and Promotion of the Migration Policy. 

Then Rossiiskaya Gazeta newspaper published a material stating that the detained person is Artem Yurievich Zotochkin, the Director of the Center for Language Testing and Promotion of the Migration Policy of the Pushkin State Russian Language Institute. The official press release from the Ministry of Internal Affairs (the MIA) stated that the investigation has uncovered several criminal episodes, related to seizing assets from a St. Petersburg companies, by a company, controlled by the suspect. The companies’ names have not been disclosed for legal reasons, but the criminal scheme was publicized and the investigation noted that the suspect’s guilt “has been proven”.

According to the investigation, in 2013–2014 Zotochkin and Tretyak used a fraud scheme to seize real estate. For the swindling purposes, they forged an agreement of purchase and sale for a land lot with the area of 1011 square meters and some cultural-social facility with the area of 946 square meters. The reported value of the land was over 19 million rubles, while the value of the building exceeded 18 million rubles.

In order to register his rights on these real properties, Zotochkin submitted the documentation package and application to transfer the ownership rights to the Federal Service for State Registration, Cadaster and Cartography. However, the previous owner of the land and building has never received the money. Furthermore, the founder of the legal entity Zotochkin was acting on behalf of was not aware of this deal. Therefore, according to the police press release: “Zotochkin has fraudulently stolen assets worth over 37 million rubles”.

A swindling on a large scale criminal case has been initiated due to this episode; Zotochkin was arrested based on Article 91 of the Criminal Procedure Code of the Russian Federation, and the court has imposed detention as a pre-trial restraint. The Investigation Department of the General Investigation Administration the Russian MIA General Administration for St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region was handling the investigation of this case. The accomplice Tretyak was released under a written undertaking not to leave the place.

Sphere of activities

Artem Zotochkin is not a very public figure. During his service in the St. Petersburg Transport Prosecutor’s Office, he appeared in media only a few times, mostly, in relation to his service duties: in 2011 he represented the Transport Prosecutor’s Office on the hotline with residents, and later he was mentioned with regards to a complicated story of confrontation between the Baltic Customs and the St. Petersburg Transport Prosecutor’s Office headed by the Senior Counselor of Justice Feofil Kekhiopulo (future Deputy Prosecutor of St. Petersburg – the CrimeRussia).

Artem Yurievich gained notoriety, when he was the Transport Prosecutor of the Komi Republic – he instantly became an Internet sensation in 2010 after the video of a person looking like the prosecutor and ignoring the access control metal detector in the Syktyvkar airport, thus, avoiding the preflight check, has gone viral. The episode has predictably caused a public outcry. People were wondering why the laws apply not to everybody and why the prosecutor is more equal than other passengers. Komsomolskaya Pravda v Syktyvkare newspaper published a large material about that episode, including the video from YouTube and opinions of passengers, and also stating that the prosecutor had a weapon with him.

Video: Artem Zotochkin in the Syktyvkar airport

A service audit of the Airport Aviation Security Service and airport police has been performed by the airport management due to the incident. The outcome of this conflict was uncertain, but then Artem Zotochkin made a statement. He confirmed that it was him on the viral video, but he, being a prosecution officer, had a legal power to enter the airport without a personal check. Zotochkin also said that he had no weapons with him. He linked the media frenzy with intrigues of Komiaviatrans Federal State Unitary Enterprise management which was audited in that period by the prosecutor’s office due to company’s illegal activities. According to Zotochkin, this attempt to discredit him was a provocation to put pressure on him, as a governmental official, in order to affect the investigation.

No one can say whether it was the truth; however, an audit of Komiaviatrans Federal State Unitary Enterprise had been, in fact, performed in that period.

Based on evidence gathered by the Prosecutor’s Office, the Investigation Department of Syktyvkar Transport Police has initiated a criminal case against the Komiaviatrans management due to illegal business operations with income over 14 million rubles. The scandalous video was posted on the Internet when the law enforcement authorities were conducting checks and deciding whether to initiate additional criminal proceedings due to other illegal activities of the Komiaviatrans management.

The media scandal hasn’t impeded the further career growth of Artem Yurievich who was soon promoted to the St. Petersburg Transport Prosecutor’s Office.

Air and migrants

Феофил Кехиопуло

Zotochkin worked in St. Petersburg only for a short period of time. Many sources link his resignation with an obscure story related to a Greek H.B. Body S.A. company. In 2011 the Baltic Customs has seized in the St. Petersburg port a large shipment of automobile paints and lacquers produced by this company. Air tests in the containers showed jaw-dropping results: concentrations of poisonous substances in the products exceeded maximal permissible amounts by 571 times. The shipment was arrested and put into temporary storage. But then the Transportation Prosecution headed by Feofil Kekhiopulo has intervened.

His Deputy Artem Zotochkin issued an astonishing document: “Warning of impermissibility of law violations”. The document straightforwardly stated that the air tested by customs officers is not subject to customs declaration and, therefore, hazardous substances in that air must not be taken into account. The warning was concluded by a requirement to the Baltic Customs management not to detain cargos of bona fide businessmen. 

The story with the Greek company was broadly covered in media with comments as poisonous as the above-mentioned paints and lacquers – although, the main target of such comments was Feofil Kekhiopulo.

Still, after that incident, Artem Zotochkin disappeared from public sight and then re-appeared in 2014 as the Director of the Center for Language Testing and Promotion of the Migration Policy. This Center was created on the basis of the Center for State Testing and Center for Certification Testing of the Pushkin State Russian Language Institute to coordinate Institute activities. The Institute was providing various services for businesses in relation to assistance for and training of foreign workers.

According to informed sources, Artem Zotochkin received this post with patronage of his brother. The current silence in media with regards to the upcoming trial could be explained by high-level connections of Igor Zotochkin and very possible support from Feofil Kekhiopulo, the former boss of Artem Zotochkin, who was the Deputy Prosecutor of St. Petersburg until 2013 and in important cases used to represent the State Prosecution personally in the St. Petersburg City Court.

Igor Zotochkin, the ex-Minister of Press, Information and Public Relations of the Republic of Karelia, was born December 10, 1963 in the City of Karaganda of Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic. In 1985 he graduated from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with major in International Law. He is an international lawyer, fluent in English and German. In the end of the 1980s and beginning of 1990s was the Komsomol Secretary of the Petrozavodsk Nautical School, the Head of a Department in the Petrozavodsk Komsomol City Committee, and the Secretary of the Petrozavodsk Komsomol City Committee.

The court hearings will begin pretty soon – in 1.5–2 months. The trial will be chaired by the judge Svetlana Reznikova, and the official press release says that Tretyak and Zotochkin are charged with swindling, that is, the stealing of other people's property or the acquisition of the right to other people's property by fraud or breach of trust, committed by a group of persons by previous concert, committed by a person through his official position, as well as on a large scale. Zotochkin is also charged with legalization (laundering) of funds and other property acquired by other persons illegally.

It is difficult to predict the outcome of the trial; it is quite possible that the public and press would be poorly informed about the proceedings. According to the current practices, parties may request to prohibit press coverage of the process. The CrimeRussia will continue monitoring this case.



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