Green notebook and Voronezh Regional Court
The Higher Judges Qualifications Board failed to elect the Chairman of the Voronezh Regional Court for the second time. There were no deserving candidates for that post again. The position remains vacant since May 2016 – at that time, law enforcement operatives had caught a lawyer red-handed during the handover of money and seized a green notebook containing compromising information against the entire Voronezh judicial staff.
A grave scandal had occurred in the Voronezh Regional Court almost a year ago. In May 2016, Vitaly Bogomolov, the Chairman of the Voronezh Regional Court, and his deputy Vladimir Maslov submitted resignation letters. They were unable to explain their sudden departure. Later, the Regional Directorate of the Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation has provided some scarce information about corruption in the regional court. This relates to allegedly exposed facts of receiving money by Bogomolov and Maslov for delivering judgments in favor of defendants. However, the two consecutive events had never been linked together. No criminal cases had been initiated against the high-ranked judges representing justice in the Voronezh region.
Vitaly Bogomolov, the ex-Chairman of the Voronezh Regional Court
Instead, criminal cases have been instituted against some local attorneys. But the link between the arrests of lawyers and resignation of the judges was never confirmed officially.
Green notebook and five attorneys
33-year-old Maria Grigorashenko, a lawyer of the regional college of advocates and member of the Public Council of the Voronezh Administration of the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia, was arrested first. She had received 350 thousand rubles ($6.1 thousand) from a female local resident for settling certain issues in court. The lawyer has been arrested during the receipt of money from the defendant. The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR) has charged her under part 4 of Article 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (Swindling). It can’t be ruled out that this was not the first handover of money. The investigators believe that the lawyer intended to get some 1 million rubles ($17.5 thousand) in total. The trial for that case is still pending.
After the arrest, a green notebook was seized from Grigorashenko containing information about the entire Voronezh judicial staff: who can be bribed and for how much, what verdicts were delivered ‘for remuneration’, etc.
Lawyer Maria Grigorashenko
Grigorashenko was arrested on May 11, 2017 near the Levoberezhny District Court. Apparently, the information from the green notebook was the reason behind the prompt resignation of Bogomolov and Maslov – they have left their offices three days after the arrest of Grigorashenko, immediately upon returning from Moscow. The judiciary establishment prefers not to wash dirty linen in public – so, it is unknown what were the terms of their voluntary resignation.
Vitaly Bogomolov was a Deputy Chairman of the Voronezh Regional Court since April 1995. He was appointed the Chairman in November 2005. Therefore, he was in charge of the regional judicial staff for more than 20 years.
On May 19, 2017, the law enforcement authorities have announced the arrest of another corrupt lawyer. Artur Besov, who used to be a Deputy District Prosecutor, had received 300 thousand rubles ($5.3 thousand) from a local resident. He had promised to hand over this sum to law enforcement operatives for “more active investigation of the criminal case”. He has been charged under Article 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (Swindling). The Levoberezhny District Court has fined Besov 150 thousand rubles ($2.6 thousand).
Then in August, Aleksei Gromov, a lawyer from a legal counseling office, was arrested. He had received 900 thousand rubles ($15.7 thousand) for mitigation of punishment for the defendant. The court has found him “guilty of attempted swindling on a large scale” and sentenced to 1.5 years behind bars conditionally and disbarment for 1 year.
In the end of 2016, lawyer Dmitry Rezvykh, who used to work in the Leninsky Department of the Regional Investigations Directorate of the ICR, was caught in Voronezh. The attorney had represented Aleksander Tyurin, a Deputy of the Municipal Duma. The investigators believe that Rezvykh had offered a former colleague from the ICR to initiate a criminal case against Leonid Zenishev, ex-Vice Speaker of the Voronezh Municipal Duma and co-owner of Ecoliner Limited Liability Company, in exchange for 300 thousand rubles ($5.3 thousand). Tyurin allegedly wanted to wrestle the enterprise away from Zenishev through a fictitious criminal case. But the investigator had reported the attempted bribery to the supreme command, and the attorney has been arrested by FSB operatives. Currently, his case is in court.
Lawyer Dmitry Rezvykh
The scandal with Dmitry Rezvykh was pretty high-profile, but the story of the fifth arrested lawyer is of utmost interest. The Investigations Directorate in the Voronezh Region of the ICR has initiated a criminal case against 42-year-old attorney Zhanna Khrapina for attempted swindling. This episode was similar to the previous ones: she had promised to ease pretrial restrictions for a suspect charged with an extremely grievous crime to home arrest for 250 thousand rubles ($4.4 thousand). The point is that she is a relative of Yuri Khrapin, a member of the Presidium of the Voronezh Regional Court.
Officially the series of arrests of Voronezh lawyers is not considered a ‘sweeping purge’ of the regional judicial staff. But all the above episodes have certain common features. All the arrests have been performed by operatives of the Regional FSB Directorate. Allegedly, all the detained attorneys had no real possibility to influence the legal proceedings and render the promised services – therefore, they have been charged with swindling. None of the lawyers, except for Dmitry Rezvykh, had been given a chance to hand over the money to the possible recipients. Apparently, the operatives were acting in accordance with some kind of a list. Perhaps, a list from the green notebook?
Relatives of the candidate for chairman
The Higher Judges Qualifications Board had attempted to hold a competition to fill the vacancy of the Chairman of the Voronezh District Court back in September 2016, after the resignation of Bogomolov and Maslov. But none of the candidates was acceptable for the members of the board. Vladimir Anisimov, the current Deputy Chairman of the Voronezh District Court, judge Petr Popov, and judge Andrei Ulanov from the Ulyanovsk region had aspired to the position.
The second session of the Higher Judges Qualifications Board was scheduled for the end of March 2017. Four Voronezh judges had applied for the position: Lyudmila Kozieva, Sergei Panin, Petr Popov, and above-mentioned Yuri Khrapin. He was the most influential and probable candidate for the court chairman. Khrapin even managed to gain support of Governor Aleksei Gordeev. The situation seemed pretty clear and definitive. But the arrest of his relative has broken all the plans and damaged the reputation of the candidate.
Yuri Khrapin is known in Voronezh not as a judge but rather as the husband of Marina Plieva, the ex-Vice Mayor of the city. Currently she is the Plenipotentiary Envoy of the Mayor to the Voronezh Municipal Duma. In February 2009, an assassination attempt was committed against Marina Plieva; it was linked with the professional activities of her husband–judge. Another family tie could prevent Khrapin from being elected the chairman: it was found out during the session of the Higher Judges Qualifications Board that his son is an investigator in the Regional Investigations Directorate of the ICR. To avoid a conflict of interest, Khrapin senior has promised that his son would transfer to another region.
Yuri Khrapin, member of the Presidium of the Voronezh Regional Court
Amid the scandal, the Investigations Directorate in the Voronezh Region of the ICR has stated that the information about the close relationship between Zhanna Khrapina and Yuri Khrapin “hadn’t been confirmed objectively”. But this is not exactly true. There is no ‘close’ relationship – but according to our sources, the detained lawyer is a widow of a judge’s cousin.
Is the criminal case against Zhanna Khrapina a deliberate act of the special services targeting Yuri Khrapin or just a coincidence? In any event, the Higher Judges Qualifications Board failed to elect the Chairman of the Voronezh Regional Court for the second time – there were no deserving candidates. The board had to announce a new competition to fill the vacancy. Would the enforcement structures use the green notebook again?
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