Samara lost its scandalous Prosecutor Kabaloev
Prosecutors rarely wash dirty linen in public, almost never confront influential officials openly, and do not defend their disgraced subordinates. But this stereotype has nothing to do with the former Prosecutor of the Samara Region. Murat Kabaloev is a very special person. During the four last years, he was a suspect in a number of anti-corruption investigations. In addition, Kabaloev had a conflict with Nikolai Merkushkin, the Governor of the Samara Region, – which has ultimately resulted in his removal from this post.
Portrait of a Prosecutor
At the first glance, the biography of the high-ranked law enforcement official is pretty ordinary. Kabaloev was born in 1959 in Dushanbe, Tadjik Soviet Socialist Republic. Graduated from the Law Faculty of the North-Ossetian State University in Vladikavkaz. Started his service in prosecution authorities in 1985.
Overall, the career of Kabaloev was successful. He was rising up through ranks, worked in the Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia, and Penza region. In the period of 2000–2012 Kabaloev was the Head of the Prosecutor’s Office of the Ivanovo Region, and then has been transferred to Samara.
At the new place, he immediately started a frenzied activity. As early as in 2013, the Prosecutor’s Office has been rumbled by high-profile scandals that could easily lead to resignation of any senior law enforcement official – but Murat Kabaloev managed to retain his post. He began strengthening his influence steadily – which has displeased Governor Nikolai Merkushkin.
It is necessary to note that the head of the watchdog authority, in his interview to Rossiiskaya Gazeta (the Russian Newspaper), had complained on soaring corruption in the Samara region. This was a direct hint that the regional authorities turn a blind eye to officials committing such crimes.
The resignation of Murat Kabaloev was announced on the Prosecutor’s Office official web-site on August 29, 2016. Nikolai Merkushkin had been striving for this for a pretty long time. Back on July 25, 2016 the Governor of the Samara Region had a work meeting with Sergey Zaitsev, the Vice-Chairman of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation; Konstantin Bukreev, the State Judicial Counselor 3rd Class, was proposed to replace the disfavored Prosecutor of the Samara Region. Deputies of the Samara Gubernia Duma have supported unanimously his appointment as a new Regional Prosecutor at a special session on July 26, 2016.
According to AIF-Samara, Konstantin Bukreev told Deputies that his intention was to build constructive collaboration with all branches of the state power. Apparently, this was a hint to the regional authorities that, unlike his scandalous predecessor, he is not going to conflict with the Samara political elite.
Konstantin Bukreev. Photo: Yulia Rubtsova
Although some media have announced the appointment of Konstantin Bukreev as an accomplished fact, in reality, it is still being on hold. The position of the Prosecutor of the Samara Region is currently vacant, and Almaz Khusainov, the State Judicial Counselor 3rd Class, is temporarily performing duties of the Regional Prosecutor.
Residence for 5 thousand rubles
One of the recent corruption scandals involving Murat Kabaloev, then-Prosecutor of the Samara Region, was related to the rent of a luxury cottage for only 5 thousand rubles per month.
Novaya Gazeta v Povolzhie (The New Paper in the Volga Region) wrote in July 2016 that some high-ranked regional civil servants rent residences from the Hotel and Ceremonial Complex State Budgetary Institution of the Samara Region at a fraction of the cost. This state institution is a members only closed luxury residential complex with swimming pools, fitness center, and developed infrastructure. This settlement of officials is located in Samara, on the First Forest Clearing Street, and funded from the regional budget.
Murat Kabaloev was among the high-ranked officials living in the Hotel and Ceremonial Complex State Budgetary Institution of the Samara Region. His cottage was relatively small – only 158.5 square meters of living space. By the way, the residence of Nikolai Merkushkin is four times bigger – 648.7 square meters.
Many Samara residents expressed on social networks their indignation that the head of an agency that must protect public interests lives in such luxury conditions – while thousands of orphaned children have to wait for years for housing they are legally entitled to.
The year of 2013 was particularly marred by various scandals around the Prosecutor’s Office of the Samara Region. In January, Igor Uvarov, the Deputy Head of the Department for Overseeing Investigations, Inquests, and Operative Search Activities, has resigned. He left his post shortly after the appearance of a racy video on the Internet. Of course, the private life of a prosecution officer at off-work time is not a subject to public discussion. But the scandalous video discredited Uvarov and cast a shadow on the whole agency.
Igor Uvarov earlier used to serve under command of Murat Kabaloev in the Prosecutor’s Office of the Ivanovo Region; he relocated to Samara shortly after his chief. He was a member of the inner circle favored by the Regional Prosecutor. However, Murat Kabaloev has ignored all criticism and retained his post at that time.
Luxury apartments for prosecutors
Another inquiry, this time – an anti-corruption one – had been carried out in the Prosecutor’s Office shortly after. The general public became aware how prosecution officers were buying luxury apartments in newly-built residential complexes.
It turned out that Igor Uvarov and Aleksander Didenko, the Chief Assistant Prosecutor of the Samara Region for Internal Security, had signed very special purchase contracts with construction companies. The terms of these contracts were very beneficial for the watchdog authority officers – while the developers had made considerable concessions to the detriment of their interests.
The details of these purchases have been published in the Live Journal of blogger Valera Kruchkov – who obtained an order to dismiss criminal complaint signed by Georgy Barinov, Investigator of the Department for Investigation of Special Cases of the Investigations Directorate for the Samara Region of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR). This ICR officer has performed an audit of the real estate acquisition by the prosecution officers. Materials of this audit are recorded in the Crime Reports Registration Book: record № 10 of February 7, 2013.
Design of the building where the 3-room apartment of Aleksander Didenko is located
Investigator Georgy Barinov has found out that the subject of the contract signed between Don Construction Company and Aleksander Didenko on June 22, 2012 was a 3-room apartment with the living space over 94 square meters. The building is located at the intersection of Sadovaya and Polevaya streets in Samara. The cost of the apartment set in the agreement of purchase and sale was 3 million rubles – while its market value exceeded 5.6 million rubles. Furthermore, a payment grace period for more than a year was granted to the prosecution officer. Later, answering investigator’s questions, representatives of the construction company have explained their excessive loyalty to the client with Prosecutor’s strips by a technical error.
Igor Uvarov, then-prosecution officer, has purchased a 2-bedroom apartment with the living space over 70 square meters from Alpha Stil Limited Liability Company on June 15, 2012 for only 2.7 million rubles. The apartment is located in a luxury newly-built residential complex on Alekseya Tolstogo street. Representatives of the developer explained such a low price by the difficult economic situation, low salability of the apartment, and full cash payment provided by the client.
So, the question why construction companies were so gracious to prosecution officers – whose low salaries do not allow them to afford luxury housing – remained unanswered. Being unable to find sufficient grounds to initiate a criminal case, Georgy Barinov has discontinued the investigation.
Murat Kabaloev was aware of the scandal with the real estate – but has taken no action against Aleksander Didenko, Chief Assistant Prosecutor of the Samara Region for Internal Security, who is still working at this position. Another owner of a luxury apartment – Igor Uvarov – has already resigned by that time.
Personal fund of the Governor
The conflict with Nikolai Merkushkin, the Governor of the Samara Region, became fatal for the prosecution career of Murat Kabaloev. The cause of the conflict between the two high-ranked officials was the reserve fund of the Governor established on December 29, 2012 by Decision No. 255. According to this Decision, the Governor had the right to use the budget funds at his sole discretion for a variety of purposes, including ‘other unforeseen expenses’.
Nikolai Merkushkin, the Governor of the Samara Region
Murat Kabaloev, the Prosecutor of the Samara Region was indignant at the creation of a reserve fund for the Samara Governor at the expense of taxpayers – especially taking that Nikolai Merkushkin has granted himself the authority to use the funds at his own discretion. In fall 2015 Murat Kabaloev has submitted an official protest to the Samara Gubernia Duma requesting to declare the financing of the Governor’s fund from the regional budget illegal.
According to the Press Service of the Samara Gubernia Duma, on November 23, 2015, at a scheduled session of the Committee for Budget, Finances, Taxes, and Economic and Investment Policies, the Deputies have declined the Prosecutor’s protest. Their decision was based on paragraph 1 of Article 81 of the Budget Code of the Russian Federation that allows to establish reserve funds for executive governmental authorities, which include the Governor of the Samara Region. In addition, the Deputies have taken into consideration that heads of such regions as the Republic of Ingushetia, Republic of North Ossetia-Alania, Republic of Mordovia, Chechen Republic, and Republic of Tatarstan also have their personal reserve funds.
The Prosecutor’s Office of the Samara Region disagreed with the decision of the Samara Gubernia Duma –demonstrating loyalty to the Governor – and appealed it in court. The case had been examined in several judicial instances. The Supreme Court of the Russian Federation has ultimately delivered the final verdict on April 13, 2016 and confirmed the legitimacy of the reserve fund creation and use by the Governor of the Samara Region.
According to Kommersant newspaper, Prosecutor Murat Kabaloev has noted that officers of the watchdog authority used to find corruptogenic factors in official documents approved by the regional government and Governor even before the story with the reserve fund – but the regional authorities had never fulfilled the requirements of the Prosecutor’s Office to rectify those.
In his response to an inquiry from Dmitry Litvinov, the Deputy of the Samara Gubernia Duma, Murat Kabaloev wrote as follows: “The resources of the fund are being used for financing of other unforeseen expenses by decisions of the Governor of the Samara Region. The term other unforeseen expenses does not allow to determine time frames, conditions, or grounds for the Governor’s decisions to allocate funds for various purposes”.
Still, Nikolai Merkushkin has won the case, and shortly after the Superior Court decision, the Governor started liaising with the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation seeking to remove the Regional Prosecutor from his post.
Overall, the period of Murat Kabaloev’s service in Samara was pretty controversial. The corruption scandals and conflict with the Governor are only the most memorable episodes in the 4.5 years, during which the high-ranked prosecution official was the head of the watchdog authority in the Volga region.
Most prosecution officers prefer to stay in the background and avoid public attention, but Murat Kabaloev was an exception. No wonder he was nicknamed a scandalous prosecutor.