Successful hunt: impending retirement of Bastrykin became result of FSB anti-corruption campaign
The night before, on September 26, the CrimeRussia’s information on the resignation of the Russian Investigative Committee Chairman Alexander Bastrykin was confirmed. It transpired that the senior investigator filed a resignation.
The paper has not yet been signed by the President, however, there is no doubt that the ICR Chairman will leave his office. Sources of the CrimeRussia previously reported that the high-profile arrests of the ICR employees can backfire on the authority’s Head. Officially, Bastrykin explained his decision referring to his state of health. The CrimeRussia tried to figure out what are the true reasons that might have influenced the decision of the ICR Head.
Purge of the ranks in the ICR
Alexander Bastrykin got the post of the Chairman of the Investigative Committee in 2011. The fact that his resignation was expected after the elections in the State Duma, was told to the CrimeRussia by the source in law enforcement. But the reasons for the Chairman’s resignation, according to our interlocutor, have nothing to do with his health but are related to the report of the FSB. According to the security services, the Head of the ICR has lost control of the department, it was actually run by Mikhail Maksimenko, Bastyrkin’s right hand and the Head of inter-agency cooperation and private security of the ICR detained within the case of Shakro Molodoy. The source claimed that the arrest of the agency’s "gray cardinal" will entail a number of high-profile resignations of the ICR managers. These predictions were confirmed shortly.
Mikhail Maksimenko’s arrest
It is to be recalled that Mikhail Maksimenko was arrested on July 19, 2016 on suspicion of taking bribes from the mafia boss Shakro Molodoy (Young) for busting up his criminal case. Within the case of Shakro Maksimenko’s Deputy Aleksandr Lamonov and the Deputy Head Main Investigative Directorate of the ICR in Moscow Denis Nikandrov were also detained.
According to the FSB, Maksimenko had even more influence than Bastrykin’s deputies. The Head of the Internal Security Directorate supervised the course of many major criminal cases on which decisions were consistent in the first place with him. Thus, Maksimenko could be involved in busting up dozens of high-profile cases. According to the source, he enjoyed such influence due to the friendship of his father with the head of department.
The representative of the ICR Vladimir Markin persistently denies reports on Bastrykin’s resignation. However, it seems unconvincing, especially given the fact that in mid-September Markin also refused to confirm the information about his own resignation, which, however, did not prevent him to file a respective petition on 21st of September.
It is obvious that what is happening in the ICR could not but affect Bastrykin’s authority in the vertical of power, and, moreover, could not but lower the level of influence of the ICR itself. In this case, Bastrykin’s probable resignation looks like not just a leave due to health reasons but like a result of the anti-corruption campaign which the secret services hold for more than a year.
In the circle of chekists
In its official messages, the Kremlin called the arrests in the ICR initiated by the FSB purge of the ranks. It is worth mentioning that not only the Investigative Committee was subject to the intense purge of the ranks. Over the past two years, state agencies and state corporations overflown by high-profile corruption scandals and rotations. All the most resonant special operations were initiated by the FSB. What's behind the massive purge: the desire to get rid of corruption or instruction from above?
The arrests of the former Head of Sakhalin Alexander Khoroshavin, the former Governor of Komi Vyacheslav Gaizer and the former Governor of the Kirov Region Nikita Belykh; detention of the senior ICR officers and the resignation of the influential General, the Deputy Chief of the FSB 9th Directorate Oleg Feoktistov; the resignation of the Head of the Federal Customs Service Andrey Belyaninov and the Head of the Department K of the FSB General Viktor Voronin; retirement of the Head of the FSS Yevgeny Murov and exposing corruption in the Ministry of Culture; the Renova case; anti-corruption purges in the FSB SEB and finally - tons of dollars found in the the flat of the GUEBiPK MIA Colonel Dmitry Zakharchenko’s, and possible impending resignation of the Chief of the anti-corruption Chief Directorate Andrey Kurnosenko: these are the results of the most high-profile operations conducted by the FSB officers during the last two years.
At first glance, though a series of mass but not related to each other detentions, dismissals, arrests looks like a course on strengthening the fight against corruption. However, in the CrimeRussia’s expert’s opinion, all the high-profile criminal cases and resignations from senior posts following them, including information about the resignation of Alexander Bastrykin, have one cause and are a manifestation of a strong conflict of interest at the highest levels of the state system. All of the above persons of interest were not the corrupt officials and bribe-takers discovered by chance but firmly interconnected links of one chain. According to the source of the CrimeRussia, all measures for their exposure and dismissal from the senior posts were made with the approval of Vladimir Putin, and were designed to restrict the influence of a certain official from the highest echelons of power around these criminal cases.
Millionaire against his will
The last high-profile case of the FSB which shocked the whole country was related to the detention of the Acting Head of the Department T of the General Administration for Economic Security and Combatting the Corruption of the Russian MIA Colonel Dmitry Zakharchenko on September 8, 2016. A day after being detained, during a search in the apartment of his half-sister Irina Razgunova, 8, 5 billion rubles were discovered. The amount of the seized money was the absolute record, and Zakharchenko has become a debated figure in media. How the Colonel of the Interior Ministry who is engaged in the fight against corruption could have that amount of money - almost the entire country was asking this question, and the media have published calculations of which hole in the state budget could the discovered ton of money cover.
Video: Seizure of 9 billion rubles from the Colonel of the MIA Dmitry Zakharchenko
Interestingly, Dmitry Zakharchenko was associated with other persons of interest involved in corruption cases initiated by the FSB.
The investigators suspect Zakharchenko in warning the first Deputy Head of the capital's central ICR Chief Directorate Denis Nikandrov about the ongoing operational activities, who, according to the investigation, received a bribe from the kingpin Zakhar Kalashov (Shakro Molodoy) for busting up the criminal case. The case was initiated on the fact of extortion that took place in December 2015 in amount of 8 million rubles from Joanna Kim, the owner of the restaurant Elements on Rochdelskaya street. The conflict began because of the Kalashov’s ladylove’s interests: designer Fatima Misikova, who claimed that Kim owes her 8 million rubles for the reconstruction of the restaurant. Hearing the threat in her address, Joanna Kim called the lawyer Eduard Budantsev who in the past was the commander of the Moscow SWAT. The lawyer came to the restaurant with a support group. A shoot-out between the opponents quickly got out of control. Defending himself, Budantsev opened fire and shot two private security agency employees supervised by Shakro Molodoy.
Over the fact of the massacre a criminal case was initiated and Andrey Kochuykov nicknamed Italian, Kalashov’s right hand was arrested. According to the investigation, the defender of the kingpin, Dmitry Zvontsev, appealed to the Head of the ICR Internal Security Directorate Mikhail Maksimenko. At the meeting, as Zvontsov later explained in his testimony, the parties agreed on the release of the Italian before the end of the summer for $ 1 million. Maksimenko, as Novaya Gazeta reported, instructed his Deputy, the Head of the ICR ISD Alexander Lamonov, to contact the management of the ICR Main Directorate for the withdrawal of the criminal case from the district administration and its transfer to the ICR in Moscow. On March 1, by the order of the Deputy Head of the capital ICR MD Denis Nikandrov, the criminal case was withdrawn; the materials - for extortion – were separated from other charges and returned for further investigation in the ICR Office of Investigations in the Central Administrative District of Moscow. The separated case of extortion was taken by the investigator Andrey Bochkov. According to the investigators, the three senior ICR managers - Maksimenko, Lamonov and Nikandrov for a bribe reclassified the article on extortion against Kochuykov to a softer one - arbitrariness (Article 330 of the Criminal Code), and in June 2016 let kingpin’s accomplice go. However, the release of the Italian did not take place – it was prevented by the officers of the FSB Department M, which, as it turned out, all the time kept its eyes on the investigators.
Detentions of the senior ICR officials, which caused rumors about Bastrykin’s resignation, and criminal cases against the senior investigators initiated by the FSB, have caused a wide resonance.
Video: Firefight at Rochdelskaya Street
According to our data, Dmitry Zakharchenko was directly involved in these shootouts and initiated criminal cases. According to the source, the Colonel was an informant of the criminals who came in sight of the law enforcement agencies. Thus, the Colonel assisted the designer Fatima Misikova, who, thanks to his warning, had disappeared from the investigation. According to Rosbalt, later, it was Misikova who testified against Zakharchenko.
Another high-profile criminal case which is related to Zakharchenko is the case of the Renova group of companies (note that the Colonel headed the Department T, which means, he was in charge of the fuel sector, which is Renova’s industrial sector). The defendants in the Renova case are the Head of VimpelCom Mikhail Slobodin, who was under the secret FSB investigation. He, just as Fatima Misikova, on the eve managed to escape arrest and flee to Nice. According to the source of the CrimeRussia, this escape became possible thanks to the warning from Dmitry Zakharchenko. Our source believes that someone from the FSB could help the Colonel to obtain this information.
So, the case of the Colonel Zakharchenko has shown that a number of recent high-profile arrests and criminal proceedings are links in a chain which originated in 2014.
The Governors’ case
The starting point of the FSB’s active and demonstrative fight against corruption was 2014. In February 2014, under circumstances similar to Zakharchenko’s detention was the FSB detained the Chief of the General Administration for Economic Security and Combatting the Corruption (GUEBiPK) Denis Sugrobov and his Deputy Boris Kolesnikov. They were accused of involvement in the creation of the criminal community in the agency.
Sugrobov himself strongly denied his guilt saying that during his management, in the Russian MIA GUEBiPK, "certain influential forces tried to frame up" false accusations of corruption against him. The operation against Sugrobov was personally supervised by the Deputy Head of the FSB DIS Oleg Feoktistov. For the MIA this confrontation ended with the arrests of high-ranking officials who have been brought to justice, and lay-offs in GUEBiPK.
In a single year, the FSB has convincingly proved that even the top officials of the Russian Federation subjects do not have immunity from deserved punishment for corruption.
In March 2015, along with three of his deputies, during the inspection by the FSB and the investigative agencies the Sakhalin Governor Alexander Khoroshavin was arrested. The total amount of bribes that the Head of Sakhalin received, according to the ICR, exceeded 522 million rubles. According to one version, the Governor’s arrest could be connected with an attempt of the local businessmen to get rid of the Chief of the FSB Directorate for the Sakhalin Region General Igor Struchkov, as reported by Kommersant.
Six months after Khoroshavin’s arrest, a purge in the management of the Komi Republic took place: in September 2015, the Head of Komi Vyacheslav Gaizer was arrested. For the first time in the history, the Russian governor was officially announced as the leader of an organized crime group. Political scientists have explained this by the fact that the FSB and ICR create a system of checks and balances in the regions associated with the production of oil and gas. As noted in the MK, the management of all economically significant regions of Russia was replaced in 2010 by the decision of the Kremlin.
Not long ago, the case of Gaizer’s OCG continued. The defendants in the case of bribery in the amount of 800 million rubles give to the former Head of the Komi Republic became the co-owner and Managing Director of Renova Evgeny Olkhovik, the Head of the company T Plus Boris Vainzikher and the former CEO of VimpelCom Mikhail Slobodin who escaped abroad thanks to Dmitry Zakharchenko.
The latest resonant story of a series of criminal cases against the governors was the case of Nikita Belykh, who was caught red-handed on June 24, 2016. According to the interlocutor of RBC, Belykh’s detention was not previously agreed with the country's management. However, the actions of operatives fit into the overall policy of purges on the eve of elections.
Large scale fight: business in conjunction with officials
In autumn of the year 2015 the FSB started working on the St. Petersburg businessman Dmitry Mikhalchenko, who for his influence got a nickname twenty-four-hour Governor of St. Petersburg. In March, he was arrested and was charged with smuggling alcohol. Around the same time, in relation to the Ministry of Culture officials a criminal case was initiated on embezzlement of funds during restoration of monuments. The FSB officers detained a number of high-ranking officials: the Deputy Minister of Culture Grigory Pirumov, the Head of the Asset Management Department Boris Mazo and his Deputy Vadim Muradyan and the businessmen Dmitry Sergeyev and Alexander Kochenova of the company Baltstroy as well as the entrepreneur Nikita Kolesnikov.
The case of the Ministry of Culture is linked with Mikhalchenko due to the fact that the shadow governor is a co-owner of the Forum group of companies, which includes the company Baltstroy that received tenders from the Ministry of Culture for the restoration of cultural heritage objects but did not perform the work.
According to the official from the government, the arrests in the Ministry of Culture and Baltstroy did not lead to the resignation of Vladimir Medinsky, because they had a different purpose: "The Minister has now nothing to fear, it is a war between two secret services", quoted RBC its interlocutor.
Two months after the corruption scandal in the Ministry of Culture, on the 17th year of service as the Director of the FSO Evgeny Murov resigned. According to some experts, the reason was not only in Murov’s retirement age, but also in the fact that in 2014 there was a struggle for his seat. Sources of Gazeta.Ru suggested that the case against the executives of the Ministry of Culture were initiated on the initiative of the FSB could be connected including the desire to expedite the resignation of the Head of the Federal Security Service.
Experts noted that Evgeny Murov could personally know some of the defendants in the high-profile case of the Ministry of Culture. For example, the partner of the St. Petersburg billionaire Dmitry Mikhalchenko and the co-owner of the Forum holding Nikolai Negodov in the 90s worked in the FSB for St. Petersburg and Leningrad Region. Since 1992, Evgeny Murov worked in this regional department as well.
Vladimir Putin has appointed a person from the security forces,Dmitry Kochneva, who previously headed the presidential security service, as the new Director of the FSO. Over the next month, information about another significant retirement transpires: Putin's old KGB colleague, the Head of the Federal Customs Service, Andrei Belyaninov has lost his office. The new Head of the Federal Customs Service has also become the FSB officer, Vladimir Bulavin. According to Crime Russia, there is a clear relationship between the resignations in the economic unit of the FSB and the problems of the Federal Customs Service Head with the law. In other words, after a few FSB senior officers had resigned, Belianinov lost his protection, which lead to a fact that the law enforcement agencies had a number of questions to him.
As one can see, strengthening positions of security forces is another interesting trend, which was accompanied by anti-corruption operations conducted by security officers.
All the criminal proceedings mentioned above are related to the resignations of senior officials. It is to be recalled that Zakharcheno who has recently become a symbol of corruption in Russia became a Deputy Chief of the the Department T of GUEBiPK in 2014 after a number of managers came under investigation on charges of corruption, and the former head, the General Denis Sugrobov, and a number of his subordinates were charged with organizing a criminal community (the so-called Sugrobov’s case).
The corruption scandal with the billions found in Zakharchenko’s apartment caused a new rotation in GUEBiPK: the resignation was submitted by the Head of GUEBiPK Andrei Kurnosenko, who took office in late 2015 after Sugrobov’s successor Dmitry Mironov lasted in the same chair for 8 months. Kurnosenko task was to fairly clean the reputation of the anti-corruption department of the MIA tarnished by the corruption scandals. Zakharchenko himself told the media that the case against him was framed up to remove him from the managerial positions. According to the Colonel, all charges against him were framed up in order to remove him from the post of the Acting Head of the "T" Department of the Russian MIA GUEBiPK. At the hearing which was held on September 27, 2016 Zakharchenko said that the investigation was initiated against him personally by the Head of the Department M of the FSB Sergei Alpatov.
Another fresh fact confirming a total change of management in the Ministry of Interior – on September 23, 2016 it transpired that his position on the background of a conflict with MIA Minister left the Head of the MIA Main Directorate in Moscow Anatoly Yakunin.
Note that after a sensational detention of the ICR employees in connection with the case of Shakro Molodoy, a series of resignations in the power structures followed as well. Thus, a month after the arrest of Mikhail Maksimenko, the information transpired about the resignation of the Deputy Chief of the FSB DIS General Oleg Feoktistov, who, according to media reports, at first was planned to be sent to the PAO Rosset, but on September 20 was appointed as the Rosneft Vice-President for security. According to one version, Feoktistov thus "paid" for his long-standing friendship with Maksimenko. According to some reports, Feoktistov also supervised the officers from the ICR and it was him who in his day recommended Maksimenko to the position of the Chief ICR Department.
Another flurry of resignations was triggered by the case in which the defendant was the Head of the 7th Division of the Department K of the FSB SEB Vadim Uvarov. The case was related to bribes to customs officials at registration of cargoes by importing companies in the amount of 2 million rubles. After that, Uvarov’s superior, the Head of the Department K Viktor Voronin submitted a resignation.
Shortly thereafter, in July 2016, the Head of FSB SEB Yuri Yakovlev resigned as well.
Previously, the CrimeRussia wrote about a large-scale reform of the security and law enforcement agencies which should be completed by the presidential election in 2018. The reform is intended to strengthen the FSB, which will follow the creation of the Ministry of State Security (MGB) on the basis of the FSB that will include the Foreign Intelligence Service and Federal Guard Service; the MGB staff will supervise criminal cases initiated on their materials by the ICR and MIA, as well as the MGB will get the Chief Directorate status and will be engaged in the resonant criminal cases. In fact, as Kommersant noted, it is about the actual return of the set functions that had the KGB in the USSR to the FSB.
Strengthening of the power ministries
In a separate development, a powerful reshuffle took place in power. On July 28, 2016 – in one day, the Russian President Vladimir Putin has accepted the resignation of several governors. As the acting heads of the two regions the security officials were appointed: the former MIA Deputy Minister Dmitry Mironov (Yaroslavl Region) and the former Head of the regional FSB Eugene Zinichev (Kaliningrad Region).
August was marked by an event that the media dubbed as the political earthquake - suddenly and unexpectedly Vladimir Putin changed the Head of the Presidential Administration, in fact his Deputy, Sergei Ivanov. Shortly before that, after the searches, from the post was removed a person close to Ivanov, the Head of the Federal Customs Service Andrei Belyaninov.
Anton Vaino and Vladimir Putin
Anton Vaino took Sergei Ivanov’s place. This appointment seems strange only at first glance. According to sources of the Profil magazine, Vaino is the man who belongs to the circle of Putin's closest officials. It is he who organizes meetings of the President, both public and confidential which are not disclosed to media.
In addition, on August 23 at a meeting with representatives of the Duma factions, Vladimir Putin proposed to nominate the first Deputy of the Kremlin Administration Vyacheslav Volodin to the post of Chairman of the State Duma. In fact, the post of the first Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration and curator of domestic policy in the Kremlin is the title of Vladimir Putin’s Head of Staff in the upcoming presidential election campaign in 2018. Vyacheslav Volodin’s Position will be taken by the head of Rosatom Sergey Kiriyenko in the next two weeks.
However, according to the source of Crime Russia, the reasons for the flurry of arrests of the corrupt officials and high-profile resignations are also a part of the campaign – exposure of public servants riddled in corruption should increase confidence in the President. After all, 2018 is not far off.
On the one hand, the President does not need those who acquired a reputation of corrupt officials. On the other, the experts of the CrimeRussia see in staff turnover that took place this summer the President’s intention to replace the team and the desire to replace the political heavyweights, who came to power with him for those who made a career with him or through him.
Will the new staff of be less corrupt than their predecessors, or will they just be replaced after charges of corruption in the time right for big policy, time will tell.