“Weekly briefings with criminal ‘authorities’ were held in the Japanese restaurant.” Who is Colonel Whirlwind, police chief of Chekhov?
Searches and arrests in the Chekhov District Police Department suspected of ‘patronizing’ local ethnic gangs may be just the beginning of a large-scale investigation. During the rule of colonel Andrei Bol’shakov, multimillion embezzlements were committed in the region.
On January 23, 2019, operatives of the Main Investigations Directorate in the Moscow Region of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR), Federal Security Service (FSB), and National Guard of Russia have come with searches to the Department for the Chekhov Urban District of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the Russian Federation. The visitors have checked, inter alia, the offices and country homes of Andrei Bol’shakov, police chief of the city, and his deputy Aleksander Zaitsev.
Andrei Bol’shakov (Photo: Sergei Mamontov/RIA Novosti)
In the course of the operation, two subordinates of Bol’shakov have been arrested and remanded in custody: Aleksander Mazepa, Head of the Division for Combating Organized Crime of the Criminal Investigation Department of the MIA Department for the Chekhov Urban District, and Andrei Kuznetsov, Senior Inspector of the Division for Combating Organized Crime of the Criminal Investigation Department of the MIA Department for the Chekhov Urban District. A criminal case has been instituted against them under part 5 of Article 290 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (bribe-taking).
According to the investigation, in December 2018, Mazepa received from a local businessman a bribe in the amount of 90 thousand rubles ($1.4 thousand) for non-institution of legal proceedings against him for hooliganism, while Kuznetsov received in late November a bribe from the same businessman in the amount of 200 thousand rubles ($3 thousand) for ‘general patronage’.
The only evidence against Bol’shakov discovered in the course of the searches was a combat pistol with erased number found in his home. The police chief of the city failed to explain its origin, and a criminal case has been instituted against him under part 2 of Article 222 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (illegal storage of firearms).
The court did not remand him in custody – but prohibited to leave home at night time and communicate with witnesses in that case. Bol'shakov has to stay in his house in Repnikovo village, Chekhov district until March 23, 2019.
Some sources believe that the clampdown on the Chekhov Police Department could be caused by a video showing a brawl between two ethnic gangs near Rai (Paradise) Cafe. Last year, an Armenian organized criminal group had a conflict with a Dagestani gang. Allegedly, police officers had actively covered up for one of the parties, which has attracted the attention of FSB operatives.
Shortly after the searches and arrests, it became known that an inquest has been launched against Bol’shakov in relation to misappropriations of lands in the Chekhov district. The CrimeRussia wrote about this earlier.
To refresh background: in August 2017, the FSB detained ‘authoritative’ businessman Nikolai Pavlinov ((KolYA/Pavlin (Peacock)) in Chekhov. Pavlin used to be an active member of Podolskie organized criminal group. Since the ‘turbulent 1990s’, his influence has further increased. Pavlinov controlled many organizations in his native city, including Vityaz (Knight) sports club network. Famous boxers Denis Lebedev and Aleksander Povetkin attended the court session held to determine pretrial restrictions for Pavlin to support him.
Nikolai Pavlinov has been charged under parts 1, 2, and 3 of Article 210 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (creation of a criminal community (criminal organization) and participation therein). According to the investigation, the accomplices had fraudulently acquired ownership rights to state-owned lands and buildings in the Chekhov municipal district, Moscow region. Since late 2011 and until August 2016, the organized criminal group has committed at least five such criminal episodes falling under part 4 of Article 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (swindling committed by an organized group). The total amount of damages is estimated at 11 billion rubles ($166.7 million).
By the end of 2017, the number of suspects in that case increased to 12 persons, including former Heads of the Chekhov District – Sergei Yudin and Anatoly Chibeskov. Both of them have been arrested in the early hours of December 14, 2017 and currently remain under home arrest.
Sergei Yudin and Anatoly Chibeskov
The investigation believes that the accomplices had fraudulently acquired ownership rights to state-owned lands and buildings in Talezh, Volosovo, Yakshino, Chepelevo, and Venyukovo villages of the Chekhov district by providing false information to respective branches of the Federal Service for State Registration, Cadastre and Cartography (Rosreestr) and Federal Agency for State Property Management (Rosimushchestvo) in order to transfer the lands belonging to the Ministry of Defense, Federal Forestry Service, and other governmental agencies to other legal entities for subsequent sale. Some of these lands even had the conservation status.
The following persons have also been charged in the framework of this criminal case: Yulia Ivanova, Deputy Head of the Federal Tax Service Inspectorate for the Town of Chekhov; businessman Danis Nizametdinov; Andrei Vasilenko, military unit commander in Chekhov-3; and realtor Igor Rodchenkov.
Only one of the key suspects – Oleg Strekalov (Zika), an aide to Pavlinov, – managed to avoid arrest. According to the investigation, he has developed the above criminal schemes – i.e. was the ‘brain center’ of the organized criminal group. The Main Investigations Directorate in the Moscow Region of the ICR instituted a criminal case against him under Article 210 (creation of a criminal community (criminal organization) and participation therein) and Article 159 (swindling) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation – but, by that time, Strekalov has already fled abroad.
According to our sources, he was spotted in Germany and Monaco. We also found his traces in the USA: Strekalov purchased a large home in an Atlanta neighborhood for some $2.5 million. The property is located not far from his daughter's house who has been living in America since 2010.
After the publication of our materials, Novye Izvestia newspaper has published an extensive interview with Strekalov where he claims that the criminal cases instituted against him are revenge for his refusal to pay ‘levies' to some law enforcement officials. The name of Andrei Bol'shakov was also mentioned in that interview.
According to the businessman, in 2012, after the sale of Karnaval (Carnival) Trade Center built by him in the center of Chekhov to foreign investors, a messenger from high-ranked police functionaries has approached him and demanded $2 million. Strekalov decided not to pay the bribe on principle – especially taking that he needed this money to build Chekhov City Park residential complex. In response to such an impudence, the racketeers have promised him troubles.
Shortly after that, the businessman became aware that the FSB has taken interest in his person, and some audio record was involved in that case. Strekalov claims that the charges laid against him were absurd – allegedly, he had sponsored the Euromaidan in Ukraine and had close ties with Arsen Avakov, Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, and Volodymyr Groysman, Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine.
In his interview, Strekalov mentions a version conveyed to him in 2014, after his return from a trip to Ukraine: in February 2014, Strekalov, a native of the Ukrainian town of Khmelnik, went to Ukraine with his family to celebrate the 95th anniversary of his grandfather. On the way to Khmelnik, they have visited Kiev engulfed in Euromaidan in that period. Upon return, Strekalov has shared his impressions of these events with friends and noted that “the people went on the streets not against Russia but against the thefts and corruption of officials and further impoverishment of the country”.
According to Strekalov, he said the same to his acquaintance Andrei Bol’shakov, local police chief nicknamed Polkovnik Vikhr (Colonel Whirlwind). Strekalov believes that Bol’shakov has recorded his words and submitted the record to the FSB.
According to Khoroshy Telegram channel, Bol’shakov had held a high position in the hierarchy of criminal ‘authorities’ and officials. He was a trusted aide of Zika and ran errands for Pavlin. Concurrently, the Chekhov police chief was building his own check and balance system and closely liaised with Podolskie gang. The Telegram channel claims that weekly ‘briefings’ with criminal ‘authorities’ Trun and Van were held in the Japanese restaurant – this is how Bol'shakov had tried to keep a distance from Pavlin’s pressure and gain the support of members of Podolskie gang holding supreme positions in the criminal hierarchy. Another factor enabling Bol’shakov to be equally distant from the centers of power was his friendship with general Viktor Ishchenko, Deputy Head of the MIA General Administration for the Moscow Region.
According to Novye Izvestia newspaper, general’s son Nikolai serves in the FSB Directorate for Protection of the Constitutional Order and Combating Terrorism (SPCOCT or the 2nd Directorate) and handles the case against Strekalov, while Nikolai Bolloev, ex-Head of the Operations Administration of the of MIA General Administration for the Moscow Region nicknamed “Grey Eminence of the metropolitan area”, had directly carried out the operative and investigative actions in the framework of that case.
Searches in the Chekhov Police Department
Furthermore, Bol’shakov himself apparently has ties with the FSB. According to his own words, his service record includes 60 successful operations and numerous service awards, including those from the KGB.
Khoroshy Telegram channel claims that detained Aleksander Shestun, ex-Head of the Serpukhov District, is also a member of this ‘company’. Shestun is a close friend of Strekalov – Zika is the godfather of his children. For years, the friends had attended together birthday parties thrown by Pavlin.
In June 2018, the home of Shestun has been searched. On the next day, he was arrested for exceedance of official powers (Article 286 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). Later, Shestun has been charged under Article 289 (illegal participation in business activity), part 4 of Article 159 (swindling on an especially large scale), and part 4 of Article 174 (legalization (laundering) of funds acquired by other persons illegally) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.
In January 2019, the Prosecutor General’s Office announced that 565 land lots and 22 cars belonging to Shestun have been identified. The total value of his assets is estimated at 10 billion rubles ($151.5 million). The suspect currently faces up to 10 years behind bars.
Shestun denies allegations and claims that “all the lands of the Serpukhov District, some 100 thousand ha in size, are worth less than 10 billion rubles ($151.5 million)”, that he does not have so many cars, while the lands supposedly belonging to him were purchased by businessman Boris Krivodubsky “not from the municipality – but through land shares of state farms, bypassing the district administration, and in strict accordance with the law”. The ex-Head of the Serpukhov District believes that the case against him was framed-up to bar him from the elections.
It is necessary to note that both the timing of land machinations incriminated to Shestun (2008–2014) and total amount of damages almost precisely match the charges laid against Pavlinov.
Khoroshy Telegram channel claims that Shestun had fulfilled assignments of Pavlinov affecting the Serpukhov District, including assistance to criminal ‘authorities’ in the solution of various issues, – and concurrently lobbied his own interests via Pavlin. For instance, colonel Tsurkan was reportedly appointed in charge of the Administration for Economic Security and Combating the Corruption of the MIA General Administration for the Moscow Region with the assistance of Shestun.
When asked about his involvement with that ‘company’, Bol’shakov has replied vaguely. In early 2018, Deputy Pavel Khlyupin has mentioned misappropriations of lands incriminated to former district heads, businessman Strekalov, and detained Pavlinov at a session of the Chekhov District Council of Deputies. Bol’shakov responded that some persons had started “robbing” the district even before his appointment in 2008. Allegedly, he was neither aware of the situation nor familiar with Nikolai Borisovich (Bol’shakov always refers to Pavlinov in a respectful way) – while the Deputies sitting in the conference hall “were fully aware of everything”.
Pistol with erased number found in the home of Bol’shakov
In any event, the searches carried out in the residences of supreme police officials of the Chekhov district have exposed their grand lifestyle.
Prior to these searches, no one had a possibility to visit their homes – even Nikolai Dizhur, a Deputy of the Chekhov District Council of Deputies and former Deputy of three convocations of the Serpukhov District Council of Deputies, who had tried to clarify the circumstances of another old scandal involving the manor of Bol’shakov.
This refers to a criminal case instituted against Bol’shakov under part 1 of Article 130 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (insult).
According to the case file, on August 23, 2010, at some 9 p.m., Mikhail Altunin has reprimanded his neighbor, the Chekhov police chief, and accused him of seizure of a portion of Altunin’s lot. The retiree claims that, in response, Bol’shakov has obscenely insulted and humiliated him and threatened with violence.
However, in the course of the litigation, Mikhail Altunin has suddenly withdrawn his claim due to reconciliation of the parties.
According to Dizhur, the retiree’s home was destroyed by fire in 2015, while Mikhail Altunin died on January 9, 2019.
The Deputy has visited the site to verify the factual circumstances of the incident. Furthermore, he had information that the home of the high-ranked police commander is located on forest fund lands. Upon arrival, Dizhur discovered a 3-meter-high fence with gates and guardhouse. Some unidentified persons have blocked the public road with a barrier bar, wall, gate, and another fence extending to the waterline.
The CrimeRussia located the residence of Bol’shakov.
It is a large lot, 1.5 thousand square meters in size, surrounded by forest on the one side and facing a pond on the other side. The lot is divided into two parcels – according to the documents, one parcel belongs to Andrei Bol’shakov, while the other one – to his spouse. Chehov-life estimates the property value at 20–80 million rubles ($303 thousand – $1.2 million).
Based on the photos taken during the searches and obtained by The CrimeRussia, the homeowner’s revenues definitely exceed the average income level in Chekhov. In addition to traditional expensive SUV vehicles, vintage cars and motorcycles were found in the garage.
The residence of Bol’shakov in Repnikovo
It seems unlikely that all this luxury was acquired on earnings of his spouse Elena Bol’shakova – who was a co-owner of Berezka (Birch) Noncommercial Partnership for Improvement of Land Lots since 2009. In late 2017, the company ceased its activities; it appears that that Berezka had operated exclusively in the cottage community accommodating their home.
The lifestyle of police lieutenant colonel Aleksander Zaitsev was equally lavish.
His home is located in neighboring Maloe Petrovskoe village. According to Chehov-life, the lot accommodates numerous buildings, including a spacious garage with expensive machinery worth in total over 10 million rubles ($151.5 thousand) – SUV vehicles and two quadricycles worth 1.5 million rubles ($22.7 thousand) each. One of the cars is a brand-new jeep purchased shortly before the New Year; its cost is some 4.5 million rubles ($68.2 thousand).
In the course of his service in the Chekhov District Police Department, Zaitsev has erected fancy structures on two large adjacent lots as well, while his relatives live on the lot across the road.
Lots belonging to Zaitsev in Maloe Petrovskoe
A native of Umet township, Tambov region, Zaitsev has relocated to the Moscow region more than 10 years ago and rented a room on Poligrafistov street in Chekhov. In 2007, he joined the police service as an ordinary district inspector – but after the appointment of Bol’shakov in charge of the Chekhov police, his career has skyrocketed.
If the interest of FSB operatives to the Chekhov police functionaries is indeed related to the ‘land misappropriation case', new high-profile arrests are inevitable.