Would jurors believe in mercenary motives in the murder of Gosht?
The court examination of a high-profile murder of Andrei Gosht, the former Police Chief of Syzran, and his family has started in Samara. Two of the defendants have insisted on a jury trial. Upon completion of the investigation, the investigators have approved the most implausible version: murder due to mercenary motives. Would the popular court believe in it?
On the night to April 24, 2016, the malefactors have broken into a home on the outskirts of Ivashevka village in the Syzran district and killed the Colonel of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Andrei Gosht, his parents, wife, sister-in-law, and one of the nieces. The sole survivor was 7-year-old Sofia, another niece of the policeman, who sustained a severe head injury. According to the investigation, there were mercenary motives behind the assault. The four suspects – natives of Azerbaijan and Tajikistan Roman Fataliev, Makhmadali Akhmadov, Islam Babaev, and Orkhan Zakhrabov – have been charged under items (a and b), part 4 of Article 162, items (a, g, and h), part 2 of Article 105, part 3 of Article 30, and items (a, c, g, and h), part 2 of Article 105 of the Russian Criminal Code (Robbery, Murder of two or more persons, Attempted Murder of a minor). All the suspects are facing life in prison.
Disagree that the strikes were fatal
On a preliminary hearing on October 24, 2016, it became known that the suspects had been actively collaborating with the investigation – although none of them has admitted guilt. Everybody puts responsibility on others’ shoulders claiming that he had not dealt fatal strikes.
The detained killers have been collaborating with the investigation (photo by vesti.ru)
"During the investigation, they had been collaborating; showed where the stolen belongings were hidden; provided all details of the crime; showed how it was committed; but admitted guilt only partially," Nadezhda Ismailova, the Senior Prosecutor of the Department of State Prosecutors of the Criminal and Judicial Administration of the Prosecutor’s Office of the Samara Region, told.
According to Aleksander Kolesnikov, defense attorney for Makhmadali Akhmadov, the suspected head of the crime, his client does not admit his guilt in the murder: "He says that he had been dealing strikes, but those could not be fatal. In addition, Makhmadali says that he was not the head of the crime – although the investigators state otherwise."
Lyubov, the wife of Akhmadov, states that her husband was forced to make a confession. "For the four years of living together, I had never noticed anything like this. Initially, he had denied the guilt, then he admitted it. But I do not believe this. He was forced to admit the guilt." According to her, Akhmadov has returned to Russia on his own to prove his innocence. The website of the Tajik Ministry of Internal Affairs had earlier published an announcement that he was not arrested but came to the police on his own after learning about accusations against him from Russian media. "He has noted that he is not implicated in this grave crime and ready to return to that country to prove his words," the announcement states. According to the wife and father of Makhmadali, for the whole duration of the investigation, they had not been allowed to see the defendant.
In addition, the family of Fataliev claims that on the night to April 24, 2016, he stayed at home. But according to the investigation, they managed to track down the suspects because of Fataliev, who tried to withdraw money from a stolen bank card of Gosht.
"Let the people judge me"
In the end of the first court session, the defendants have yelled to the audience that they are innocent. None of the four suspects had made a plea deal – therefore, the case won’t be reviewed using a special procedure.
Furthermore, following a request from Akhmadov and Zakhrabov, the case will be heard by jurors. According to attorney Kolesnikov, his client wants to be judged by the people. The panel of 12 jurors must be formed by November 7. Pretrial detention periods have been extended by three months – until January 2017 – for all the suspects.
Suspects in the murder of the policeman’s family (photo by 63.ru)
Following a request from the victim party, the trial will be closed. According to some sources, this was a desire of Helmut Gosht, son of the murdered Colonel and an officer of the General Investigation Administration of the General Administration in the Samara Region of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the Russian Federation. In particular, because one of the victims – Sofia – is minor. None of the victims’ relatives had attended the opening of court proceedings.
At the same time, the closeness of such a high-profile trial raises numerous questions and suspicions. According
to lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov, a closed hearing could only be explained by the intention of the investigation to avoid a public disclosure of case details. He believes that this crime could be committed on somebody’s tip, and the investigators are not willing yet to announce the name of the mastermind behind it.
Versions and hypotheses
The version that the natives of the Central Asia have committed the vicious attack for profit raises numerous questions. According to a confession made by Fataliev in the pretrial detention facility, they were 'looking for money' in the colonel’s home, and had to kill people out of fear: "We thought that there are two people inside, but there were more. And we had to kill out of fear. All of them." There were no reports of stolen belongings or money prior to the arrest of the suspects. Details have surfaced in the press later, citing the testimony of Fataliev about stolen cellphones, credit cards, and 906 rubles. By the first day of the trial, this amount has increased considerably: according to Ismailova, the total value of the criminals’ loot (cash and electronics) was some 200 thousand rubles. The investigation also believes that they tried to steal the Renault Duster, but failed.
Home picked by the criminals for robbery
According to the case file, at the time of the crime, the suspects did not know whose home they were entering. They became aware of this only later, when examining the loot and coming across Gosht’s service ID. The criminals got scared and were not even able to sell the loot, so they decided to go on the run immediately.
But how preparations for an attack could be made without knowing who is inside the home? The crime seems well-prepared: the malefactors managed to kill all members of the Gosht family asleep, without noise and, apparently, simultaneously entering bedrooms on different floors. In other words, they knew who sleeps where. According to their testimonies, they were in a rush and took only items they saw around – i.e. they did not search the home, did not take jewelry from the murdered women, and left the TV. Still, the killers managed to break security cameras and locate and take with them the video surveillance unit.
The extreme cruelty of the crime is not consistent with mercenary motives. The murderers bludgeoned their victims, including a 7-year-old girl, to death with sticks. The policeman was killed last. According to Valery Kryshev, a criminal lawyer and writer, such details imply that it was a revenge killing. There were plenty of people who could settle old scores with the colonel that way.
Kryshev told the CrimeRussia that the initial version of the investigation could be pretty realistic: Gosht had allegedly owed money to gastarbeiters for construction of the home where the attack has occurred. He was transferred from Tambov and appointed the Head of the Police Department of the City of Syzran in 2013. In the same period, he has purchased a land lot for his parents in Ivashevka village and hired gastarbeiters to build a two-storey house. Allegedly, he hasn’t paid the builders in full and owed them 1.5 million rubles – while the average salary of a police officer of his rank is some 70–80 thousand rubles per month. "As practice shows, police officers who hire construction workers from the Central Asia (as well as from Moldavia and even Ukraine) rarely pay them, as they know that the workers won’t complain anywhere," Kryshev says. By the way, according to some sources, two of the criminals have recently got the Russian citizenship.
Andrei Gosht could be aware of the threat
Another version states that this was a revenge of some serious people from local criminal structures. Gosht managed to cross the road to many of them.
The Colonel was actively struggling against illegal oil industry in the region, primarily – against illegal cutting-ins to oil pipelines and underground refineries. The Samara region is an intersection of major oil pipelines; most of those belong to Transneft. According to the state oil company, there is a complicated criminogenic situation in the region. 142 illegal cutting-ins have been found there in the period of 2010–2015; multimillion financial damages have been sustained due to those. However, a positive dynamics has been noted during the years of the Colonel Gosht’s service. “83 cutting-ins have been found in 2013, while in 2015 – only 24. Seven organized groups involved into illegal intrusion into the pipelines have been caught in the current year,” Sergey Solodovnikov, the Head of the Russian MIA General Administration in the Samara Region, told in October 2015. "The last arrest was related to an illegal refinery in Syzran with 60 overground and 40 underground tanks." Experts believe that the version of revenge to Gosht from an organized criminal group whose interests had been affected by the police raids is one of the most probable.
Criminals running illegal alcohol business could deal with Gosht as well. According to various sources, the share of counterfeit alcohol products on the Russian market is 40%–65%. The state budget is losing hundreds of millions of rubles annually due to illegal sales of counterfeit vodka smuggled from abroad. Due to the absence of customs control, its main flow goes to the Russian Federation from Kazakhstan – and via the Samara region having a common border with it. For instance, in November 2015, local residents have looted an overturned truck in the Saratov region: its driver, a native of Syzran, was transporting counterfeit alcohol from the Central Asia to the inner parts of the country. In total, more than 40 criminal cases have been initiated in the Samara region in 2015 due to illegal production and sales of alcohol; nine underground distilleries have been shut down.
To be profitable, this business requires smoothly running sales schemes, including patronage from corrupt enforcement superiors. The performance of local police officers was unsatisfactory – at least, prior to an audit of law enforcement structures initiated by Nikolai Merkushkin, the Governor of the Samara Region, in 2013: there were more than 3.5 thousand complaints on the police per year. Gosht was appointed to his new position in this heated period; according to local residents, he was an honest policeman and could hurt interests of criminal alcohol businesses.
For example, in summer and spring 2015, the colonel has performed dozens of raids to clamp down on illegal trades. As a result, not only illegal weapons, drugs, and jewelry, but also thousands of bottles of counterfeit vodka had been seized in Syzran. In addition, numerous cafes and small shops selling the illegal alcohol have been shut down. As a consequence, a few months later, Gosht was removed from the operational work and transferred to the Headquarters of the Russian MIA General Administration in the Samara Region. By the way, Sergey Gudilin, his successor as the Police Chief of Syzran, has died in a car accident in February.
The cruel demonstrative slaughter of Gosht and his family looks like a revenge of an organized criminal group. And the colonel could be aware of the threat – documents for his transfer to Novosibirsk were in preparation.
A quick outcome is highly unlikely in this case. A panel of jurors should be formed by November 7 (provided that it can be formed at the first attempt). Then the 12 main jurors and several reserve ones will review the case for several months.
Then they would have to answer questions: Has the fact of the crime been proven? Was it committed by the defendants? Are they guilty? The jurors also have to decide whether the defendants deserve condescension. And only then a sentence would be pronounced.
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