Chekhov case falling apart: will Pavlin get away clean?
There have been many important changes in the case of theft of land of special designation in the Moscow region. Part of the defendants, who were detained a few years ago, have already got jail time, while others have been transferred to house arrest. One of them is a key defendant in the case, gangland businessman Nikolay Pavlinov, who is said to be a member of the Podolskie OCG. At the same time, some new defendants have recently appeared in the case. The CrimeRussia has followed this high-profile case, which is falling apart.
On April 16, the Moscow Regional Court altered the preventive measure to Nikolay Pavlinov, changing it from custody to house arrest, which looks more than strange, given his charges. It is also noteworthy that Pavlin’s transfer from the pre-trial detention center was overlooked by the majority of media sources covering this case.
To recall, Chekhov crime lord Pavlin (aka Kolya) was arrested in August 2017 on suspicion of committing crimes under part 1 of Art. 210 of the Russian Criminal Code (Creation of a criminal community (criminal organization) in order to commit one or more serious or especially serious crimes or leadership of the criminal community), part 4 of Art. 159 (Bribe-taking committed by an organized group or on an especially large scale), part 3 of Art. 30 (Preparations for a crime, and attempted crimes), and items ‘a’ and ‘b’ part 4 of Art. 174.1 (Legalization (laundering) of money or other property acquired by a person as a result of committing a crime by an organized group and on an especially large scale).
Initially, Pavlinov was the most significant person in the case of embezzlement of Moscow region land. He was assigned the role of OCC organizer. Considering his weight in the region, he began to feel strong support immediately after the arrest (recall famous boxers Denis Lebedev and Alexander Povetkin, who used to train at the Vityaz Chekhov club, attending his trial). Pavlinov and his friend, Podolskie OCG leader Sergey Lalakin (aka Luchok) owned a network of sports clubs, including the Chekhov hockey team and the Podolsk football and boxing sections, through dummy persons. In one of the interviews, Lebedev said that he knew only the positive sides of Pavlinov and did not know anything about “any such group whatsoever.”
Lebedev and Povetkin in court
In 2017, lawyers bombarded the Babushkinsky District Court of Moscow with appeals on transferring Pavlinov to house arrest, citing the fact that he was not previously convicted, was a pensioner, suffered from serious illnesses, was positively characterized, and did charity. However, due to the fact that Pavlinov was accused of committing serious crimes not related to entrepreneurial activity as a group of persons by prior conspiracy, as well as the availability of operational information from preliminary investigation bodies that he was associated with criminal groups operating in the territory of the Moscow Region and was the organizer of one of them, the court refused them every time.
This is exactly why the case was reviewed in a Moscow court, and not in a regional one, where Pavlin had levers to influence court decision.
Pavlinov's house fence
Nevertheless, in 2019, the case was referred to the Chekhov district court, due to which three judges self-disqualified. As a result, on March 18, judge Sergey Gurov managed to refer the case of Pavlinov and his alleged accomplices, who were accused under the same articles – businessman Arkady Babev, Head of Department No. 4 of the Federal Cadastral Chamber of the Federal Service for State Registration, Cadastre and Cartography of the Moscow region, Oleg Bolshakov, ex-Commander of a military unit in the city of Chekhov-3 Andrey Vasilenko, and real estate agent Igor Rodchenkov – by its jurisdiction, to the Moscow Regional Court.
On April 16, 2019, it placed Pavlinov under house arrest (there is no judicial act on the court website). In June 2019, the same court considered the appeal of the Prosecutor’s Office to annul this decision and decided to forward the material to a new appeal with a differently constituted bench, and the case was referred to the Serpukhov City Court of the Moscow region, from where it was returned to the prosecutor on a formal basis; a copy of the indictment was handed over to the persons accused. As a result, all the main defendants are currently under house arrest, and some of them have even been released on their own recognizance.
What would that mean in the realities of our judicial system? It is unlikely that the court suddenly decided to take into account the health problems of the suspect several years later. Perhaps, the investigation has not yet found clear evidence of guilt? Or maybe it decided to change the line of charge? In any case, all this looks rather strange, considering that according to the Pavlinov’s lawyer Alexander Pogonchenkov, his client does not plead guilty and refuses to cooperate with the investigation.
It turned out that other defendants of this case took advantage of this situation and got minimum sentences.
Last November, the Chekhov City Court of the Moscow region found Danis Nizametdinov guilty under part 2 of Art. 210, and part 4 of Art. 159 and sentenced him to 5 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 1 million rubles ($15,688). Nizametdinov pleaded guilty, and the case was examined using a special procedure with the conclusion of a plea agreement.
This Chekhov entrepreneur became the first person detained as part of this case and was initially considered the leader of an OCG pulling scams with Moscow region land. As reported by regional media, it was him, an assistant to Oleg Strekalov (Pavlinov’s right-hand man), who developed an embezzlement scheme back in the 2000s. He had a lot of sensitive information, which he disclosed to operatives and got off cheap.
Strekalov sure had a lot to say too, but he is currently on the international wanted list. A few years before the criminal case was initiated, the businessman, who supervised the OCC’s “financial affairs,” first he left for Europe, and then to the USA, where he now lives in his own huge house with his daughter and grandchildren.
Strekalov with his granddaughter in the US
To recall, the scam was to provide the regional branches of Rosreestr and the Federal Property Management Agency with inaccurate information, with the help of which the lands belonging to the Ministry of Defense, Forestry, and other government departments were transferred to criminals. After that, the land was resold to dummy persons several times to form a positive story and was eventually put out for sale to the final buyer; it was also used to build villa communities.
For example, a 2.4-hectare agricultural land plot in this region costs 250 thousand rubles ($3,920), while a land plot with the same area intended for the construction of a shopping center has a cadastral value of 62 million rubles ($972,163) and a market value of 120 million rubles ($1.8 million). Thus, according to the investigation, in the period from the end of 2011 to August 2016, members of the OCC committed seven crimes, taking possession of property in the amount of at least 281 million rubles ($4.4 million), while having time to legalize plots and buildings of 60 million rubles ($941,400) (initially, a source in the ICR stated that it could be a theft of federal ownership worth 11 billion rubles, or $172.6 million).
Along with Nizametdinov, Deputy Head of the Federal Tax Service Inspectorate in Chekhov, Yulia Ivanova, also got 5 years. According to a certain secret witness, she was introduced to Pavlin by thief in law Oleg Shishkanov-Medvedev (Shishkan). At the same time, he said that the appointment of some Moscow region officials took place with the consent of the thief and at the expense of the thieves’ common fund. Ivanova was also found guilty of committing a number of crimes under part 2 of Art. 210 and part 4 of Art. 159 of the Russian Criminal Code.
Back then, in November 2018, businessman Vladimir Naydin was also sentenced to three years. As well as Oleg Evstigneev, who was said to be a member of the Chekhovskie OCG. According to the court materials, Evstigneev had informal connections in the administration of the Chekhov municipal region, Moscow region, and a certain authority in the Chekhov region.
In addition, former heads of the Chekhov district, Sergey Yudin (2013-2018) and Anatoly Chibeskov (2005-2010) were also mentioned in the case of land embezzlement. They both were detained in late 2017 and sent under house arrest. However, in April 2019, Podolsky City Court sentenced Yudin to four years’s ordinary imprisonment for swindling on an especially large scale as part of a group. Chibeskov is currently charged with the same article (4 of Art. 159 of the Russian Criminal Code). Back in early February, the case was reviewed by the Chekhov court, since then, hearings have been postponed 12 times due to the non-attendance of witnesses.
Sergei Yudin and Anatoly Chibeskov
So, despite Pavlinov’s silence, the “talkativeness” of others, apparently, allowed to continue investigative actions. In January 2019, the FSB conducted searches in the Chekhov Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the head of which, Andrey Bolshakov was suspected of having links with an organized crime group. Investigators also searched his home, however the colonel had nothing but a Makarov pistol with its serial number filed off on him. As a result, the only thing with which the ICR Main Investigations Directorate in the Moscow region could charge him was Illegal Storage of Firearms (Art. 222 of the Russian Criminal Code), while the Babushkinsky District Court of Moscow elected a preventive measure in the form of a ban on certain actions against the officer, namely, he was forbidden to leave his house at night. In May, Bolshakov’s preventive measure was extended. His part in the Chekhov case is still not revealed.
Then, on March 21, FSB officers together with Moscow region police officers came to the administration of the Chekhov district, as well as to the administration of the Rosreestr in the Moscow region and the Bureau of Technical Inventory of the Chekhov region.
After that, First Deputy head of the Chekhov City District Administration, Dmitry Frish, was detained. According to the investigation, in 2015, the official signed a contract of sale of a municipal building to a person who was not authorized to buy the entire premises without bidding or auction. At the same time, Chekhov’s administration did not get the money. Soon after that, the Babushkinsky Court of Moscow placed Frish under house arrest; later, investigators found other episodes of the official’s illegal activities. On July 26, the second case of Bribe-Taking was initiated.
In the city, Frish was responsible for the administration’s cooperation with security officials, coordinated the work of the funeral and advertising business, and was responsible for the land and property complex. At the same time, according to a source in the administration, before joining the administration, Frish worked in the criminal investigation department, where he acquired operational skills. This experience helped him organize the process in such a way that all the actions were performed by dummies.
Later, in July, the same Babushkinsky Court of Moscow placed Chekhov entrepreneur, Anton Elgin, under house house arrest; the man is suspected of Mediation in Bribery (part 4 of Art. 291.1) to Frish, who received two plots worth 70 million rubles ($1 million) in the village of Repnikovo for patronage during the alienation of special purpose lands on which military units were located. In addition, Elgin was one of those dummy persons, in whose name the land was registered.
Another possible defendant in the case is Colonel Andrey Kudryashov, who used to head the financial department of the Special Objects Service, an organization engaged in the construction of underground shelters for top officials of the State. However, on June 5, his body was found outside a 15-storey residential building on Okruzhnaya Street in Moscow. It turned out that Kudryashov had fallen from his son’s apartment window. A week before this, he had been dismissed from the Special Objects Service. Even earlier, the FSB had searched the legal department of one of the Special Objects Service units, namely, the so-called military unit 52583, which is located in the closed military town of Chekhov-2. As a result, the ICR in the Moscow region initiated a criminal case under Art. 210 of the Russian Criminal Code (Organization of a criminal community or participation in it).
FSB officers seized documents related to land surveying of part of the land plot of a special facility, bordering the Moscow region village. According to the investigation, 35 hectares of land were stolen as a result of land surveying. There is a feeling that this case will never be terminated, as any person associated with the state structures of the Chekhov district has something to do with it.
But if we move away from the formal course of business, we will see a somewhat different picture. A Telegram channel VChK-OGPU has recently set out its own version of Pavlinov's troubles, presenting this as a conflict with Luchok, whose sphere of interests, in addition to his native Podolsk, always included the Chekhov district. Due to this, supported by security forces - Deputy Head of the Office for Combating Crimes Against the Person of the MIA General Administration of Criminal Investigation, Police Colonel Dmitry Filatov, now former Deputy Chief of the operational department of the MIA Main Directorate in the Moscow region Igor Bolloev, and his brother, ex-chief of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Podolsk, Stanislav Bolloev – he demanded a share of $3 million from Strekalov, who sold his shopping center for $55 million. The latter wanted all the money for himself and left Russia. So the debt was pinned on Pavlin, who eventually ended up behind bars.
It is noteworthy that Strekalov himself said something similar in an interview with Novye Izvestia after The CrimeRussia published an investigation about his role in Chekhov’s business schemes and life in the United States after his escape. Strekalov explained the criminal cases initiated against him as revenge for refusing to pay tribute to corrupt rogue cops. According to the businessman, his troubles began in 2012, immediately after he sold the Karnaval shopping center in the center of Chekhov for more than 1 billion rubles ($15.7 million), after which an envoy came from high-ranking police officers, demanding $2 million from Strekalov. The businessman decided not to give them money. In response to such impertinence, they threatened him with problems. Among those who directly supervised the active search measures in relation to Strekalov, Igor Bolloev is mentioned, who has been recently called a “shadow behind the scenes” in the Moscow Region.
The version of another Telegram channel Oper Slil is a bit different. Law enforcers took interest in Strekalov after they noticed the withdrawal of large sums to unfriendly Ukraine, in which Strekalov had strong family and financial ties. Then, the FSB posed as a condition that Pavlinov should lure Strekalov to Russia, and when this did not happen, he was arrested.
The case has not yet been terminated, but specifically in the case of Pavlin, the following situation is true – either Strekalov somehow managed to resolve the issue with money, or it became clear that keeping Pavlinov in prison mad no sense.