Federal service without sense of danger
The recent high-profile corruption scandals and arrests in the Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation cloud the reputation of the most powerful law enforcement agency in the country. The arrests of FSB special forces troopers and Kirill Cherkalin, Head of the 2nd Department of “K” Directorate of the FSB Economic Security Service, are likely interrelated.
A new management model has been formed in Russia in the last 20 years. Instead of the ‘Seven Bankers' Cabal’ – when oligarchs had not only controlled the economy but also determined the policy of the state – ‘plainclothes men’ have come to power. Officers (and former officers) of secret services occupied all key positions in the country and became high-ranked functionaries, Governors, Deputies, etc. It is fair to say that modern Russia is managed by law enforcement officials – and this management model is obviously malfunctioning. Invincible – up until recently – officers of the secret service have fallen victims to the repressions machine created by them.
In 2012, the Ministry of Defense sustained the first major reputational damage – this refers to the case against Minister Anatoly Sergyukov and his subordinate and partner Evgenia Vasilieva. In 2014, lieutenant general Denis Sugrobov, Head of the General Administration for Combating Economic Crimes of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the Russian Federation, was detained and charged with creation of a criminal community covering-up underground casinos. The next to get under the blow was the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR) – its high-ranked functionaries had received bribes from thief-in-law Zakhary Kalashov (Shakro Molodoy). Then another scandal has escalated in the MIA – some 9 billion rubles ($143.2 million) in cash were seized from colonel Dmitry Zakharchenko, and nobody could explain or establish the origin of this money. The Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation was behind all these high-profile arrests.
Rumors started circulating that an interdepartmental struggle is ongoing in the country: the FSB vs. other law enforcement structures. Furthermore, in the recent years, arrests of FSB officers – the elite of the ‘knights of the cloak and dagger’ – have become increasingly frequent as well.
In spring 2019, Kirill Cherkalin, Head of the 2nd Department of "K" Directorate of the FSB Economic Security Service, his predecessor on this post Dmitry Frolov, and operative Andrei Vasiliev
were detained on suspicion of corruption. Twelve billion rubles ($190.9 million) have been seized from the counterintelligence officer – this is 3 billion rubles ($47.7 million) more than the amount confiscated from colonel Dmitry Zakharchenko, a former officer of the MIA Main Directorate of Economic Security and Combating the Corruption. It took ten bags to pack the money.
Kirill Cherkalin had served in “K” Directorate responsible for the counterintelligence supervision of the credit and financial sphere. Supposedly, he had received money for ‘general patronage’ from representatives of commercial structures, including heads of banks. However, the total amount of bribes is much less than the sum discovered during the searches – it is only $850 thousand. The bribes were received from some Nazarov “in the period from November 2013 to February 2015 for actions or inaction committed for the benefit of the bribe-giver and commercial structures and general patronage”.
Their accomplices from commercial structures have been arrested in absentia and put on the wanted list. According to Kommersant newspaper, Cherkalin, Frolov, and Vasiliev had also practiced raidership. They have seized from businessman Sergei Glyadelkin a share in the charter capital of Yurpromkonsalting Limited Liability Company worth 490 million rubles ($7.8 million).
A few weeks later, several more secret service officers were arrested for an armed assault. The Moscow Garrison Military Court has detained five FSB servicemen: Aleksander Karelin, Roman Obolensky, Vladimir Urusov, Dmitry Chikvin, and Artur Vlasov. Two more officers – Khetag Margiev and Dmitry Kapyshkin – were placed under home arrest. Many of them have already admitted their guilt. In total, 30 persons have been charged under part 4 of Article 162 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (robbery on an especially large scale committed by an organized group).
Roman Obolensky (on the left) and Dmitry Kapyshkin (on the right)
All suspects are operatives of Alfa and Vympel special forces units and “K” Directorate of the FSB. Eight officers of Alfa special forces unit became aware of the arrests of their seven colleagues, their own status in this criminal case, and charges laid against them during an official trip to the North Caucasus – and absconded. Detained major Aleksander Karelin, an officer of “K” Directorate, is a grandson of a professor of the FSB Academy.
Hero of Russia Valery Kanakin, Commander of A (Alfa) Directorate of the FSB Special Operations Center, has resigned – although some media claim that he had retired back in March (i.e. before the arrest of his subordinates) upon attaining the required length of service.
According to Rosbalt.ru, the secret service officers had covered-up cashing-out establishments. Special forces troopers were retained as ‘cash couriers’ and security guards. Many shady bankers had used their services, including thief-in-law Konstantin Vasiliev (Kostya Shram (Kostya the Scar)), criminal ‘authority’ Konstantin Kuramshin (Kostya Biker), Ivan Myazin, Aleksander Grigoriev affiliated with Podol’skie organized criminal group, Aleksander Sysoev, Ruslan Tokarev, etc. All of them were earlier detained for illegal banking operations.
Konstantin Vasiliev (Kostya Shram)
The smoothly-running cover-up mechanism ensuring their safety has malfunctioned at some point. Their ‘supervisor’ from the FSB Internal Security Directorate – the one who had created this scheme – was removed from office, and no one was able to supersede him. However, the officers that used to be ‘cash couriers’ and security guards got used to high wages and were unwilling to lose those. The special forces troopers decided to unofficially clamp down on cashing-out operators. Then started ‘busing’ their establishments and appropriating the seized funds. No one would dare to complain because the stolen cash was illegal. The rogue officers had shared the proceeds with suppliers of intelligence information, tipsters, operatives of the FSB Internal Security Directorate and “K” Directorate, etc.
According to Rosbalt.ru, thefts of money seized in the course of official searches became increasingly frequent as well. For instance, 100 million rubles ($1.6 million), out of the 9 billion rubles ($143.2 million) seized from the apartment of Dmitry Zakharchenko, have disappeared without a trace. During the searches of the residence of parents of Andrei Kaminov, Head of Ateks Federal State Unitary Enterprise of the Federal Protection Service of the Russian Federation, the operatives have initially discovered 8.5 million rubles ($135.2 thousand) and $790 thousand. Later, this sum somehow decreased by 500 thousand rubles ($8 thousand) and $30 thousand. It cannot be ruled out that the sum initially seized from Kirill Cherkalin was much larger. Alfa troopers participating in searches had removed metal plates from their body armor in advance and then put bundles of unaccounted cash there.
The Alfa and Vympel troopers were busted during a ‘clampdown’ on another cashing-out establishment controlled by a native of China known as Petya. The underground financial organization was exposed by FSB operatives who decided not to institute a criminal case under Article 172 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (illegal banking activity) in a hope to make some money on this. Several Chinese citizens employed at Sadovod (Gardener) Trade Complex decided to change 140 million rubles ($2.2 million) into US dollars in a small branch of Metallurg Bank on Ivana Babushkina street in Moscow. At that moment, FSB officers have stormed into the branch – supposedly, at the prompting of its employees – and seized the money. Allegedly, this was done in the course of a special operation.
The date and time of the unofficial raid of the FSB special forces troopers against the Chinese businessmen are unknown. No specific information about their arrest is available as well. On July 2, the FSB web site has announced the arrest of “servicemen of the secret service involved in the theft of funds belonging to a private entrepreneur”. No details were provided by the FSB Press Service. It is known though that the arrests were performed jointly by FSB and MIA operatives.
There is virtually no official information on this case; the media receive all details from their sources in law enforcement structures. According to them, the illegal business run by the troopers went wrong after the arrest of Kirill Cherkalin, Head of the 2nd Department of “K” Directorate of the FSB Economic Security Service.
New terminations among high-ranked FSB functionaries are inevitable because such a large-scale criminal scheme could not be pulled off without the assistance of some ‘high patrons'. This scandal in the FSB is the most high-profile one – but it is not the sole such incident.
Another episode tarnishing the reputation of the FSB is the framed-up case against journalist Ivan Golunov. Supposedly, some FSB officials had intended to lock him up for critical articles affecting their interest using MIA operatives as proxies. Golunov was preparing a new material about the funeral business; names of two high-ranked FSB commanders were mentioned in it: colonel general Aleksei Dorofeev, Head of the FSB Directorate for Moscow and the Moscow Region, and lieutenant colonel Marat Medoev subordinate to him.
Operatives of the FSB Directorate of Internal Security are currently checked for complicity in these crimes. It cannot be ruled out that staffing reshuffles would be the only result of the story with journalist Golunov. Similarly with the ‘resignation’ of Valery Kanakin, this may become known to the public much later. According to some information, a major general from another FSB subdivision is investigated for involvement in swindling and robbery.
Overall, it seems that the FSB sustained a loss in yet another round of the struggle between rival law enforcement agencies.