“The gang is just the ‘lower storey’ of a much larger structure”. Organized criminal group led by Volobui. Part III
The investigation of the case against the organized criminal group under the leadership of Dmitry Volobuev is almost completed. Taking the current judicial practices, the Kursk criminal ‘authority’ – who still denies any guilt – is facing a pretty severe sentence. However, this trial is going to be very elusive – the investigators are unwilling to explain how could a small local gang evade criminal liability for many years.
The sentences passed upon two close associates of Volobui – Dmitry Lifinsky and Maksim Pakhomov – indirectly confirm the severity of his forthcoming punishment. On February 26, 2019, Pakhomov has been sentenced to 12 years behind bars for complicity in the murder of Kursk criminal ‘authority’ Dili. The both accomplices of Volobui have made plea deals, fully admitted their guilt, and shared with the investigation numerous details of operations of the criminal group. Therefore, in its verdict, the court won't be able to ignore the testimonies of people close to the gang leader.
However, the trial of Dmitry Volobuev is likely going to be very elusive. Despite the long duration of the investigation (more than two years), the operatives are unwilling to explain how could a small local gang evade criminal liability for many years carrying out various ‘operations’ involving grievous and especially grievous crimes. Our previous publications based on interviews with former and acting law enforcement officers have shed some light on the gang formation and development and named a number of officials covering up the criminals. After these revelations, it seemed that all possibilities for further journalistic investigation have been exhausted. Therefore, The CrimeRussia editorial board had reasonably thought that it is impossible to explain how could the criminal group get off the hook for such a long time.
On March 7, 2017, Volobui was arrested in Kursk and charged with masterminding the murder of his ‘colleague' – prominent regional criminal Sergei Delyukin (Dilya). Then Volobuev has been charged with the creation of a criminal community. According to the investigation, Kursk Vice Mayor Nikolai Zaitsev, ex-Head of the General Administration for the Kursk Region of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the Russian Federation, was a member of this community. Shortly after that, the son of Nikolai Zaitsev and brother of Volobui have been detained as well. Currently, all of them, as well as several henchmen of the criminal ‘authority', are charged under Article 210 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (creation of a criminal community (criminal organization) and participation therein) stipulating severe punishments, including life in prison.
Apparently, the investigation is going to insist that Nikolai Zaitsev, ex-Head of the MIA General Administration for the Kursk Region, was the main ‘patron’ of the bros. However, it is obvious that he technically could not cover up his ‘underlings' alone. But the inconvenient questions about the incompleteness of the investigation and absence of numerous economic facts in the case file would likely be ignored by the law enforcement authorities. The main question is: how could the Kursk criminal ‘authorities' get such impunity? If the state is a living organism, then the gang led by Volobui is a local immunodeficiency disorder. Normally, the law enforcement structures act as the immunity by identifying, tracking, and localizing (or neutralizing) the destructive elements.
But in this particular case, numerous governmental officials were powerless to stop a small group of criminals. Furthermore, it became known that operative actions against them were barely carried out. Such impotence of the law enforcement authorities suggests that the ‘system' hadn't ‘seen' the ‘brigade' – i.e. the ‘patronage' provided to Volobuev had a systemic nature.
In the public administration system, every weird phenomenon, or mistake, or failure has a specific ‘hero of the occasion’ having the first and last name.
The CrimeRussia concluded that the unique invulnerability of the gang led by Dmitry Volobuev cannot be explained only by the corruption factor. There must be other motives forcing governmental officials responsible for combating the crime to ignore all incoming information and do nothing, thus, enabling the bandits to kill people, seize assets, and infiltrate almost all spheres of life in the Kursk region, including such ‘painful points’ of the society as elevator repairs, housing and utilities sector, capital renovations, land sales, and control over some Kursk Deputies. However, we were unable to explain the weird ‘blindness’ of some civil and law enforcement institutions due to lack of additional information.
However, The CrimeRussia was recently contacted by a person claiming to be a law enforcement officer (and presenting the proof of this). He agreed to share some new information with us on condition of anonymity – which is not surprising, taking the character of this information. His revelations explain the invulnerability of Volobui and his henchmen – who had carried out criminal operations ignoring vain attempts of some enthusiasts from the Federal Security Service (FSB), MIA, and Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR) to put an end to their activities.
We are publishing this interview in two parts with minimum changes.
— Hi. First, can you please explain to us your goal. Why have you decided to make public some facts pertaining to the operations of Dmitry Volobuev's gang and what do you expect from this?
— The goal is simple – fatigue. And the desire to share information about mechanisms used by the gang to ensure the safety of its members. Why have I decided to contact specifically you? The point is that one of the people earlier interviewed by The CrimeRussia with regards to this organized criminal group is a close friend of mine. He forwarded me the materials with his revelations and invited to visit him. We had a talk, I told him something he was not aware of... In response, he gave me your contact. I don’t want’ to ‘bury’ this information together with myself. I am going to tell you everything, you publish this – and, perhaps, some changes occur. But I must warn: the conversation will be lengthy; the story involves plenty of events, facts, and persons. You have to understand the patterns and cause-and-effect relationship. It takes time. First, I am going to describe circumstances resulting in the formation of this criminal group and then provide the ‘background’. I will also tell you who was not interested in the arrest of the criminals and why.
— How do you think, what changes may occur?
— I am not naive and know that the current trend is to disregard media publications. Perhaps, this time, it will be different? I am going to tell you not about some little things – but about a systemic situation: an organized criminal group had collected compromising materials against officials for years and used that information for its purposes. Primarily, to avoid liability for crimes. And, perhaps, to make some money. I became aware of this in the line of duty. Analyzing the operations of the organized criminal group under the leadership of Volobuev, I have encountered a number of weird facts. For instance, the gang was afraid of some law enforcement officials (e.g. general V. Sidorov, ex-deputy head of the Kursk police) and ignored others with disdain. I decided to dig deeper and find out the reason behind this. Bribes? Or something else?
— So, how would you like to begin?
— From the end. I believe that the gang itself is just the ‘lower storey’ of a much larger structure involving functionaries of law enforcement and civil agencies. The purpose of Volobui’s gang – as a chain in the link – was to receive and launder funds, redistribute those between other persons, and perform actions that could not be performed by the ‘puppet masters’ for a number of reasons. I think that the ‘core’ of the group consisted of officers of the Administration for Combating Organized Crime of the MIA General Administration for the Kursk Region and a few persons from other structures. Some 15-20 years ago, this circle of people started forming the basis for the future ‘kraken’ that had held the region for several years. This structure does not have a clear vertical hierarchy. It resembles not a pyramidal system with bosses and subordinates – but rather a network community having no official leaders but protecting its interests.
— Who are these people? What are their interests? What are their goals? What did they want for themselves? What were their motives?
— The motives were simple. These people (at least, the majority of them) are “principled fighters for money”. For any kinds of money. Ideally, in freely convertible currencies. To achieve their goals, they needed power. The story began with the conjunction of interests of a number of high-ranked persons. According to my information, one of them was Nikolai Minenkov, an officer of the Administration for Combating Organized Crime (he used to work as an Administrative Practice Inspector in the Promyshlenny District Police Department for a long time); another person was Vladimir Ledovskikh. Both of them were close associates of general Aleksei Volkov, then-Head of the MIA General Administration for the Kursk Region. Volkov has ‘brought’ Ledovskikh with him to the region; Minenkov was ‘picked’ by him here. At that time, Minenkov was looking for a new place of work after a conflict with his boss Viktor Amelin.
— Was Minenkov successful at the new place?
— Absolutely! So, these persons started looking for possibilities to make some quick and easy money using their official capacity. The general could not do such things himself. There were plenty of ways to increase revenues. I remember that Pigorev, ex-Director of Kurskrezinotekhnika Factory, became one of their ‘milking cows’. He has built some cottages for the policemen near Tropinka street. But this was not enough! Therefore, they had no choice but to bring to heel the regional organized crime and force it to share the criminal proceeds.
— And what did they do?
— They acted pretty straightforwardly. There was no question whom to bring to heel – the Regional Administration for Combating Organized Crime had no much alternative. At that time, major organized criminal groups had operated in Kursk under the control of thieves-in-law Vasily Vyalykh (Gutor) and Viktor Panyushin (Vitya Pan). Gutor did not have his own gang – he had acted as an arbitrator and was a long-term drug addict. The group under the leadership of Vladimir Povetkin (Vovsya), father of boxer Povetkin, had stood apart from the thieves. Vovsya was a Candidate Master of Sports in Boxing, former police officer convicted in the 1980s for ‘patronage’ of Kursk underground producers, and pioneer of the local racketeering. The prison term served in the ‘special zone’ of the Correctional Labor Colony № 13 hasn’t daunted Povetkin senior – but made him stronger. Shortly after the release, he has created a group of athletes left with nothing after the collapse of the USSR. At the height of his power, the ‘brigade’ had controlled plenty of spheres in Kursk and its districts. You won't believe it – but it had collected ‘levies' even from the nuclear station. They had shared the criminal proceeds with the thieves and paid some dues to the thieves’ pooled cash fund – but not much, just to avoid conflicts. Vovsya was a very flexible and reasonable, taking his occupation, person, and it was easy to come to an agreement with him. And they made such an agreement. However, thieves Panyushin and Gutor were recognized unsuitable for negotiations for a number of reasons. First, it was compromising to deal with them. Second, they and their henchmen did not have their own (not paying ‘levies’ – but own) legal entities. And third, Gutor and Pan could not be controlled – the former one due to drug issues, and the latter one because he had always played his own games.
Thief-in-law Gutor (on the left)
Thief-in-law Vitya Pan (on the right)
— So, what happened?
— A supporting rationale for the command was produced: allegedly, an operative game has been launched with the group led by Povetkin to create a counter to the thieves. The approval was received, ‘right' persons have been bribed, and voila! Vovsya had understood the situation very well and followed certain rules. He had obeyed instructions received from the ‘center', paid a ‘cut' of the proceeds, and, as a result, had no problems with the law. His friends had done so, too. The chain of companies created by him partially operates up to now. In the meantime, Ledovskikh and Minenkov started creating their own team within the Administration for Combating Organized Crime. They had dealt with many people and were able to select the candidates carefully. The following persons were accepted into the ‘inner circle': Nikolai Zaitsev, Yuri Pokin'-Boroda, Dmitry Dymov, Vitaly Kazakov, Aleksei Moskalev, Oleg Kutsevalov, Aleksander Samokhov, and some other law enforcement officers. Apparently, a file with compromising materials was created for each candidate. Over time, the control of the ‘primary conspirators' over the situation has partially weakened. Their patron Aleksei Volkov resigned and became a Deputy of the State Duma. Some of the above-mentioned people were still serving in the Administration for Combating Organized Crime (Ledovskikh became the Head of the Administration for Combating Organized Crime of the Kursk Region), while some of them transferred to other subdivisions. Nikolai Minenkov became the Head of the MIA Administration for the City of Kursk (reportedly, Aleksei Volkov had pushed him to that post). Moskalev has married the daughter of Minenkov and became the head of the district police department from which his father-in-law had fled a long time ago. Zaitsev and Kutsevalov followed Minenkov. Dymov initially remained in the Administration for Combating Organized Crime and then took charge of the Kursk Center "E". Kazakov (and later, Samokhov) have ended up in the Operations and Search Division of Internal Security (then-Administration of Internal Security) of the Kursk police. Other ‘illuminati' had also transferred to various structures. Therefore, the influence of the ‘primary conspirators' has somehow weakened due to lower concentrations of officers under their control in subdivisions – but, on the other hand, their influence has expanded due to the broader ‘coverage' of positions and institutions.
Vladimir Povetkin (Vovsya) with son Aleksander
— So, hasn’t ‘mafia’ disintegrated?
— Not at all! They had demonstrated amazing mutual supportiveness. For instance, during his service in the Administration for Combating Organized Crime, Nikolai Zaitsev had a car accident – and he was the guilty party. I don't remember the circumstances – but it definitely was his fault. So, to get Zaitsev off the hook, Oleg Kutsevalov has taken the blame and said that he was behind the wheel. He even had to temporarily resign from the police – for a short period. The Kutsevalov got reinstated, spent some time as a subordinate of Aleksei Moskalev, Minenkov's son-in-law, and then was appointed by Zaitsev and Minenkov the Head of the Kursk Criminal Investigation Department. Other members had also maintained close and mutually beneficial ties. Even if they had conflicts in the line of duty, they had never done harm to each other. For instance, Vitaly Kazakov, then-Head of the Administration of Internal Security, had prosecuted subordinates of Zaitsev only after holding with him behind-the-scene negotiations – Zaitsev and Minenkov had provided to him yet another ‘sacred sacrifice'. This was explained as follows: everybody is doing his job, and Kazakov also needs results. Therefore, some officers were ‘thrown under the bus' to secure the conspirators' positions. Sometimes, this was done reluctantly. Take, for instance, Vladimir Dolzhansky, Deputy Head of the Kursk Criminal Police, caught with a fake diploma. Zaitsev was unwilling to give him up – but still granted the request of Kazakov and got something in exchange. But Dolzhansky was valuable for Zaitsev – so, he has settled the issue with the prosecutor, relieved Dolzhansky (who had no idea of that bargain) from criminal liability, and terminated him. Concurrently, Kazakov has scored another success and reported the purge of the police ranks from ‘rogue cops'.
— And what happened next? Prior to the interview, you mentioned that Minenkov and Ledovskikh had retired from service a long time ago. Does that mean that the ‘seeds’ planted by them have ‘germinated’?
— Not only the two of them were making decisions... There were plenty of people there... But they were in the center. However, change is all around us. These two have retired. Ledovskikh became a pensioner, while Minenkov was appointed (in exchange for services rendered to Kursk Head Nikolai Ovcharov) the head of the local funeral home – Spetstrest Municipal Unitary Enterprise. But even after their departure, the situation remained the same. None of the persons ‘tamed’ by Minenkov or Ledovskikh was prosecuted by the Administration of Internal Security under the command of another their ‘disciple’. Some episodes were really funny. For instance, Andrei, a relative of Zaitsev living on Soyuznaya street, has launched large-scale bootleg liquor sales in the Zheleznodorozhny district. Furthermore, he was accepting passports of local drunkards as deposits and sold them alcohol ‘on account’. Kazakov and his ‘loyal sword bearer’ Aleksander Semykin had taken any effort to hush-up that case. The issue has escalated to our level, and we had to put an end to this circus. But the very fact!.. It's fun and farce. Concurrently, Vitaly Grigor’evich Kazakov was not wasting time as well. His spouse launched a series of food sales booths. In fact, the main ‘food product’ there was vodka. But that was not a big deal, right? It did not matter that Kazakov has provided a leverage against himself to his opponents –aren’t we in the same boat? Then Kazakov has got an interesting friend – Aleksander Anatol’evich Chernikov, a former officer of the Administration of Internal Security of the MIA General Administration for the Kursk Region, earlier convicted for bribes. This person became a ‘runner for special errands’ for his ‘boss’ Kazakov – he had conducted meetings, solved ‘delicate’ issues, organized bathhouse parties and celebrations, etc. A nice mediator in ‘business affairs’. Concurrently, Chernikov had collected from unsuspecting people big money for employment of their relatives with the police and FSB. He has indeed arranged appointments of some of them to the police – but not for all of them. With regards to the FSB, it was just a pack of lies – and he paid for that. A defrauded person submitted a criminal complaint accusing Chernikov of swindling. For some reasons, Kazakov was unable to get his henchman off the hook. Chernikov was arrested; a Browning automatic pistol was found on him. He was thoroughly questioned – and some police officers gained materials compromising Kazakov. In fact, Chernikov did not make a secret of his relations with the ‘police internal security boss’. Interestingly, after serving his term in Nizhny Novgorod, Chernikov returned to Kursk and bowed down to Kazakov again. And Kazakov took him back for some time. The ‘loyal sword bearer’ had served the police colonel up until his resignation.
— How does this information relate to Volobui? After all, he and his impunity are the main topic of the article.
— Without this introduction, neither yourself nor The CrimeRussia audience would be able to understand the further logic of the events. These events are directly based on the above information. The point is that, since the early 2000s, Vovsya started growing weak. Physically. Because of his age, turbulent youth, legalization of the business, etc... He could not perform the ‘pumping–distributing’ function anymore due to the above reasons. However, he still wielded authority and influence. Vovsya had controlled an impressive number of fighters – some 300 persons. But he was not good enough for his supervisors anymore. Therefore, these experienced conspirators have launched – taking into consideration the benefits and disadvantages of their first project – so-called ‘project № 2’: Dima Volobui! They gave the green light to a young – but bold and promising – criminal ‘authority’. They had ignored his ‘escapades’ and carefully ‘fattened’ him. Concurrently, they were dividing the ‘strings of influence’ on him with Sergei Podchalimov – who had established ties with Volobuev earlier and used the ‘young hopeful’ for the purposes of the FSB. After finding common points, the conspirators have launched the ‘active phase’ under the same pretext: creation of a counter to the thieves’ community. They had carefully ‘boosted’ Dima, allowed him to get ‘fed up', and trained, including the seizure of Shantal complex – this is a separate story, I will tell about it later. Concurrently, the members of the ‘secret society' (Nikolai Zaitsev has already become its leader) were checking their strength and limitations. Apparently, Podchalimov impersonates the same policy in the FSB. Although many people there had disagreed with such a statement of purpose. But somehow, Sergei Afanas'evich managed to convince his superiors... Although his true motives are still unclear to me. I will explain later why. Based on a number of indications, influential MIA investigator Albert Sushkov has somehow joined this ‘nice company' of ‘gang breeders'. He was responsible for combating organized crime. Apparently, he was ‘hooked up' in that sphere. And now it comes to what is most interesting.
— What exactly?
— The seizure of Shantal complex! You wrote about it in the previous materials. But no details were provided. In fact, very few people are aware of all circumstances of that operation. I dare to hope that I am one of them. In 2010, a conflict has escalated between Oleg Mukhin and Aleksander Nikitin – the two co-owners of Elegia company controlling Shantal restaurant complex. In the course of this conflict, they had tried to seize each other's assets; this is normal for the big business – and such disputes are usually resolved through court action or arbitration. But Mukhin has crossed the line and took the path of criminal prosecution and pressurizing the opponent. But initially, all his efforts were in vain – Nikitin had easily fended off his attacks. Then Mukhin decided to enlist the help of Moscow lawyer Evstigneev, a former FSB officer terminated for some reasons. Evstigneev arrived in Kursk and, according to my information, somehow established contact with above-mentioned Sergei Podchalimov asking him to find in Kursk people able to assist in the solution of ‘delicate' issues. Podchalimov, in turn, addressed for help his ‘protege’ Dmitry Volobuev. At that time, his ‘brigade' included some 100 fighters, including former law enforcement officers. Mukhin had a talk with Dmitry and promised him the restaurant building in exchange for severe punishment and criminal conviction of Nikitin. So, in spring 2011, a swindling case was instituted against Nikitin by the Investigations Department of the MIA General Administration for the Kursk Region. Mukhin was pleased with the ‘assistance' of the bandits and transferred to Volobui’s brother (Nikolai Volobuev) 45% of shares in Elegia Limited Liability Company – the victim party in that case. Evstigneev received 54.5% of shares in Elegia and resold those to brothers Volobuev for a reasonable price. After such a spectacular success, Volobuev has engaged all his connections and continued ‘putting pressure’. Oleg Okorokov, an officer of the Department for Economic Security and Combating the Corruption mentioned in the previous publications, Nikolai Zaitsev, and some other officials were involved in that case. In the same year of 2011, Nikitin submitted to the FSB Department of Internal Security a criminal complaint accusing Podchalimov of putting pressure on judges of the Kursk Arbitration Court, who were examining the lawsuit filed by Mukhin, in the interests of Mukhin and Volobuev. Nikolai Zaitsev has got Okorokov off the hook. Podchalimov was ‘sent into exile’ to the North Caucasus where he continued his service until the retirement. The mother of Oleg Okorokov (who had liquidated her individual enterprise many years ago) somehow acquired a real property on the first floor of the building at 18 Chelyuskintsev street belonging to her in equal shares with Ms. Butova, born in 1940, – a grand aunt of ‘anti-corruption crusader’ Sergei Gerasimov. Everybody is happy, except for Nikitin – he was sentenced to 6 years behind bars. But who cares? There is an unofficial instruction not to revise cases whose verdicts have already come into effect. So...
— So what?
— So, something changed in Volobuev's mind after the seizure of Shantal. He has realized his possibilities and powers. Despite the loss of one leg in a car explosion, scarce records of telephone conversations and dialogs of Volobuev with other people (recorded by super-directional microphones) show that he started demonstrating bossiness and imperious intonations in that period. Before that operation, he was, in fact, a small figure. But after it, he literally started ‘blossoming’ – despite the injury. He is a very mentally strong person.
— Apart from the bossiness and imperious manners, has something changed in his tactics?
— Everything has changed. Since then, Volobuev was unwilling to play the small role assigned to him. He was eager to become an independent player and started collecting compromising materials against certain persons and ‘saving’ officials getting in trouble. Apparently, Nikolai Zaitsev had assisted him. Only Volobui himself and his spouse (detained in Moscow last year for bribe-giving) know the exact volume and nature of the data collected by him. Based on a few fragments available to me, the volume of this ‘catalogue’ is huge and the information contained there is sensational. It may ruin many careers and bring behind bars dozens of top-rank persons. Therefore, Volobuev reasonably considers himself invincible. By the way, according to a police officer involved in the arrest and convoying of the key gang members, on the first day, the bandits had behaved brazenly on the way to the temporary detention facility and during the subsequent court session held to determine their pretrial restrictions. They had asked the MIA officers in a condescending tone: "Why are you fooling around? Handcuffing us to yourselves? Keeping your hands on gun holsters?.. Don't worry, we won't run away. We will be released soon – and you come to us to apologize..."
In the second part of this material, we are going to provide more detail on the compromising ‘catalogue’ compiled by Volobui and persons mentioned in it.