House in Germany, trip to South Africa and cash from the election fund of United Russia
Text by Vladimir Prokushev, «7x7»
The Gayzer Case
Vyacheslav Gayzer was Head of the Republic of Komi from year 2010. In September 2015, he was arrested and charged for having created an organized crime group that engaged in corruption, blackmailing and other crimes. Along with Gayzer, a total of ten people from the former regional government were arrested. Prosecutors believe the damage inflicted on regional budgets amount to more than 3 billion rubles.
The accused in the Gayzer case continue to testify. At the end of December 2018, during meetings in the Zamoskvoretsky Court of Moscow, the state prosecution and lawyers questioned the specialists who prepared the forensic economic examination for the investigation, which formed the basis of the prosecution. The defense of the accused in turn presented to the court the advice of the Doctor of Law Alexey Rarog. According to his conclusion, it is incorrect to speak about a criminal organization. Also, the testimony of the former deputy head of the Komi Republic Alexey Chernov was read: he spoke about real estate in Germany, the ex-head Gaizer’s trip to the World Cup in South Africa and financial relationships with entrepreneurs Yevgeny Samoilov and Alexander Zarubin. Details — in the review of «7x7».
Consultation of Professor Rarog
At the meeting of December 24, the defense requested to add the results of the consultation of the honorary lawyer of Moscow, the supervisor of the criminal law department of the Moscow State Law University named after O. E. Kutafin, Doctor of Law, Professor Alexey Rarog. The document stated that, at the request of lawyers, Rarog studied the documents on the basis of which the investigation had concluded that the Komi leadership was a criminal organization — and did not agree with it. He believes that the hierarchical structure of the alleged criminal organization is not obvious, and the presence of structural units [in Syktyvkar and Moscow] has not been determined.
According to Rarog, the defendants recognized as leaders of the criminal organization had the same functions; according to the investigation, they developed crime plans, coordinated participants and “provided overall leadership”. “Under such circumstances, the number of participants and managers, subordination, functions are completely unclear, and internal discipline and the means to ensure it are not obvious. In general, there are no signs characterizing the criminal organization,” concluded Rarog.
The professor also noted that the investigation did not determine how the decision to create the criminal organization was made: whether it happened verbally or in writing, using a handshake, drinking alcohol together, or in some other way. The text of the document also states: kinship and official relations in judicial practice have never been considered as a stable criminal relationship, as long-term trusting relationships do not imply stable criminal ties — but they also do not prove the contrary. In this case, it is necessary to determine the point at which criminal relations have arisen — the investigation also did not do that, wrote Rarog.
The state prosecution opposed attaching the results of the consultation to the case file.
«We consider this kind of conclusion to be nothing more than exerting an impact on the court, since the court must be independent in making its decision, and the defense, by listing all the regalia of Rarog twice, is trying to have an impact, that such an honorable scientist does not see the 210th article [“Organization of the criminal group or participation in it”] in the actions of the leaders of the criminal organization. We believe that this is unacceptable, and the purpose of the action lies on the surface,» said the prosecutor.
According to the prosecutor, Gayzer’s lawyer Daria Yevmenina (she read out the document) should have drawn the conclusions of Rarog’s opinion herself during the debate.
«The defender Yevmenina confirmed her own helplessness, leaving such a key question not for her own analysis, but for the conclusion of a professor who hadn’t been in [this] court hearing for a single day,» the prosecutor commented.
The court refused to attach the document to the case file.
At the meetings the testimony of the former deputy head of Komi Alexey Chernov, which he gave at the preliminary investigation, was also read out. The next day after his arrest, in September 2015, Chernov said that he rented an apartment in Syktyvkar together with State Council Speaker Igor Kovzel.
Before becoming an official, Chernov worked in commercial structures. He met Vyacheslav Gayzer in 1997, when he was the deputy director of the Leninergoremont company, which also operated in Komi. A few months after Gayzer became Deputy Minister of Finance, the head of Komi, Vladimir Torlopov, offered Chernov to take the position of adviser to the head of media relations. He agreed and, having moved to the civil service, transferred the shares in the companies to the management of Igor Kovzel. In 2008, Torlopov offered Gayzer and Chernov to become deputies. In 2010, Gayzer became head of the republic, and his predecessor Torlopov took the post of senator from Komi. According to Chernov, Gayzer was not well versed in domestic politics, so Torlopov asked him to remain in the position of deputy for another term.
According to testimony, Chernov met businessman Alexander Zarubin in 1997–1998, when he was the head of Komisotsbank. Zarubin, according to Chernov, was “an interesting person and interlocutor.”
Real estate in Germany
Chernov met entrepreneur from St. Petersburg Yevgeny Samoilov in 2006, when he worked in the party “United Russia”. Later, Samoilov offered himself as a State Duma deputy from Komi. The republic did not have its own candidate at that time, Chernov specified, therefore the republic’s leadership approved the proposal.
After several years of work in Komi, Samoilov was in debt. At one of the meetings, the republic’s leadership offered him to sell the Avalon Hotel, which belonged to Samoilov’s company “Autocentre”, in order to pay them off. According to Chernov, this was not a strict requirement, but was one of the options.
In 2014, Samoilov asked Chernov 300 thousand rubles on credit. When they met to transfer the money, Chernov asked Samoilov about the profitability of “Avalon”. According to Chernov, he was interested because he and his wife decided to send their children to study abroad, so Chernov planned to leave the civil service and needed a stable source of income, for example, a share in a hotel. Samoilov, in a personal conversation, did not recommend him to buy “Avalon”, as he rated it at the highest possible price, although the hotel’s profitability was low.
Some time later, Chernov called the Komi Government Deputy Chairman Konstantin Romadanov [made a deal with the investigation and was sentenced to seven years], the structures of which at that moment controlled part of the shares of “Autocentre”. He asked if Samoilov had not yet sold his share. Romadanov replied that he did not sell, and called the price of a 50 percent share — 130 million rubles. After this, Chernov began to collect money. It was necessary to pay 90 million rubles immediately, the remaining 40 million — to issue in installments. According to him, Chernov received 15 million rubles from the sale of an apartment in St. Petersburg, 12 million rubles he saved up by selling father’s antiques [Soviet director Leonid Menaker], another 12 million rubles borrowed from his brother-entrepreneur, 10 million rubles bailed out the sale of land near St. Petersburg to Igor Kovzel. His mother added another 18 million rubles, having inherited them from her husband. Chernov exchanged the entire amount for 400 thousand dollars and 100 thousand euros, but did not use them to purchase a share, because in August 2015 he gave them on credit to a certain person N., which he refused to name.
In early 2015, [the deputy chairman of the Komi government] Romadanov told Chernov that for the rehabilitation of the Intaugol enterprise [which belonged to the entrepreneur Samoilov] 150 million rubles were needed. Chernov, he said, decided to help, because the problem of “Intaugol” strongly influenced the social and political situation in the republic, for which he was responsible as deputy head of the republic [in 2018, the last mine of the enterprise was closed]. Chernov found the necessary amount: 100 million rubles he received in Sarovbusinessbank, and 50 million rubles borrowed from businessman Zarubin under his personal guarantees. Zarubin said that he himself would contact Romadanov and transfer him the money. After some time, Chernov offered Romadanov to close the 50 million debt to Zarubin in exchange for buying a share in “Autocentre”. Chernov’s wife, Irina Zhelonkina [at the moment — the ex-wife], together with a family friend, former Komi deputy head Nikolai Levitsky, registered Hotel Service, to which Samoilov’s share in the hotel was transferred. When all these transactions were completed, Chernov, he said, owed Zarubin 50 million rubles. Some of this debt was later repaid after the refund of N.
After the transfer of the share to Hotel Service, it turned out that “Autocentre” had a debt of 25 million rubles. Then Alexey Chernov and Irina Zhelonkina decided to sell the share, because all the profits would later go to pay off the debts left by Samoilov. Natalia Motorina [also accused in the Gayzer case] was involved in selling the share. Chernov wanted to send the proceeds from the sale to pay off his personal debts. In particular, it was necessary to return 40 million rubles to businessman Victor Potapkin and Romadanov’s wife Elena, from whom Zhelonkina borrowed money to buy a house in Germany.
Earlier at the meetings, Chernov’s notebook seized during the search was examined. The defendant then drew the court’s attention to the 2015 records of the loans of his ex-wife Zhelonkina to Zarubin and Romadanov’s wife. It was written: “Sasha [Zarubin] 700 thousand euros for 18 months”. It was supposed to return the money at the expense of a bank loan for 20 years at 3% and real estate pledge in Berlin. Another entry: “Lena Romadanova, 40 million to 2 years”, it was supposed to give this money, selling the cottage and apartments; “Potapkin 40 million for 3 years at 11.5%” — this loan, according to Chernov, was planned to extinguish by dividends from the share in the hotel “Avalon”.
Marushchak and Kolegov
Chernov met the former head of the information department of the head of the Komi administration Pavel Marushchak in 2005. Marushchak, according to the interrogation officer, raised the attendance of the BNKomi news agency; after that he was hired by the administration. Then Chernov and Marushchak became friends, went to the cinema and visited each other, played board games.
It was Marushchak, according to Chernov, who advised to involve Alexey Kolegov, an entrepreneur who was close to the ideas of national patriotism [«7x7» published investigation about this; Kolegov himself also testified on the Gayzer case] in order to “de-radicalize” the nationalist forces in the republic. After meeting with Chernov, Kolegov visited the regional UFSB, where he was assigned a curator. The businessman himself financed the “Rubezh Severa” [recognized as extremist and banned], but at the same time Chernov asked Romadanov to find subcontracts for national-patriot companies at one of the construction sites, as he had problems with business.
Kolegov was also used to counteract the activities of the politician Alexey Navalny and his party in the republic. The newspaper “Krasnoye Znamya” actively wrote about him, and Chernov decided to transfer his share in the media to Kolegov, since Navalny distanced himself from the nationalists. Prior to this, Chernov had warned the newspaper’s owner, Vladimir Gubarev, about his decision.
Election cash from United Russia
Chernov also said during interrogations that he had repeatedly, personally and through an assistant, transferred envelopes with money both on personal matters and on official matters related to election campaigns.
The unofficial part of the election involved Marushchak and his chief, Anatoly Rodov. Their task was to make the United Russia party get the most votes. They spent money on it from unofficial sources. The funds, according to Chernov, were deducted from regional and federal companies operating in the republic: “Lukoil”, “Rosneft”, “Zarubezhneft” and “Severstal”. Romadanov accumulated these funds. Gayzer agreed on donations with the companies; he coordinated this with the presidential administration. Chernov, however, noted that the company did not receive any preferences for it. The money collected, according to the accused, was enough for 70% of the cost of the electoral budget, the rest was covered by the construction of social facilities, which were submitted as construction under the aegis of “United Russia”.
According to Chernov’s testimony, in 2011, Mikhail Evdokimov, former deputy head of the Komi FSB Directorate, who at that time was the head of the Republic’s Chamber of Control and Accounts, came to his office and asked about the wage surcharge due to health problems. Chernov said that he would be able to resolve this issue, since by that time he was already operating with some unaccounted amounts that went into the election fund. Officials agreed on an unofficial increase of 150 thousand rubles per month. According to Chernov, Gayzer did not know about this agreement.
Chernov did not demand anything from Evdokimov. Chernov made the decision on his own, while Evdokimov also, on his own initiative, twice informed him that during the inspections facts of misuse of money were revealed: during the construction of the sanatorium “Seregovo” and spending money on children’s summer holidays. After this, Chernov instructed to exclude information related to this from the pre-election campaign.
“I counted on his loyalty in the future in the event of any problems,” Chernov explained during interrogation.
Trip to South Africa
Before another elections, prices for bread and milk increased in the republic. According to Chernov, Senator Torlopov asked businessman Zarubin, who owned the Syktyvkar bakery and dairy plants, to keep prices until the end of the elections. In response, Zarubin demanded to compensate for the revenues or exchange the enterprises for the Zelenetskaya poultry factory. Torlopov called Gayzer and instructed to work out the issue of compensation for damages. On what conditions did Gayzer negotiate with Zarubin, Chernov did not know, but Zarubin kept prices, and later it was decided to purchase Zarubin’s plants by the republic.
According to him, Chernov had financial relations with Zarubin since the end of the 90s. Chernov, along with Romadanov, owned shares of “Komienergo”. Chernov sold his package to Zarubin, who, according to the terms of the contract, had to pay five million dollars for it in five years. On a regular basis, Zarubin did not pay Chernov, but he lent money for a joint holiday abroad. During the interrogation, Chernov recalled a case when they argued because Zarubin recorded him as one of the sponsors of the trip to the World Cup in South Africa of the head of the republic Gayzer and businessman Valery Veselov. Chernov believed that this was a gift just from Zarubin.
In 2015, Zarubin told Chernov that he had a conflict with the owner of “Renova” [sports and recreation centre], Viktor Vekselberg, so he could not regain control of his company’s shares and, accordingly, repay Chernov’s debt for “Komienergo” shares. In exchange, Zarubin proposed to arrange for Chernov a part of his share in “Zelenetskaya”, equivalent to his debt. Entrepreneur manager Demian Moskvin [sentenced to six years] prepared a scheme for registering a share on an official, but Chernov refused to renew the shares of the poultry factory because he believed that law enforcement agencies were interested in the Investment Projects Support Fund [which owned part of the “Zelenetskaya” shares] and checking started. Chernov also believed that Zarubin himself had an abnormal situation — his bank account was blocked without explanation.
“Zarubin said that I was alarmist and that then he would have to wait for him to meet with Vekselberg to resolve financial issues,” explained Chernov.
At the same time, Torlopov, according to the publicized interrogation protocols, regularly received money from Zarubin, because the latter felt obliged to him for his career. Chernov was also going to give other details, but only after they concluded a pre-trial agreement with him.
“Some methodological imperfections”
At meetings in late December, the authors of the forensic economic examination, which formed the basis of the prosecution, were interrogated. The defense of the accused petitioned for the disqualification of these witnesses, since, according to lawyers and experts hired by them, their work went beyond the limits of their competence and special knowledge, determining the economic feasibility of transferring shares of republican enterprises. Kovzel’s lawyer Ruslan Zakalyuzhny declared the expert’s direct interest and his incompetence. The state prosecutor replied that the interest was the attorneys’ speculations, and the experts had all the necessary knowledge, which allowed them to “conduct a brilliant examination,” which is the “pain in the neck” of the defense.
Expert Alexander Aleshin at the meeting said that the methods they used are wider than the methods of state experts and suggest a wider range of objects for research. According to the witness, the methods that state experts use were developed back in the “era of socialism and a planned economy.” According to him, someone’s interest in transactions is the “main cornerstone of the study,” and in his work he used not only the company’s accounts, but also the documents that preceded a business operation.
“And this is a purely economic issue. Because if it [the interest] had been reviewed in law, then an expert economist would not be needed, any lawyer could qualify this by relating the norms of civil or any other law. And as long as this is not there — the expert helps the court to work out criteria for this violated interest, in case it has been violated, to be determined,” explained Aleshin.
In his speech, the witness responded to the claims, voiced by experts invited by the defense in his report. In response to a question from the prosecutor about why offshore companies are used, he said that the transfer of “Zelenetskaya” to an offshore company under control is the redistribution of dividend income. If at the beginning the poultry factory generated income to the government fund, then after the transition — to the control of the Cyprus company, the flow of money began to go abroad.
Chernov, before starting to ask questions to the expert, apologized that, like the methods of economic expertise, he was “planned and designed in the era of developed socialism” and some questions might seem stupid to Aleshin. The accused, among other things, asked whether the author’s methods mentioned by the witness had been approved by any government bodies. Aleshin replied that they did not need approval and that no one demanded it. According to him, the methods used by the prosecution experts are present in the scientific circulation and are used in forensic economic examinations.
Gayzer, in turn, called the expert’s statement “verbiage about nothing” and noted that the participants in the process had not heard any real answer to the question. The ex-head also asked if the witness had any real experience with investments. The expert answered that he had — he worked in the investment department of the bank.
The judge also asked the witness to clarify the questions. For example, from the conclusion she did not understand the difference between the groundlessness and the illegality of the privatization of “Zelenetskaya”. Aleshin admitted that there were “some methodological imperfections” in the work. He clarified that the investigation did not pay for the forensic economic examination and he and his colleagues made it as a “charitable aid” to the investigation. The second expert, who also worked on the document, said that the remuneration was still stipulated and he had no hope of paying for the work done.
The organized criminal group, according to the investigation, consisted of members of the government and the Komi State Council and operated from December 2005 to September 2015. The investigation believes that it was a group that was created by businessman Alexander Zarubin to obtain property belonging to the republic, and that members of the group received bribes and stole 100% of the shares of the Zelenetskaya poultry factory. The damage from these actions was estimated at 3 billion 346 million 500 thousand rubles.
During the investigation and consideration of the case in court, two defendants died. In 2016, the director of Metlizing Company Anton Faerstein died in the SIZO. The main version of the investigation was suicide. In May 2018, Alexey Sokolov, who was the general director of Integrated Project Management (KUPRO) and a confidant of the former deputy chairman of the Komi government Konstantin Romadanov, died in an accident.
This story is originally posted by 7x7-journal and translated and re-published as part of Eyes on Barents, a collaborative partnership between news organizations and bloggers in the Barents region