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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russia Update: July 21, 2016

Publication: Russia Update
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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Investigative Committee Head Opened Probe Against His Colleague But FSB Took Case for 'Objectivity

Aleksandr Bastrykin, head of the Investigative Committee (IC), himself initiated the investigations of seven of the IC's officials, although the prosecutor's office decided that the case should be handled by the FSB for "objectivity," Kommersant and RBC reported.

Bastrykin opened the case under the Russian Criminal Code statute for large-scale bribe-taking (Art. 290, par. 6), and Viktor Grin, deputy prosecutor general, said there were grounds for the charges, Kommersant reported. 

As we reported yesterday, at least three officials were detained: Mikhail Maksimenko, head of the department for the IC's internal security; his deputy, Aleksandr Lamonov, and Denis Nikandrov, deputy head of the IC office for Moscow. Four others were also said to be under investigation.

But he said examination of allegations of corruption within the IC had to be done not by the same agency but an "independent law-enforcement agency," the FSB's investigative department.

Dmitry Dovgy, a former IC official, had tried to get Bastrykin to look at allegations that high-profile cases were being "fixed" by corrupt investigators, including Bastrykin's own deputy, but his protests only led to charges against himself which appeared to be in retaliation against his whistleblowing. Dovgy served five years in a labor camp, and later published his appeal (the English translation is here).

Dovgy had identified V.P. Maksimenko, head of the Main Department for Personal Security, International Investigations and Physical Defense -- Maksimenko's boss -- and others involved in settling political scores and corrupt practices. He himself was then accused of bribe-taking -- by of all people, Niskandrov -- yet the IC pursued the case at that time without any concerns about lack of "objectivity."

In the current case, the FSB searched the offices of the suspects at the IC earlier this week and they were placed in pre-trial detention in the FSB's prison of Lefortovo.

A source told RBC that the three named suspects are said to have been involved in receiving US $1 million in a case related to Zakhar Kalashov, known as "Shakro the Young," a mafia kingpin arrested last week. Kalashov served an 8-year prison term in Spain where he was convicted of money-laundering and masterminding criminal gangs, and was released in 2014, after which he returned to Russia.

The three IC officials were believed to have taken the bribe in order not to renew the pre-trial detention request of the prosecutor for Andrei "Italian" Kochuykov, a mafia lord known as Kalashov's right-hand man involved in an extortion and murder case.

Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that President Vladimir Putin had been "exhaustively informed" and said the cases were part of a "purge of the internal ranks" within the framework of anti-corruption work.

Vladimir Markin, spokesman for the IC, made it appear that the IC initiated it's own clean-up.

"It is shameful and bitter that this has happened with our so-called colleagues. And that, of course, casts a shadow on the entire agency, but the work in self-cleansing will continue."

A source within the FSB said Kalashov found an approach to Nikandrov back in February using Dmitry Avontsov, the head of an organized crime group under his control, who knew Mikhail Maksimenko from his former service in the Interior Ministry.

Aleksandr Lamonov was used as the middle-man in the transaction and organized several meetings between Zvontsov and Nikandrov, who has the rank of general in law-enforcement. The agreement was that Kalashov's group would pay $5 million for "protection" from the IC to "solve problems" that it might have with law-enforcement.

The "problems" were related to efforts by Kalashov's group to extract protection money from the owner of a Korean restaurant called Elements on Rodchelskaya Street in Moscow owned by Zhanna Kim. Elements' lawyers from a law office called Diktatura zakona ("Dictatorship of Law") tried to intervene on Kim's behalf. The story was more complex, as Moscow Times reported at the time, involving a designer who was hired to renovate and furnish the restaurant but was then not paid $30,000 she was owed when she failed to meet the deadline. Kalashov was brought in "to solve the dispute between the two ladies," as he put it.

Last December, 20 armed men burst into Elements and a shoot-out occurred. Eduard Budantsev, one of the lawyers hired by Kim who is a retired Interior Ministry colonel, shot and killed two of the mafia group's members with a gun awarded to him for good service.

Kalashov was among those on the scene, but disappeared from the case.

Nikandrov received $1 million, the first installment of the $5 million, in February and took three actions: he removed the case of the shoot-out at Elements from its principle investigator and divided it into four parts, giving the murder case, a separate case on "hooliganism" and use of arms, and a third on "negligence" to three different investigators which both slowed down the cases and removed important context -- like the fact that the lawyer had shot the mafia man after himself being beaten and shot at with a trauma gun.

After Nikandrov's intervention, the "hooliganism" case was switched to even lesser charges and Kochuykov was about to walk, along with another one of his gang, Eduard Romanov. Police stopped them literally as they came out of jail, however. The fourth case separated case -- on the original extortion -- was buried.

Since some of the IC officials did not actually receive money, they may be charged only with "exceeding authorities of office" or "negligence." 

Nikandrov and the other defendants are pleading Art. 51 (the Russian Constitution's statute against self-incrimination) and their lawyers are saying no evidence of bribe-taking has been found, and no cash was found during searches.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
AM News: Russian FM Criticizes NATO for Inaction During Turkish Coup; Bastrykin Initiated Arrests at IC

The ruble is trading at 63.85 to the US dollar and 70.41 to the euro. Brent crude is selling for $47.35 per barrel.

The following headlines are taken from 7:40 na Perrone, RBC, Vedomosti, Pravo, Regnum, Gazeta and New York Times. 

Russian Foreign Minister Criticizes NATO for Inaction During Turkish Coup

Erdogan Says Possible Tie to Gulen by Turkish Pilot Who Downed Su-24

Trump Sets Conditions for Defending NATO Allies Against Attack 

- Bastrykin Reported to Initiate Bribery Cases Against Investigative Committee Officials

What We're Reading

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick