Bribery, Break-in and Media Attacks: Case of ex-Vice Governor of Chelyabinsk Region
The former vice-governor of the Chelyabinsk Region, Ivan Senichev, testified in court on the case of Nikolay Sandakov, the ex-deputy governor, who is accused of bribery, swindling and e-mail hacking. Russiangate saw into how the case unfolded.
THE CASE OF VICE-GOVERNOR NIKOLAY SANDAKOV
On March 26, 2015, FSB officers detained Nikolay Sandakov, the Region’s vice-governor, at the Chelyabinsk airport on suspicion of receiving a bribe from former city manager of Ozersk Yevgeny Tarasov (later, the investigators called it extortion from the ex-official). According to the investigation, in 2011, he gave 1.5 million rubles to Sandakov. He had to create and maintain a positive image of Tarasov in the media, in order to ensure his career promotion and further election as head of Magnitogorsk.
The investigators also reported that in 2013, Sandakov, with the help of a specialist in the field of computer technology, Alexander Abroskin, hacked more than 10,000 emails of a Chelyabinsk political scientist and head of one of the administrations of the Chelyabinsk Region’s governor, who is responsible for interaction with the media which disagree with Sandakov's activities.
Within the framework of the criminal case, the investigation checked Sandakov for involvement in other corruption crimes. The former official stated that his case was framed-up, and the crimes he accused of cannot be proven.
The investigation completed against Sandakov was completed on March 11, 2016. It was decided to re-qualify the actions of the former official from those provided under part 6 of Art. 290 of the Russian Criminal Code (bribery) to the crime set out in part 4 of Art. 159 of the Criminal Code (swindling), because, at the time of the crime, Sandakov had no rule book.
On March 24, the court released Sandakov on bail of 10 million rubles and returned the case to the prosecutor because of violation of the rights of the accused. However, later, on March 31, FSB officers detained Sandakov within the case of bribe-taking from director of the private security company Piton Igor Kalugin. According to the investigation, he illegally provided gratuitous services to protect Sandakov’s house for at least 1.9 million rubles. For this, the former official helped to conclude a state contract for the protection of the ex-governor of the Chelyabinsk Region, Mikhail Yurevich.
Within the criminal case, 15 examinations were carried out and more than 40 witnesses were interviewed.
WHO ARE THE MAIN PERSONS OF INTEREST?
Yevgeny Tarasov: the former head of Ozersk is the victim in the case of Nikolay Sandakov. He underwent a psychological examination, since during the investigation he often changed his testimony. Tarasov, after all, was recognized as sane.
In April 2013, Tarasov has already been accused with the organization of embezzlement of more than 22 million rubles. The first instance court sentenced him to 4.5 years of colony, the regional court reduced the term to four years. In September 2014, the Kopeisk Town Court released Tarasov on parole.
He is also suspected of transferring a bribe to a member of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation from the Chelyabinsk Region, Konstantin Tsybko. The investigation believes that in 2012, Tarasov transferred Tsybko 17.5 million rubles for help in appointing the head of the administration of the Ozersk City District of the Chelyabinsk Region.
Alexander Abroskin: it is assumed that the help in hacking Sandakov’s emails was provided by the director of the Ekaterinburg Modern Information Technologies LLC, who had previously been tried for similar crimes. Abroskin was put on the international wanted list, as he disappeared from the investigation in the territory of a foreign state. The case against him has been severed from other charges. In September 2015, Abroskin testified at the face-to-face interrogation with Sandakov, and in the Soviet District Court in October 2016. The testimony is different and, according to Abroskin, this is due to the fact that for the first time he spoke under the influence of lawyers imposed on him.
Igor Kalugin: the director of the Private Security Company Piton is accused of embezzling budget funds and giving bribes to Sandakov. He is the main witness of the prosecution in the case of the ex-official. Kalugin was arrested on April 5 within the case of embezzlement of 300 thousand rubles from the budget of the Chelyabinsk Region and swindling with state contracts. The company Piton was established in 2006 to provide security services to Governor Pyotr Sumin.
In early February, the FSB Directorate for the Chelyabinsk Region conducted searches in the Piton, which were related to inspections of state contracts. At the end of October 2015, the media, according to the publication Znak.com, by Kalugin’s behest, published an audio recording of the Ivan Senichev, former deputy governor of the region. On it, he foully comments on the Region and threatens to close Piton if he does not get two cars.
“MEDIA-ATTACKS” IN THE INTEREST OF SANDAKOV
On February 26, 2016, the official representative of the Russian Investigative Committee, Vladimir Markin, stated that Sandakov and his entourage countered the investigation through controlled media.
According to Markin, materials that discredit and criticize the investigation, as well as forming the image of the accused as of a "political victim" were published. Markin noted that Sandakov and his lawyers filed more than 100 complaints. All of them were rejected. The plan of the "media-attacks" was attached to the case materials.