Alexander Bastrykin, Chairman of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, shared information on the results of his department this year. He spoke about the most high-profile and significant investigations of recent times, about urgent problems and their solution by the investigating authorities.

In an interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta, the Investigative Committee's head Alexander Bastrykin spoke about new trends in the work of the investigation and summed up the interim results of the first six months of 2020.

According to his data, 832,377 crimes were registered in five months of this year, which is 0.4% less than last year. 40,000 criminal cases were sent to the courts, in which 44,000 people were accused. At the same time, the number of cases referred to the court with a petition to impose a judicial fine on the accused increased by 17% — we should note that this is direct evidence of the humanization of punishment.

Violent crime has been significantly reduced. For instance, the number of murders decreased by 2.2% and the number of cases of deliberate infliction of grievous bodily harm, which resulted in the death of the victims, decreased by 7.6%.

“Special attention was paid to crime prevention. For 43,000 criminal cases, the reasons and conditions that led to the commission of crimes were established, and suggestions on their elimination were submitted. More than 14,000 officials were brought to disciplinary responsibility for them,” Bastrykin said.

During the same period, more than 3600 crimes from previous years were solved, including 399 murders, 263 crimes against sexual freedom and personal inviolability, which is especially important in connection with the new ethical demands of society.

“When investigating such crimes, we actively use unique expert technologies. Among them, DNA screening of the persons being checked, information and analytical studies of electronic databases of vehicles and mobile communication operators,” he stated.

The most dangerous crimes

Among the most dangerous crimes combatted by investigators, Bastrykin singled out official powers abuse and corruption (including those in the country's defense-industrial complex), extremist crimes, and terrorism. In addition, the Investigative Committee is now paying more attention to the prompt suppression of criminal acts that violate the rights and interests of minors, the labor rights of citizens.

At the same time, the Committee's chairperson named economic crimes among the most dangerous for the state at the moment.

As an illustration of a serious threat to the Russian economy and society, which the investigators managed to uncover and suppress, Bastrykin mentioned illegal activity around PAO Togliattiazot (TOAZ).

The Investigative Committee's head noted that at TOAZ “for two decades, major thefts of the company's assets were carried out, and funds were withdrawn abroad, which posed a threat to economic activity.” A systemically structured criminal community was identified that operated from 1997 to 2018. It comprised of the heads of the enterprise and other persons, including foreigners.

“Each group specialized in a licensed type of activity, be it banking, legal, registration or appraisal activities. All this helped to implement criminal schemes and significantly complicated the disclosure of crimes. At the moment, a number of cases are being investigated, for which a total damage of 50 billion rubles (over $680 million at the current exchange rate) has been identified; in addition, the fact of tax evasion in the amount of one billion rubles has been identified. The investigation identified the involvement of 15 people in these crimes,” Bastrykin said.

RAPSI covers this process in detail. Note that the investigation of a criminal case against the management and majority shareholders of TOAZ, one of the world's top ten ammonia producers, is one of the longest investigations of crimes in the economic sphere in Russia. The case was opened in December 2012.

On July 5, 2019, co-owners of Togliattiazot Vladimir Makhlai and Sergey Makhlai, their Swiss partner Andreas Zivy, and other defendants were sentenced to 8-9 years in a general regime colony for fraud committed by an organized group on an especially large scale (Article 159.4 of the Criminal Code of Russia). Since the defendants are abroad, the verdict was passed in absentia.

Prevention of damage to the state

In his interview, Bastrykin said that the investigation seized the property of the accused, including the stolen assets of the enterprise, as well as money. “For example, the investigation attached about 300 land plots in the Samara Region worth about a billion rubles owned by one of the defendants in the criminal case,” said the head of the head of Russia's Investigative Committee.

Why Bastrykin chose this case to illustrate the particular danger to state interests becomes clear if we recall just two episodes from the multivolume case.

For example, in the period from 2009 to 2012, the Turkish company Yildiz Entegre Agac Sanaye Ve Tigaret A.S. alone purchased 11.5 tons of ammonia from Nitrochem at a price of $ 282 per ton, whereas TOAZ received $ 171 per ton of it from a Swiss intermediary. Thus, the trade margin amounted to over 64%, despite the fact that in the mineral fertilizers and chemicals industry it rarely exceeds 5.5% and is around 3% on average worldwide.

This is just one example of a fraudulent scheme, by which Togliattiazot used to sell ammonia and urea at a reduced cost to foreign partners through the Zivy’s companies Ameropa and Nitrochem Distribution AG. The damage to the enterprise at that time was estimated at $550 million.

It is also worth noting another, more obvious, fact of damage to the state inflicted by the Mahlais. According to the decisions of arbitration courts that entered into force, by understating the taxable base when conducting illegal transactions in the period from 2008 to 2012, the total amount of taxes unpaid by the enterprise amounted to 2.5 billion rubles.

In addition to financial damage to the state, the TOAZ management tried to exert a corrupt influence on state institutions (which Bastrykin sees as one of the most dangerous crimes). The Investigative Committee's chair spoke about one of them in an interview.

In 2015, the former head of the management board of Togliattikhimbank Alexander Popov attempted to bribe a judge of the Supreme Court through intermediaries in order to overturn the decision of the arbitration courts that had recognized the Tax Service's claims to TOAZ on tax arrears as legal.

“He followed Sergei Makhlai’s instructions. Popov's illegal actions were suppressed by law enforcement officers. He was charged with attempted bribe-giving in the amount of at least $1.2 million. In the near future, the materials of the criminal case will be forwarded to the accused and his defense lawyer for familiarization,” Bastrykin said.

Optimization of intradepartmental and international contacts

One of the distinguishing features of the TOAZ trial is its duration, which may well become a record. Experts note that the defense chose the tactic of deliberate delaying of the process from the very beginning. In particular, the defendants’ lawyers constantly filed claims and motions, and shortly before the completion of the trial, one of the defenders suddenly demanded that about ten foreign citizens be summoned to court.

It should be noted that the changes in the work of the investigating authorities that occurred over the previous six months could serve as a preventive measure to delay the investigation, if similar methods of influence were applied to it. Today, it is not a problem at all to organize online communication with foreign citizens.

“We are constantly improving our work and streamlining the management system. In a way, the coronavirus has encouraged us to use a more efficient meeting format. We hold weekly meetings with all heads of territorial investigative bodies using video conference calls. We also practice personal online communications with citizens,” Bastrykin said.

Thus, in recent months, the Investigative Committee has carried out many activities to digitize work, including simplification of online communication, which contributes to the improvement of the quality and efficiency of work. In the long term, such innovations can simplify and increase the efficiency of communication with foreign contacts.

This task is extremely important due to the need to organize a joint investigation and extradition of the accused who have taken refuge abroad, as well as the return of their stolen property. “There are many examples when we were able to bring back not only the defendants in criminal cases, such as Alexey Kuznetsov, but also to have them compensate the damage,” Bastrykin noted in this regard.

In addition, as an example, the official cited the investigation into the brothers Alexey and Dmitry Ananyevs. Those accused of embezzlement of more than 87 billion rubles ($1.2 billion at the current exchange rate) belonging to PJSC Promsvyazbank have withdrawn the funds entrusted to them from the country's financial turnover into Cypriot companies (more than 57.3 billion rubles and more than $500 million).

At the moment, most of the accomplices of the Ananyevs bankers have been identified. Interpol of Russia is helping to resolve the issue of their extradition for criminal prosecution in our country. “In cooperation with the Federal Security Bureau, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Rosfinmonitoring, the property of the Ananyevs brothers has been identified, which has already been arrested. Compensation of the damage caused to the injured party is currently more than 15% of the amount stolen,” Bastrykin said.

At the same time, the property of the defendants amounting to more than 10 billion rubles was found in foreign countries. Currently, the work is underway to organize its seizure.

Totally, thanks to the work of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, in the first quarter of 2020 alone, it was possible to compensate more than 12 billion rubles to the state and the injured. The property of the accused worth of more than 10.5 billion rubles was arrested. Ninety-eight persons with a special legal status were brought to criminal responsibility, Bastrykin noted.