A CrimeRussia source in law enforcement structures says that 235 million rubles ($4.2 million) is only a one-time payment for Markelov’s patronage. Apparently, the total sum of kickbacks received by him amounts to several billion rubles.
Residents of the Mari El Republic had waited to see Leonid Markelov in handcuffs for 16 years. All the three terms of his ‘reign’ in the region were full of scandals, but the functionary had always managed to get off the hook. Only facing a real possibility of prosecution, Leonid Markelov has submitted a voluntary resignation letter due to a transfer to another appointment. He had aspired to become a Deputy and get a Senator’s chair – but all his efforts to acquire immunity were in vain.
On April 12, 2017, conclusions of an audit and analysis of the financial standing of the republic have been published. According to the auditors, the sovereign debt of Mari El exceeds 13 billion rubles ($230.9 million), while its other financial liabilities remain outstanding. Aleksander Evstifeev, the Acting Head of the Republic, has stated that the region is on the verge of bankruptcy and put the blame on the wretched work of the republican government. On the next day, Leonid Markelov, who was waiting for a Deputy’s Mandate in his palace in the center of Yoshkar-Ola, was summoned to the Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation and escorted to Moscow handcuffed for questioning. ‘King of Mari El’ was arrested and then remanded in custody by the Basmanny District Court of Moscow on suspicion of Bribe-Taking (part 6 of Article 290 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation).
Markelov’s palace in Yoshkar-Ola
“I plead not guilty. In fact, I have no relation to the receipt of the above-mentioned money,” – Markelov told at the court session examining the motion to detain him brought by the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR). But the investigation and FSB think otherwise.
On April 13, 2017, the Main Investigations Directorate for Special Cases of the ICR has initiated a criminal case against Leonid Markelov, ex-Head of the Mari El Republic and Chairman of the Government of the Republic, under part 6 of Article 290 (Bribe-Taking), part 5 of Article 291 (Bribe-Giving), and part 4 of Article 291.1 (Mediation in Bribery) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.
Other suspects in this criminal case are Nikolai Krivash, former founder of Akashevskaya Poultry Plant Open Joint Stock Company (he is believed to be the bribe-giver), and Natalia Kozhanova, Head of Region-12 TV Company (supposedly, she had prepared invoices and transactions and acted as the mediator in that case).
According to the investigation, Markelov had received a bribe of 235 million rubles ($4.2 million) in orders payable to the bearer via an intermediary. Then the orders have been cashed and the money transferred to the TV company. This refers to the period of 2015–2016; the investigation was unable to identify the specific time and place of the bribe receipt. The investigation believes that Nikolai Krivash had paid Markelov for patronage and assistance in receiving funds in the framework of the governmental program for the agricultural complex development support. In other words, Krivash was paying Markelov for ‘backing’.
Leonid Markelov in court
The CrimeRussia source in law enforcement structures says that 235 million rubles ($4.2 million) is only a one-time payment for Markelov’s patronage. Apparently, the total sum of kickbacks received by him amounts to several billion rubles.
The machinations with Akashevo Agricultural Holding have been uncovered when disreputable businessman Nikolai Krivash was trying to get rid of the poultry plant. The perspective purchaser, Agroaktiv company, having ties with Minister of Agriculture Aleksander Tkachev, has carried out an audit and found evidence of illegal receipt and embezzlement of governmental subsidies. The people of Tkachev have addressed the FSB – and Iraida Dolgusheva, Minister of Agriculture of Mari El, hastily submitted a resignation letter, while Nikolai Krivash urgently fled abroad for medical treatment.
Iraida Dolgusheva, ex-Minister of Agriculture of Mari El
The law enforcement authorities were looking for the missing 40 billion rubles ($710.6 million) received in the framework of the program for agricultural complex development support. Ex-Minister Iraida Dolgusheva was prosecuted first – the Investigations Department in the City of Yoshkar-Ola of the Investigations Directorate in the Mari El Republic of the ICR has initiated a criminal case under part 1 of Article 292 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (Official Forgery). This happened immediately after the resignation of Leonid Markelov. According to the investigation, Dolgusheva had forged official documents three times to allocate funds to Akashevo Agricultural Holding in the framework of the Republican Program “Agriculture Development in the Mari El Republic”. Of course, Nikolai Krivash, the sole proprietor of the holding, could not receive billions of rubles on his own. And Leonid Markelov, the Head of the Mari El Republic, had helped him in this. They even hadn’t to create an affiliated company – according to the law enforcement authorities, Region-12 TV Company has direct ties with the family of Leonid Markelov: it belongs to his stepmother Tatiana Markelova. In addition to the television, the company was actively involved into the construction and real estate business and used to cash-out funds.
By the way, prior to the relocation to Mari El, bribe-giver Nikolai Krivash has left ‘dirty traces’ in the Komi Republic where his butchery empire was created. He used Akashevskaya Poultry Plant in a machination already performed in other regions: two companies belonging to the same person are created in different regions; the first company takes a bank loan in its region, transfers the funds to the second company (incorporated in the other region), and then declares itself bankrupt. It would be impossible to perform such a scheme without assistance from the regional head who helps to attract investments into an enterprise that is to be bankrupted soon. Akashevo Agricultural Holding, one of the oldest in the region, was abandoned on the verge of bankruptcy with the participation of Leonid Markelov, ex-Head of Mari El.
According to the web site of the Head of the Mari El Republic, documents dated 2014 indicate that the total cost of Akashevo development is 33 billion rubles ($586.9 million). The Head of Mari El had planned to transfer 10 billion rubles ($177.9 million) in investments to Akashevo in 2016 in order to build three major infrastructure facilities. It is unknown where is the money, but nothing has been built. Instead, Akashevo employees have submitted a complaint to Federal Service for Labor and Employment (Rostrud) due to salary arrears in the amount of 114.2 million rubles ($2 million). The arrears have been paid out – but overall that means that the huge investments into the ‘successful agricultural holding’ were siphoned off via companies affiliated with Markelov in exchange for kickbacks received from Nikolai Krivash who fled abroad after being charged in the criminal case.
According to the CrimeRussia source in law enforcement structures, the investigation also has questions to the management of the Mari El division of Russian Agricultural Bank – they ‘haven’t noticed’ fake data in documents produced by Iraida Dolgusheva for at least three times. Therefore, bankers and builders may be prosecuted in the framework of the criminal case against Leonid Markelov as well.
See the story of the ‘second Venice’ constructed in Yoshkar-Ola by the ex-Head of Mari El in the next part of our inquest.