Korruption Scandal Rocks Komi – Part I

Komi people have a rich ethnic culture

In the past week, Russian press has exploded with the big scandal taking place in the Republic of Komi, a subject of the Russian Federation.  Komi, a republic that was set aside for the titular Permic (Finno-Ugric) people  who live there, is headed by a Russian Governor named Vyacheslav Gayzer.  The current scandal involves what Russian press refers to as Gayzer’s Criminal Band.

Syktyvkar Mayor Ivan Pozdeev

Allegedly Gayzer’s criminal gang controlled all the major enterprises in the Komi Republic.  One of the members of this gang is Ivan Pozdeev, Mayor of Komi’s capital city Syktyvkar, whose name derives from the Syktyv River, plus the root –kar, which means “city” in Komi.  Yesterday, Pozdeev had his court hearing as to measures of incarceration and possibility of bail.

Along with Governor Gayzer, 14 other people were arrested in this major scandal.

The Investigative Committee maintains that this criminal conspiracy started as early as 2006.  Over the ensuing years, the Gang took over all major enterprises in Komi, plus controlled all the media as well.  The conspiracy was actually exposed 3 years ago, by a journalist named Valery Chernitsyn, who wrote for “Krasnoe Znamya” (“Red Banner”).  The gang was able to close down the newspaper, but Chernitsyn still maintained an internet site.

In addition to Gayzer and Pozdeev, the following members of the gang are mentioned, all have been arrested:

  • Alexei Chernov (Gayzer’s Deputy-Governor)
  • Konstantin Romodanov (Deputy Prime Minister of Komi government)
  • Pavel Marushchak (Head of Media Services)
  • Evgeny Samoilov (Komi Senator)
  • Igor Kovzel (Chairman of Regional Parliament)
  • (All major businessmen in Komi Republic)

Police have been searching offices.  In the Governor’s office, they found lots of money; a cache of incriminating documents; sales slip for the purchase of an airplane; 60 km of jewelry; and a collection of expensive watches.  Later it turned out, that some of these watches were (each) worth over a million dollars!  All this on an officially declared annual income of 5.5 million rubles.

The criminal matter is undertaken in the Basmanny Court in Moscow.  In court, Gayzer pleaded Not Guilty.  It was said that his co-conspirator Evgeny Samoilov was the first to break; is now singing like a canary and providing evidence against the others.

Prosecution claims as follows:  The M.O. of this gang was to destroy local businesses, after which their relatives would buy them up for peanuts.  In this manner were privatized major cash-cows such as the Hotels Syktyvkar, Avalon, and Yugor.  One of which was purchased by Gazyer’s mother-in-law.

According to the muck-raking journalist, Valery Chernitsyn, who originally broke this story (3 years ago!), Gayzer’s Gang took over the following types of enterprises:

  • lumber and wood-working enterprises
  • grain and bread-making
  • a dairy
  • a poultry farm/slaughterhouse
  • Residential-infrastructure services (Жилищно-коммунальное хозяйство), which includes electricity, plumbing, heating and air conditioning, construction, roofing, waste disposal, etc.

Allegedly, money from the government budget poured into these privatized enterprises; the profits, after being laundered through “one-day” shell companies, was siphoned to offshores, into bank accounts owned by the Governor and his associates.

[yalensis:  In other words, the typical Russian methods of financial corruption, used since the time of Yeltsin!  Nothing new ever invented under the sun.]

The vast forestlands of Northern Russia

The LifeNews article goes on to say, that the forestry sector is the key economic powerhouse of the Komi Republic.  This region supplies not only Russia, but all of Europe, with paper and wood pulp.  Many of the enterprises in fact belong to foreigners.  In the mid-90’s, a controlling share of the Syktyvkarskaya Lumber Enterprise was bought up by an Italian citizen, named Giampaolo Paraboschi.  In 2011 Paraboschi was jailed in Italy for tax evasion.  After which, directorship of his company passed to his CEO, Valery Veselov.

Veselov then borrowed almost a BILLION rubles from a Russian bank, and immediately declared bankruptcy.

His loan had been underwritten personally by Vyacheslav Gayzer.  When the bank launched a lawsuit, that was when the entire scheme began to come apart.  After Veselov’s arrest, the regular workers at the Lumber Enterprise are worried, that the lumber factory will be shut down and they will lose their jobs.

Goes on to say, that Gayzer is named as the Head of the Band.  [In Russian law, the sentence is harsher for the band leader than for the followers.]  However, Gayzer’s main role seems to have been covering up for the others.  A special role is noted for “businessman” Alexander Zarubin, who was “Consiglieri” to the Governor back in 2000.  Zarubin is currently on the lam, with a federal warrant out for his arrest.

What do these arrests and this scandal mean for the ordinary citizens of Komi?

[to be continued]

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