So. yesterday I updated my post to correct a factual mistake: Kirov Governor Nikita Belykh was detained in a Moscow restaurant. What he was doing in Moscow, I don’t know. It’s a long drive from Kirov.
Nonetheless, this is a huge breaking story and there are lots of new tidbits coming in all the time. Today I am using the following sources to try to give you the latest scoop:
In The Restaurant
Today we will begin inside that unnamed Moscow restaurant, with the mechanics of the detention, and then work our way backwards to the political implications. And then finally to the Latvian connection; because, yes, it has also been revealed, that Nikita was planning to flee to Latvia.
The first piece I linked, from REGNUM, is written by a man named Andrei Muchkin. a retired law enforcement specialist; Muchkin has no connection with the case, other than he read about it on the Internet, but he is able to appreciate the details of the arrest, with a professional eye. From what he can tell, the Investigative Committee did an outstanding job, both in detective work, and in setting the foundations of an iron clad case against Nikita Belykh. They will have something even better than the audio and videotapes they undoubtedly recorded: They can go to court, and when the judge barks: “Show me the money!” they will be able to do that. Everybody on the internet has seen the images of Belykh sitting behind a stack of 100-Euro banknotes.
Belykh’s defense will be, that he received this money as an investment into regional infrastructure. To which the Prosecution can respond quite nimbly, that the money would then have to be exchanged into Russian rubles; and how exactly did he plan to do this? Muchkin cannot think of any plausible way to have “legalized” these Euros.
Muchkin is also appreciative of the investigators’ trick of marking the money with invisible ink, that shows up only under ultraviolet light. Traces of the ink all over the Governator’s hands (proof that he handled the money) should be sufficient to convince a panel of judges, especially if, as Muchkin assumes, the prosecution will adduce expert witnesses to testify as to the identical chemistry of the ink found on the banknotes, and on Belykh’s hands.
Muchkin himself has studied several recent cases where the criminal parties, out of cautiousness, did not exchange actual banknotes, but just a list of serial numbers of banknotes. And in this case, as well, the marked banknotes no doubt had their serial numbers carefully recorded in advance. In other words, the evidence against Belykh is simply overwhelming.
The other main point is that this particular bribe in the restaurant was just the third “tranche” (installment) of the overall bribe. It is conceivable that Belykh was more cautious when receiving the first two “tranches”, and then, more trusting of his partner, he became less cautious, allowing the investigators to nab him red-handed, so to speak.
Muchkin reminisces how, back in the day when he was an investigator, they used to meet their prey at a certain cafe in Kaluga. Agents would pick a place where they could observe everything; with other undercover agents posing as waiters, and so on. All the usual undercover and spy stuff. If the right place is chosen, then it is easy to set up audio and video recording equipment. He assumes that similar issues were at stake in the selection of the Moscow restaurant where Belykh was nicked.
Show Me The Money!
The next piece, which is the VZGLIAD entry from yesterday, claims to have a “source close to the investigation” who is leaking juicy tidbits to the press. According to this source, Belykh was caught with the third tranche of the bribe. Here is what the overall bribe consisted of:
- Tranche #1 – May, 2014. Consisted of 200,000 Euros. The briber was a man named Albert Laritsky. Laritsky is a former member of the Board of Directors of the Novovyatsky Ski Emporium. He himself is currently under detention on charges of manipulating credit schemes.
- Tranche #2 – consisted of 50,000 Euros.
- Tranche #3 — at the Moscow restaurant — consisted of a bottle of wine and 150,000 Euros. Bringing the total amount of the bribe to 400,000 Euros. (Plus the bottle of wine.) This wine and money was handed to Belykh by a man named Yury Sudheimer, a citizen of Germany.
Sudheimer is a co-owner of both the Ski company and also a lumber company called “LesoKhozyaistvennaya Kompania” Sudheimer has been cooperating with the Russian authorities, so it is likely that he was in on the “experiment” to see whether Belykh would take the marked bills. Sudheimer claims that Governor Belykh demanded the money from him “for protection”. And as the price of business for operating a company in Kirov Oblast.
Belykh is currently in detention. The Basmanny Court in Moscow decided to keep him locked up at least through 24 August.
A Liberal Hero
Nikita Belykh was appointed Governor of Kirov Oblast in January of 2009. It is one of the peculiarities of countries such as Russia and the Ukraine (and others) that regional governors are appointed, not elected. This, in my opinion, is un-democratic and is not fair to the Russian people. I saw many comments in the Russian press, ordinary people rejoicing at Belykh’s detention, but also asking questions like: “What do you call the arrest of three regional Governors? A nice start.”
Belykh served his first “Gubernator” term of five years. Then despite all the scandals rocking Kirov, not least of which was the KirovLes affair, Belykh was re-appointed for a second term in September 2014. Again, doubly unfair to the people of Kirov Oblast, who had to sit and watch their greatest economic asset and major source of employment (=KirovLes Lumber Company) go down the tubes, thanks to the machinations of Belykh, his mistress (=Maria Gaidar), and their corrupt circle of friends.
Belykh’s appointment was seen at the time as the ruling party (=United Russia) throwing a sop to the liberal opposition. Belykh, along with Boris Nemtsov and others, made a dubious living by leading Opposition political parties funded by Western governments. The financial resources of these parties and their “punching over their weight” influence due to foreign support, made them a force to reckon with, even though they had minimal popularity among Russians themselves and could barely win any election anywhere, even to dogcatcher. In an attempt possibly to coopt these Opps by bringing them into the government and making them accountable to the people, Belykh was picked by Russian President Medvedev to head important regional governments, first as Deputy-Governor of Perm, and then as Governor of Kirov. [yalensis: Belykh’s Perm connections continued to resonate in the KirovLes case, as Alexei Navalny attempted to use his mentor’s Perm contacts to set up lumber-selling schemes with Perm distributors.]
Everybody knows the story how, as Governor of Kirov Oblast, Belykh brought in his mistress (Maria Gaidar) and his bosom friend (Alexei Navalny), as his so-called “unpaid advisors”. In this way did Belykh build up his clique; and once again, this was unfair to the Kirov people, who never had a chance to vet any of these shady characters; to vote this posse in or out of office.
On the flip side, thanks to Medvedev and Putin, the Russian liberals acquired this wonderful opportunity to show the world that a pro-Western “pro-democratic” regional government which believed in capitalism and private enterprise, could carry out successful projects leading to wealth and economic development. Instead, Belykh and the others used their position for selfish goals of personal enrichment, and as a platform for the usual corrupt schemes. Such as building shell companies to loot public assets; appointing unqualified friends and mistresses to high positions; taking bribes; office intrigues; and the usual cesspool of Russian political life.
Although he survived the KirovLes affair by a whisker, the shadows were already starting to darken for Nikita Belykh. In the fall of 2013, Belykh was accused of accepting a major bribe from the biggest bank in the region Vyatka Bank. The bribe was in the form of a luxury automobile.
[to be continued]