Interview of Chairman of the Investigative Committee of Russia Alexander Bastrykin to Rossiyskaya Gazeta

10 years is not a term

What major officials have recently become involved in high-profile criminal cases of corruption. What has changed in the system of investigating economic and tax crimes. What is being done to strengthen the protection of children's rights. What is the specifics of work of the Forensic Expert Center. Why is it important to solve past years crimes. The head of the Investigative Committee of Russia Alexander Bastrykin told about this and many other things to Rossiyskaya Gazeta on the eve of the tenth anniversary of his agency.

Alexander Ivanovich, reports of arrests of various types of corrupt officials have become, like weather forecasts, almost regular. Can we say that the inevitability of punishment for bribe-takers is now a reality?

Alexander Bastrykin: I will cite just a few figures about the contribution of the Investigative Committee to ensuring the country's economic security. Over the 10 years of work of the Investigative Committee, more than 90 thousand criminal cases of corruption have already been sent to the courts. We managed to achieve significant compensation for damage in corruption cases - the state and victims of crimes were reimbursed almost 34 billion rubles, the property of the accused was arrested in the amount of 76.8 billion rubles.

The Investigative Committee is seeking the inevitability of punishment for any corrupt official, regardless of his official position. The names of many high-ranking officials and governors who have been punished over the years are well known to everyone.

In the past year, the investigation of many other criminal cases was completed, which are difficult to cover within the framework of one interview. Here are just some examples.

The director of the department of the chemical-technological and timber industry complex of the Ministry of Industry and Trade of Russia, Vladimir Potapkin, was accused of taking a bribe in the amount of 78.9 million rubles for committing deliberately illegal actions in favor of a legal entity, and stood trial.

A probe into nine employees of the customs post of the Domodedovo customs of the Federal Customs Service of Russia, who are accused of committing official forgeries and taking bribes in 2018-2019 has been investigated.

Pavel Fomin, the head of the operational customs of the Far Eastern customs department of the FCS of Russia, has been also accused of bribery.

Former chairman of the Anapa District Court of the Krasnodar Territory Vladimir Starodubtsev has been charged with attempted fraud.

General Director of Sfera LLC Vitaly Popov, together with the deputy of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation of the sixth convocation Oleg Mikheev and other persons, were accused of fraud and taking possession of 11 objects of the Volgograd Engine Building Plant and three real estate objects of Volga-Realty LLC with a total value of more than 60 million rubles.

Former First Deputy Chairman of the Competition Policy Committee of the Republic of Crimea Slivka, Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Crimea Nakhlupin and Acting Deputy Minister of Transport of the region Dukorsky will be held accountable in court for accepting a bribe for illegal actions of transfer of official information.

And besides this, there are many other examples of the suppression of such crimes in the regions.

Non-extraditable brothers

Economic crimes are on a par with corruption. There are high-impact ones among them. How soon will former Senator Arashukov and his accomplices, who were stealing gas, stand trial?

Alexander Bastrykin: Investigative actions in the criminal case against former Senator Rauf Arashukov, his father Raul Arashukov and 18 other accomplices were completed last year, and at the moment the accused continue the procedure for familiarizing themselves with the materials of the criminal case. It is quite voluminous - 350 volumes. After completion of familiarization, the case will be transferred to the prosecutor's office for approval of the indictment.

The investigation has collected evidence of the involvement of the defendants in the murder of two people, as well as the theft of natural gas for more than 4.5 billion rubles. In that, they acted as part of a criminal community organized by Raul Arashukov.

The accomplices secured the appointment of community members to leadership positions in the gas industry in the North Caucasus and stole gas through unrecorded sales to industrial consumers. The volumes of fictitious charges were established during the examination of the databases of OOO Gazprom Mezhregiongaz Stavropol and confirmed by the results of forensic examinations.

By the way, among the accused are two law enforcement officers who have been prosecuted for facilitating the activities of the criminal community.

A preliminary investigation has also been completed against a former member of the Federation Council from the Karachay-Cherkessia Republic Vyacheslav Derev and six of his accomplices. They are accused of embezzling budgetary funds by illegally reimbursing value added tax in the total amount of more than 110 million rubles.

In one of our past interviews, you talked about the crimes of the Ananyev brothers. Why, in your opinion, Interpol refused to our country in their international search?

Alexander Bastrykin: The media reported that the wording of the removal from the international wanted list of the Ananyev brothers was related to allegedly politically motivated criminal prosecution. This is not the first time such a decision has been made, and it is not always clear to us on what basis such conclusions are made.

We provide compelling evidence of the involvement of these individuals in specific criminal acts. And, by the way, in addition to embezzlement in the banking sector, in the organization of which they are accused, now we have information about Dmitry Ananyev's involvement in the attempted theft of state property - three land plots. A probe has been initiated into this matter and Dmitry Ananyev will be charged in absentia.

But most of those you are looking for get extradited by your foreign colleagues. How many people have been extradited to your agency?

Alexander Bastrykin: In total, about 2,100 defendants have been put on the international wanted list in criminal cases of the Investigative Committee, including about 340 persons who have been put on the wanted list over the past two years.

There is a special department for interaction on issues of international and federal search for persons in the structure of the Investigative Committee. One of its main tasks is to assist the investigation in identifying those who fled, as well as missing persons (including minors).

In 2019-2020, about 60 defendants were extradited to Russia for criminal prosecution in criminal cases investigated by the Investigative Committee of Russia, including those related to the commission of grave and especially grave offenses. In particular, the former deputy head of the regional department of the sports society "Dynamo" Vladimir Mikhalevsky, accused of embezzlement, was extradited from Spain. The competent authorities of the Republic of Cyprus extradited to Russia the former adviser to the head of the Federal Agency for Fisheries Yuri Khokhlov. A man was extradited from Germany on charges of committing sexual assault against a minor.

We have received information on the establishment in the territories of Austria, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Spain, China, Kazakhstan and other states of the whereabouts of about 35 persons hiding from criminal prosecution, in respect of whom interdepartmental work continues to bring them to justice.

Children abroad

You always say that children are one of your priorities at work. And if a foreign father stole or illegally took a child out of the country, is this also yours?

Alexander Bastrykin: In close cooperation with Russian state and foreign competent authorities, we locate missing minors, including outside the Russian Federation.

In 2020, the divisions of the Investigative Committee received more than 12 thousand reports about missing minors. As a result of the joint work of the investigation, the bodies of inquiry and public organizations, 12,220 children were returned home and to social institutions.

Thus, as a result of measures taken by Russian law enforcement agencies, a minor was found on the territory of Russia, who was having dual - Russian and French - citizenship and had been missing since 2018.

In addition, the location of nine minor children in the territories of Germany, Cyprus, Syria, the United States, Turkey and France was established.

Protecting children's rights also means protecting orphans from dishonest officials. Even if these children have already grown up. How do you know about the problems of orphans?

Alexander Bastrykin: The Investigative Committee is actively involved in the implementation of the Decree of the President of the Russian Federation of May 29, 2017 declaring 2018-2027 the "Decade of Childhood", which establishes additional measures to support Russian families. Investigators immediately respond to any abuse in this area, promptly suppress attempts to embezzle budget funds allocated to support motherhood and childhood.

In 2020, over 130 criminal cases were initiated on crimes related to violation of the housing rights of orphans. I would like to emphasize that the Committee's employees are constantly monitoring the media and the Internet for detecting incidents involving minors and other cases of violation of their rights and legitimate interests in order to ensure a proper response to them.

It should also be said that, on the initiative of the Investigative Committee, amendments were made to the Criminal Procedure Code of the Russian Federation concerning the improvement of the rights of juvenile victims and witnesses in criminal proceedings in terms of regulating the time of investigative actions, ensuring the participation of a teacher and a psychologist, and in other aspects.

From taxes to wages

In 2011, tax crimes were also transferred to the Investigative Committee. Has the portrait of tax evaders changed a lot over the years?

Alexander Bastrykin: Despite the significant liberalization of tax legislation aimed at creating favorable conditions for entrepreneurial activity, since 2011 the proportion of criminal cases in this category has tripled due to the streamlined mechanism of cooperation with the Federal Tax Service. Let me emphasize that we are not aiming at applying criminal penalties to the intruders; our task is to ensure compensation for the damage caused to the state in full.

We are successfully coping with this task - the amount of damage reimbursed in the course of procedural activities increased from 5.3 billion rubles in 2011 to 33.5 billion rubles in 2019. For nine months of 2020, this amount amounted to almost 20 billion rubles. As can be seen from the above indicators, the efficiency of this work is quite high.

Another no less important task for your subordinates is the fight against non-payment of wages. For this, employers face criminal charges. Does it help you in your work?

Alexander Bastrykin: From 2011 to the present, more than 6600 such criminal cases have been sent to the courts. And the damage was compensated in the amount of 18.5 billion rubles, which is about 80 percent of the damage inflicted. In addition, at the request of the investigators, property worth over 8 billion 300 million rubles was seized.

In the investigation of such cases, as in the case of tax structures, the primary task is to ensure compensation for damage. And for example, I can say that last year, taking into account the full payment of wage arrears, more than 450 cases of this category were terminated. Investigators and heads of investigative departments carried out 131 visits to labor collectives in order to prevent crimes related to non-payment of wages.

On the trail of terrorists

The Investigative Committee began to actively investigate the financing of terrorism, looking for those bandits who were able to escape decades ago. Are there any successes?

Alexander Bastrykin: For 10 years, the department's investigators have sent to court over 3200 criminal cases into extremist crimes and over a thousand cases into terrorism.

It is known that the financing of international terrorist organizations is carried out through individuals, and for this, active attempts are being made to raise funds via the Internet. The activities of terrorist "donors" are successfully suppressed by our joint efforts with the FSB and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia, the Russian Guard and Rosfinmonitoring. Last year, criminal cases were sent to the courts against 41 persons (data for nine months of 2020) who took part in the financing of international terrorist organizations.

One of the high-profile cases solved is the murder of the head of the Center for Countering Extremism of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the Republic of Ingushetia, Ibragim Eldzharkiev. How soon will the accomplices of this crime stand trial?

Alexander Bastrykin: Let me remind you that on the basis of the evidence collected, the investigation qualified the attacks on the head of the Center for Countering Extremism of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the Republic of Ingushetia, Ibragim Eldzharkiev, as acts of terrorism committed by members of the terrorist community.

During the first attack, Ibragim Eldzharkiev was fired upon in Ingushetia while traveling in a car with other security officials, one of whom was killed. A few months later - in November 2019 - Eldzharkiev was tracked down in Moscow and shot at the playground along with his brother.

At present, 12 persons are in custody in relation to this probe. Their motive and the motive of other wanted, as well as identified persons was the desire to force law enforcement officers to refuse to collect evidence against the leaders and members of the terrorist community and to cause fear among the population of the republic.

We intend to identify all those involved in these attacks and the activities of the terrorist community. Now the investigation has information about the participation in the commission of these crimes of at least 25 persons. In relation to 13 wanted persons, orders were issued to bring them to justice, and at the request of the investigation, at the moment, six of them have already been arrested in absentia by the court. Their role in the crime was covert surveillance of the victim, providing members of the terrorist community with weapons.

Opposing the investigation, members of the terrorist community, apparently fearing their persecution, are taking measures to discredit the head of the investigation team by publishing fake information about him in the media and telegram channels. But the investigation intends to establish and achieve the arrest of each of the perpetrators, regardless of the pressure.

Probes from the past

At your briefings you often demand to pay increased attention to solving crimes of the past. Why is it so important?

Alexander Bastrykin: I have repeatedly noted how important the principle of inevitability of punishment is. Our active introduction of digital technologies into practice has significantly influenced the expansion of the evidence base in the cases under investigation. Taking into account the modern capabilities of forensic science, last year, together with the investigating authorities, it was possible to uncover more than 5 thousand (5072) crimes in criminal cases suspended in previous years (in 2019 - 4543). Among them there are 551 murders, 283 facts of intentional infliction of grievous bodily harm, resulting in the death of the victim by negligence, 336 rapes and violent acts of a sexual nature, 1345 other grave and especially grave crimes.

The modern forensic capabilities you are talking about are DNA technologies?

Alexander Bastrykin: Among the others. Several series of rapes and violent acts of a sexual nature, as well as murders, have been revealed with the help of DNA research.

We have already informed the public that the Main Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee of Russia is actively investigating a criminal case on the facts of 26 murders and one attempted murder of elderly women committed in the period 2011-2012 on the territory of several subjects of the Central, Volga and Ural federal districts. In December of the last year, Tagirov, detained for these inhuman crimes, was charged with all episodes of the criminal activities. The active work with him continues to consolidate the evidence base and check for involvement in other crimes.

What will the examination show

The Forensic Expert Center of the Committee has been recently opened. How and why was it created?

Alexander Bastrykin: Over the years, the experts of the department have gained vast experience in conducting various examinations. Over 30 thousand of them are performed annually. However, our experts did not have the status of state forensic experts.

Resolving these issues required changes in the legislation, which came into force last year and made it possible to establish a Forensic Expert Center in the Committee. Its creation was the result of many years of work to give the experts of the Investigative Committee such a significant status.

The Center, along with the central office in Moscow, includes six branches in St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Yekaterinburg, Khabarovsk, Novosibirsk and Yessentuki. They bring together experts deployed in virtually every constituent entity of the Russian Federation.

The Forensic Expert Center produces biological, accounting, fingerprinting, information-analytical, computer-technical, linguistic, tax, assessment, fire-technical, handwriting, psychiatric and physiological, construction-technical, forensic, technical and forensic examinations of documents, financial and analytical, phonoscopic, environmental and photo-video technical forensic examinations.

How does it affect the quality of the investigation?

Alexander Bastrykin: The number of criminal cases returned by the prosecutor for additional investigation in 2020 decreased by more than two times compared to 2019 (from 2416 to 1206). The improvement in the quality of the investigation is also evidenced by the fact that the number of cases returned for revision by the court also decreased by 23 percent (677 cases in 2020, 880 - in 2019). At the same time, 32,519 criminal cases were investigated in a period of more than two months, which is 10 percent less than in 2019 (36,071). Their share in the number of completed cases also decreased: from 37 percent in 2019 to 35 percent last year.

We make every effort to do our job efficiently and for the benefit of society, realizing that a further reduction in the crime rate in the country, the well-being and peaceful life of citizens depend on our efforts. It is this organization of our activities that strengthens the trust to the Investigative Committee and helps us achieve positive results. And this is the main criterion for our work.

Echo of war

The year of the 75th anniversary of the Victory has passed, and we often wrote about the initiation by the Investigative Committee of Russia of criminal cases on unknown facts of the atrocities of the Nazis against the civilian population. How is this work going?

Alexander Bastrykin: The Investigative Committee continues to investigate the circumstances of the genocide committed by the Nazis against the civilian population and prisoners of war on the territory of the regions occupied during the Great Patriotic War.

Initially, we considered all this as separate facts - in connection with the declassification of archival data, burials of civilians with traces of their violent death were discovered in various subjects, and we qualified this as genocide, initiating separate criminal cases. We are talking about the Novgorod, Pskov, Oryol, Volgograd, Rostov regions, Krasnodar and Stavropol Territories, the Crimean Peninsula.

However, taking into account the scale of the punitive actions and the obtained evidence of their focus on the complete destruction of the civilian population of the Soviet republics, it was decided to initiate a criminal case on the genocide of the peoples of the Soviet Union by the German fascist invaders during the Great Patriotic War. Therefore, a number of similar episodes about the events of those years are combined in one general criminal case.

The main evidence of the commission of crimes by the Nazis today still remains the materials of the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg and criminal cases considered by national courts, the results of the work of the Extraordinary State Commission. They also include data from other trials, the results of the work of our fellow investigators, who carefully recorded all the details of the criminal activities of the occupiers.

In addition, the evidence of the crimes of the Nazi invaders are declassified archival materials, testimonies of witnesses, including relatives of victims of Nazi atrocities, the remains of people with traces of violent death, their personal belongings and documents found in mass graves of the Great Patriotic War times during search operations, carried out in order to establish the names of the dead and missing in the defense of the Fatherland.

Based on this data, we now have the opportunity to continue working to identify and search for those responsible. And all this is aimed at realizing the principle of inevitability of punishment, preserving the memory of our ancestors and restoring historical justice.

The Investigative Committee is constantly engaged in the patriotic and moral education of young people. Why do you think this is so important?

Alexander Bastrykin: In the Year of Memory and Glory, which was announced in 2020, we held a large-scale All-Russian patriotic youth "Relay of Good Deeds". The "Relay" banner passed through many regions of the country, calling at the ports of Avacha Bay of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, the Chukotka ports of Pevek and Edvitinot, the Yamalo-Nenets port of Sabetta, Murmansk, where patriotic celebrations were held. Representatives of the Youth Union "Young Investigator", "Yunarmiya" and other organizations and associations were widely involved in the relay race.

In a difficult epidemiological situation, cadets, students and employees of the Committee continue to provide active assistance and support to veterans of the Great Patriotic War and the investigation, as well as to certain social categories of citizens. The children of the sponsored orphanages are surrounded by special care from the employees of the Investigative Committee. There are over 400 of them now. We do not leave anyone in trouble!

I am proud to note that in the Victory Museum at the All-Russian Patriotic Forum, held from December 9 to 11, 2020, the Investigative Committee of Russia became a laureate of the first Victory National Prize. Our agency won in the category "By Own Example" in the category "Mentoring Project".

Behind each such award are years of hard, selfless work!

Anniversary

Alexander Ivanovich, today the Investigative Committee celebrates its first anniversary - 10 years. Rossiyskaya Gazeta congratulates you and the staff of the Investigative Committee of Russia on this significant date! Tell us about the origins of the Committee's formation and its achievements over the past decade.

Alexander Bastrykin: Thank you sincerely for your congratulations. Over the past 10 years, the Investigative Committee has organically integrated into the system of state bodies, becoming its integral part. Of course, it was a complicated process, but we worked through it. Solving problems that fall within our competence is important for the society as a whole and for each individual citizen in particular. And over the years, everything has been done to solve them promptly and professionally. Of course, we can assume that we walked "down the road", taking as a basis what was created before us. That this is not exactly so. There really was a certain basis, but we introduced new principles and standards into our activities, setting ourselves a fairly high bar. First of all, I mean a dialogue with people, with society. We build it on the principles of openness, accessibility, lack of formalism and continue to work so that the main criterion for the result of this work is the trust of citizens.

Investigative and forensic work is based on the understanding of the importance of high-quality investigation of the most complex crimes that infringe on citizens and affect various areas of our life. We always try to stay ahead of the curve and take systemic measures to improve one or another area of our work, taking into account modern realities. This approach allowed us to achieve good results in solving crimes of past years, an array of which we got in the course of the reform of the investigation, to solve the issues of protecting minors from unlawful encroachments, to ensure the protection of the constitutional rights of people, state institutions from criminal encroachments, and also to do the maximum possible to compensate for the damage inflicted to the victims of offenses.

That's what the organizational changes and improvement of the department's regulatory framework were aimed at. All these years we have been actively developing forensic science, the possibilities of which are now simply enormous. We have opened the Forensic Expert Center aimed at objectively conducting the examinations necessary to establish the truth. We have created a system of educational institutions that makes it possible to train professional personnel for the Committee.

We see that the assessment of our work is subjected to the most thorough analysis by many specialists. But now we can say with confidence that the acquisition of procedural independence has given the investigation new qualitative opportunities in the fight against crime, which are being successfully implemented.

How many probes have been investigated?

Alexander Bastrykin: Over the past 10 years, the investigators of the Investigative Committee have sent almost 1 million criminal cases to the courts (971,003). The number of accused persons with a special legal status in criminal cases sent to the court amounted to over 10 thousand people (10 319). Over 300 billion rubles have been reimbursed to the state and citizens who have been affected by the crimes. Behind these figures is the hard work of investigators and criminologists who are ready to come to defend the rights of citizens at any time.

Alexander Ivanovich, let me once again congratulate you and the entire team of the Investigative Committee on the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Committee! To wish you good health and success in the difficult and very necessary job.

Alexander Bastrykin: Thank you for your kind words. Taking this opportunity, I cordially congratulate the staff and veterans of the forensic service on the professional holiday! Dear colleagues, I sincerely wish everyone good health, success, and prosperity! I am confident that our professionalism and responsible attitude will help us to continue to maintain the authority of the law at the highest level.

Under investigative laws

The Investigative Committee is an author of many legislative initiatives. Which of them would you highlight?

Alexander Bastrykin: Let me remind you that over the years, thanks to the active position of the Investigative Committee in criminal proceedings, the scope of the rights of victims has been significantly increased by law. The scope of application of property confiscation has also been expanded. The law on counteracting raider seizures of property and many others have been adopted.

The central office of the Committee on a permanent basis participates in the preparation and consideration of drafts of normative legal acts in the field of criminal proceedings received from various state bodies.

As part of the work being carried out to ensure the labor rights of citizens, the Main Investigative Department in 2020 prepared a draft federal law "On Amending Article 145.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation" approved by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia, which provides for the addition of a person actually acting head of an organization, head of a branch, representative office or other separate structural unit to the list of subjects of criminal responsibility for non-payment of wages. Adoption of the proposed changes will ensure the inevitability of punishment not only for the leaders of organizations, but also for the actual employers who manage labor collectives through nominal leaders. Currently, this bill is being approved by the relevant departments.

As you can imagine, new proposals should be formed based on the analysis of practice and existing problems. We see that the information space and the freedom to use various platforms mainly gives a useful effect, but, obviously, there are negative aspects related to the ability to broadcast information on the Web that can harm our youth.

Recently, it was reported that the Federation Council has spoken about plans to develop a legislative initiative to ban so-called trash streams. And we believe that in some cases, if such information has brought certain grave consequences, it is advisable to study the issue of introducing criminal liability for its dissemination.

And by the way, if you remember, many years ago the Investigative Committee proposed the idea of introducing genomic registration of certain categories of persons. The idea was expressed that genomic registration of persons convicted and serving a sentence in the form of imprisonment would significantly increase the efficiency of work on the disclosure and investigation of crimes. And recently, the relevant State Duma Committee on Security and Combating Corruption has supported a bill that further expands the list of persons subject to mandatory state genomic registration. This bill provides for such registration for all convicts serving a sentence of imprisonment, suspects and accused of committing crimes, as well as persons subjected to administrative arrest. I believe that the position of the legislator in this direction will indeed make it possible to fight crime more effectively.