Dmitry Litvinovich: Where have the million gone?

Russian Internal Ministry, the Federal Security Service, and the Finance Ministry have created a special group occupying itself with the so-called case of Kozlenok: the case about the biggest theft of precious stones in Russia. This was reported today at a press-conference by representative of Russian Internal Ministry’s operative research office Sergei Klementyev. According to him, property of the amount of 144 million dollars has been stolen, Interfax reports.

At the beginning of the 1990s, diamonds and jewelry of the amount of 180 million dollars were removed from Russia. They were received by the US Golden ADA company. According to an agreement with Roskomdragmet, this company sold off gems from Russia to fill the state’s treasury, though Andrei Kozlenok, who became its head, used it for his personal enrichment. A part of gems was returned to Russia after Kozlenok’s arrest. However, the biggest part of the money made on the value’s realization was plundered. In 1996, the Public Prosecutor General’s Office of Russia brought an action connected with this fact. As a result, Golden ADA head Andrei Kozlenok and the leader of Zwezda Urala firm Nikolai Fedorov, ex-head of Roskomdragmet Yevgeni Bychkov, and ex-head of the government’s finance department Igor Moskovski appeared before trial. They were all accused of theft, bribery, smuggling, and malfeasance. The Moscow trial was humane towards the defendants. This May, Andrei Kozlenok was sentenced to six years of imprisonment; Nikolai Fedorov, to three and a half years; while Bychkov and Moskovski were sentenced to three years of imprisonment and were amnestied at once. It should be mentioned that the accusations of bribery against them were cancelled.

The trial excluded one episode from Andrei Kozlenok’s accusation and reduced his sentence to four years. Therefore, only two months remain for him to spend in prison, because he was arrested on January 6, 1998. Ex-head of Roskomdragmet Yevgeni Bychkov was remitted of the crime of smuggling, because the crime’s statute of limitation expired; now he is accused only of abuse of his power. Nikolai Fedorov was amnestied and released.

In connection with the Golden ADA case, the name of Boris Fedorov appeared in the press. Novaya Gazeta reported about his role as finance minister and as vice-premier of the Russian government in the affair with Golden ADA, when in 1993, jewelry and tsarist golden coins of the amount of 184 million dollars were sent abroad. The jewelry has still not been found. The irony of this case is that none of the accused functionaries possessed enough power to make decisions about sending jewelry abroad. According to the legislation, decisions of the kind need a government decree signed by prime-minister, or, at least, by his first deputy, accounting for currency questions. Without such a decision, jewelry from the State Treasury could not cross the border, even the Moscow region’s border. At that time, Victor Chernomyrdin was prime-minister, while Boris Fedorov was his first deputy. Both of them denied their role in this case. At that time, the investigators believed them. Really, should the investigators believe Kozlenok, as there is detailed evidence that he brought money from the US made on selling gold and handed it to the organizers of Boris Yeltsin’s election campaign of 1996? Or should they believe Bychkov, who minutely told about the lobbying by Fedorov for the decision about the removal of jewelry? Today’s authorities make much of Victor Chernomyrdin. He is the Russian ambassador to Ukraine, and the government seems to be satisfied with him. Boris Fedorov does not appear after some revelatory articles about his selling Gazprom actions through men of straw.

It is not clear where the Internal Ministry and the Federal Security Service intend to search for the million if all the culprits are out of their sight.

Probably, if the investigation is successful, the thread could lead to the very top, which is dangerous even for the investigators, or it is a hint at the “family” of the ex-president. We cannot be surprised with the great progress, though, as it usually happens, nothing but naked populism is behind the words about the anti-corruption fight.

Dmitry Litvinovich PRAVDA.Ru

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