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The “Gaizer case”: two governors charged with corruption

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The “Gaizer case”: two governors charged with corruption

Who is to blame for large-scale corruption in the Republic of Komi?

Another former Head of the Republic of Komi, Vladimir Torlopov, governor of the region in 2001 – 2004, has been arrested. He is charged with the organization of a criminal community and participation in it under art. 210 of the RF Criminal Code. Even for hard-boiled Russia this is a unique incident, in which two governors of the same region are charged with corruption simultaneously.  

 

Resources did not help

Nevertheless, Vladimir Torlopov has never been a key player in the so called Gaizer group. He is likely to have become a pawn of his own decisions.  On the other hand, if Torlopov had not striven for power so much there would not have been any “Gaizer case”. But first things first.

In 2001 Vladimir Torlopov headed the republican parliament – the State Soviet of the Republic of Komi. Actually he was the second-in-command after the Head of the RF region, who at that time was the former first secretary of the CPSU regional Committee and Ex-Chairman of the Supreme Court of Komi ASSR, Yury Spiridonov.

It was smooth sailing to the elections for the head of the region, and Spiridonov was sure of his victory: he was a bit scary, people called him “papa” and all important sections were reliably controlled via administrative resources. It's no laughing matter — 13 years in the main seat of power of the republic.  

He governed heavy-handedly, in haughty ways. But as compared with what happened later, all his extravagancy looks now like childish mischief.  

Just before the elections, entrepreneur Alexander Zarubin appeared in the public arena of the republic For the previous 10 years he had risen through the ranks from being director of a shop selling videotapes to deputy Chair of the Board of the RF Pension Fund and Deputy of the RF Presidential Envoy in the Volga Federal District.

It was Torlopov who opened the door to Zarubin, having invited him into the secretariat. Zarubin appreciated it and thanked Torlopov by financing his election campaign. Zarubin then took about 2,000 people from outside the region to provide for vote counting in Torlopov’s favour. The fat was in the fire, and Vladimir Torlopov occupied the main chair of the republic for nine long years.  

The “Gaizer case”: two governors charged with corruption 

It benefits nobody

But he was quickly moved away from the real levers of power.  An economic bloc was being formed by Zarubin, having received the position of the governor’s top advisor.

However, he was soon called to Victor Vekselberg’s “Renova”.  And he gave way to his successor, Alexei Chernov, who is now waiting in “Matrosskaya Tishina” to be taken to court. By the way, Zarubin himself has not been arrested; he escaped abroad well beforehand. 

The looting of the republic started almost immediately. Zarubin took a whole team from the Stavropol region who considered the region as an enterprise yielding profit. But they took up only projects bringing profit to themselves, not to the republic.  

Actually, all long-term and medium-term investment projects initiated by Spiridonov were frozen at once. For decades, the “Seregovo” health retreat and the new airport could not be completed.

When I was Editor-in Chief of the large republican newspaper “Krasnoye Znamya” (Red Banner) I had a talk with the former Syktyvkar Mayor, Roman Zenischev (who is now also imprisoned for corruption). He asserted then that both the health retreat and the airport could be financed from the federal budget, but the decision was blocked… by Komi officials. The reason? They could not find any money. And if so — it benefits nobody...

 

Playing on a grand scale

Meanwhile, people played on a grand scale. They even managed to find support in the higher echelons of the Russian authorities and successfully lobby for the necessary appointments both in the republican government and the regional departments of federal structures.  For example, within several years they had fully changed the law enforcement authorities, having appointed their own people to the posts of the Republic’s Prosecutor, Minister of the Interior and FSB.

After that, nobody prevented them from doing what they wanted. First they began to control the enterprise of “Intaugol”, then energy tariffs, road construction, agriculture, schemes with state property...

Profits disappeared offshore via sham companies. And though all Zarubin’s Russian accounts were frozen, he is sure to be wealthy abroad.

Viacheslav Gaizer first appeared in Torlopov’s team in 2004, as republican minister of finance. Before that he had worked in the “Komi Social Bank” headed by Zarubin. And in the 1990s Gaizer, like other persons of interest, was mentioned in police reports as a member of the “Ivanhoe” organized crime group in Syktyvkar.  His nickname, “Slava- affaire”, spoke for itself.

In 2010, when the governor was to be re-elected, Torlopov was absolutely sure of his “floodability”. But Zarubin’s group was so influential, and their appetites were so immense, that Torlopov ceased being amenable.  

 The “Gaizer case”: two governors charged with corruption

Neither here nor there?

And a “child” swallowed its “parent”, sending him to honourable exile – to Moscow, to be senator in the Federation Council. The Republic of Komi was headed by Viacheslav Gaizer who did not need to offer any explanations – and there were no obstacles to him for spoiling the republic.  

Within the period of his government, Vladimir Torlopov, who focused on the social sphere, seemed to be uninterested in economic issues. But investigators think differently – he seems to have signed some papers and he is charged with the wasteful spending of as much as 2.5 bln roubles.

Torlopov admitted his guilt and is cooperating with the investigation. He must be offended by his former subordinates, who did not practice what they preached.

Evgeny GORCHAKOV

Picture by Oleg Khromov

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