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Contract Killings


Thursday, 7 August 2008

Vladimir Barsukov (a.k.a Kumarin), reportedly one of the former leaders of the Tambov criminal group.

Vladimir Barsukov (a.k.a Kumarin), reportedly one of the former leaders of the Tambov criminal group, who is facing charges of orchestrating and carrying out a series of raids on large St. Petersburg companies and organizations, and other crimes, has been sent to the Vasileostrovsky District Court, the Prosecutor General’s press office said on Monday.According to a statement posted on Russia’s General Prosecutor’s Office website, Viktor Grin, Russia’s Deputy Prosecutor General, has authorized a summing-up of the case that involves “a string of illegal raids on St. Petersburg enterprises and properties between 2004 and 2006 committed by an organized gang formed by Vladimir Barsukov (Kumarin).”Barsukov, who changed his last name from Kumarin in the 1990s, was arrested on Aug. 22, 2007, during a special raid carried out by a joint team of law enforcement officers from Moscow and St. Petersburg, prosecutors said. The businessman was then transferred to Moscow’s Lefortovo prison, where he is still being held.In the 1990s, Barsukov was alleged to be the head of the Tambov gang, one of the most feared criminal syndicates in St. Petersburg at the time. In October 1999, Viktor Novosyolov, the controversial then-vice-speaker of the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly, who was believed to be the Tambov group’s lobbyist in parliament and known to maintain close ties to Barsukov, was murdered and the powerful Tambov group was suspected in a series of killings of local businessmen. Vladimir Markin, an official representative of the Investigative Committee of the General Prosecutor’s Office, told reporters in Moscow on Monday that an investigation continues into Barsukov’s possible involvement in a series of other crimes, including forming a criminal gang, murder and attempted execution-style contract killing.The prosecutors are probing Barsukov’s possible links to, in particular, an attempt to organize a contract killing aimed at eventually seizing ownership of the St. Petersburg oil terminal.
The Prosecutor’s Office website said that Barsukov has been charged in forming a criminal gang, money laundering and swindling.
The investigators believe the gang illegally seized a total of 13 local commercial enterprises. The cost of these properties amounts to 5 billion rubles ($213 million).
“At present, the Committee has established that in 2005-2006 Barsukov, with the assistance of seven other individuals — who are currently under arrest — formed a criminal gang, seized ownership of the Peterburgsky Ugolok restaurant and the Magazin Smolninsky store, and then sold these illegally acquired properties to a third party,” Markin said.
According to the investigation, Barsukov and his accomplices bribed officials at the St. Petersburg branch of the Federal Tax Service to alter the unified state database where the properties were listed, and to withdraw several sets of key documents related to the properties’ original ownership.
“In order to deprive the original owners of a chance to return the properties, the gang accomplished a chain of fictitious sales of properties until they were purchased by the businessmen under the gang’s full control,” reads the prosecution’s conclusion.
The Tambov Gang case has prompted a series of corruption investigations involving neglect of professional duties by certain members of law enforcement agencies and high-ranking civil servants.
Prosecutor General Yury Chaika said the Tambov Gang investigation exposed powerful corrupt networks involving law enforcement officers as well as state executives and the prosecutor’s own staff. Barsukov, who has continually denied being a leader in the criminal community, has won several cases against Russian journalists who directly accused him of criminal connections in their publications.
However, Chaika has repeatedly stated that the Tambov criminal syndicate “has been exposed” having launched an investigation into a series of seizures that the prosecutors believe the gang was responsible for.
To strengthen his point, Chaika said more than 40 people had been charged in connection with the Tambov gang investigation prior to Barsukov’s arrest.
The Barsukov case is one of eight criminal cases regarding severe crimes committed by St. Petersburg-based criminal gangs that are currently being investigated or supervised by the General Prosecutor’s Office.Over the past decade, a string of Western media outlets, including Le Monde and Newsweek, linked Kumarin to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin through Vladimir Smirnov, the former head of St. Petersburg operations of SPAG, an agency that had been set up to invest in the city’s real estate, and an old associate of Putin.
In 1994, as a deputy mayor of St. Petersburg, Putin awarded the St. Petersburg Fuel Company, or PTK, the monopoly for supplying gasoline to the city.
At the time, Smirnov was a major shareholder inthe Petersburg Fuel Company and local media reported that the company was controlled by the Tambov.
In the mid-1990s the high-profile contract killings of major players in the fuel market rocked the city, contributing to its reputation as Russia’s criminal capital, or “Banditsky Petersburg.” In 1998, Smirnov took over PTK and appointed Barsukov as his deputy.

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