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A court in Makhachkala, the capital of the Russian Republic of Daghestan has sentenced the city’s former mayor to four years in prison on corruption charges.
Musa Musayev was handed down the sentence on Monday after pleading guilty and cooperating with investigators.
His lawyers said they had previously hoped he would receive a suspended sentence.
Musayev’s lawyers told OC Media they had not yet decided whether to appeal the sentence.
Musayev was convicted of abuse of office for illegally transferring five plots of land at a reduced price, costing the city budget ₽48 million ($700,000).
He was arrested in January and sent to a detention centre in Yessentuki, in neighbouring Stavropol Krai, as the case was being investigated by the Main Department of the Investigative Committee of Russia in the North Caucasus Federal District.
Musayev’s trial began in Makhachkala on 2 October in special session without witnesses and without the release of written evidence against him.
The state prosecution said at the trial that the former mayor had admitted his guilt and actively cooperated with the investigation. They said evidence against him had been built mainly on Musayev’s testimony as well as that of Deputy Mayor Kurban Kurbanov, whose case is being considered separately.
According to the prosecutor, the former mayor was pressured into signing illegal documents by Kurbanov and others, on behalf of relatives and friends.
‘My signature is on the documents, so I admit my guilt and do not want to shift it to others’, Musayev said in court.
‘No mayor in this country could do what I did’
Despite several times admitting his guilt to the court, Musayev remained defiant throughout his trial.
He said he inherited a troubled city — with debts on the verge of default and thousands of resolutions the previous administration had not taken decisions on.
‘I worked 20 hours a day, saved this city with my team, I walked around Makhachkala on foot, at six in the morning, I was cycling around the city. No mayor in this country will be able to do what I did’, he said in court on 3 October.
Musayev said he would agree with whatever decision the court made, but asked to take into account his merits, awards, and the opinion of the Public Chamber of Makhachkala that he was a talented leader.
‘My leadership qualities will definitely not improve behind bars’, he noted.
Musayev’s defence asked the judge to take into account the words of Head of Daghestan Vladimir Vasilyev, that ‘everyone who made his business and performed his duties uncleanly has a legal way […] to return their illegal gains’.
They cited Vasilyev as saying that the Russian Criminal Code has a concept of “reparation”, and that the court should seek ‘other, less strict decisions on their fate’.
His defence said the charges against him were not connected with corruption, but a technical violation of the law, which should soften the sentence.
They argued Musayev tried to correct his mistakes during the investigation by revoking his previous orders and seizing the illegally transferred land.
Three of the five plots of land in question had been returned to the administration through the courts, his defence said.
The prosecution had requested a five-year sentence and a three-year ban on holding public office.
Taking into account the mitigating circumstances, the court gave Musayev four years in a general regime correctional colony as well as a 3-year ban on holding office.
The Mayor’s Office of Makhachkala told OC Media that city council would begin procedures for electing a new mayor once the appeal period had expired.