A former Chechen official claims to have been tortured in the basement of Grozny City Hall in an attempt to extract money from the state-owned company he headed, according to Russian rights group Memorial.
Lom-Ali Elbiyev, former head of Teplosnabzheniye in Chechnya, is currently in an unnamed European country with his family, after he was forced to flee fearing further persecution.
According to Elbiyev, Deputy Chairman of the City Government Committee Beslan Khuchiyev, who is also the brother of the mayor of Grozny, interfered in the financial affairs of the company. This did not stop even after Khuchiyev stopped working for the committee, Elbiyev says.
Elbiyev says he complained to Grozny Mayor Muslim Khuchiyev, who responded by accusing Elbiyev of embezzlement.
After conducting a ‘visual inspection’, associates of the mayor confirmed that money was missing.
Elbiyev told Memorial that the mayor’s guards took him at night to the City Hall’s basement, where he was beaten, kicked, hit with batons, and electrocuted. Later, according to Elbiyev, at the request of the mayor, an electric torture machine was brought to the basement. Unable to withstand the torture, Elbiyev agreed to confess on video to embezzling ₽28 million ($470,000). Only after promising to ‘return the money’, was he released.
Elbiyev claims that he was able to borrow only ₽4 million ($67,000) from his property’s mortgage, leaving the money at the security checkpoint in front of the City Hall. After this, he claims to have received a call demanding he bring an additional ₽16 million ($270,000), or the consequences would reach not only him, but also his family.
Fearing for the lives of his relatives, Elbiyev was forced to leave the country for an unnamed European country.
Memorial could not independently verify Elbiyev’s claims, and has sent a request for clarification to local law enforcement agencies. They have not received an answer.
Muslim Khuchiyev was dismissed during a previous tenure as Mayor of Grozny in 2012 for a fraud scheme in the land distribution system. However, after publicly apologising to Chechen Head Ramzan Kadyrov for ‘failing his trust’ and asking for forgiveness he was soon appointed Kadyrov’s assistant, and then minister of economic development and trade. Three years later, in 2015, Khuchiyev was reappointed Mayor of Grozny.
Elbiyev is not the first official to flee alleged arbitrary persecution at the hands of Chechnya’s authorities. Two years ago, Tumso Abdurakhmanov, deputy general director of state-owned company Elektrosvyaz, fled with his family to Georgia after receiving death threats from another former Grozny Mayor, Islam Kadyrov. Islam is the nephew of Ramzan Kadyrov. Abdurakhmanov claims that Islam took issue with his beard, accusing him of being a ‘Wahhabi’ — in official nomenclature, a synonym for terrorist.