A former Finance Minister of Ingushetia and another high-ranking ministry official have been sentenced to five years in prison for misspending ₽2 billion ($31 million) in budgetary funds that were allocated for state employees and housing.
The Magas District Court handed down the sentences to former minister Ruslan Tsechoev and the former head of the compensation payments department at the ministry, Vakha Bersanov, on 30 November.
The criminal investigation into the two was initiated four years ago, in 2015.
Tsechoev was placed under house arrest and did not appear at the final court hearing, at which time he was put on the federal wanted list.
According to Interfax, on Tuesday he was detained by law enforcement agencies in neighbouring North Ossetia and handed over to Ingush police.
Bersanov’s whereabouts are still unknown. A source close to the Interior Ministry told OC Media that he had also been put on the federal wanted list.
The source said that the court’s verdict had not yet entered into force and that Tsechoyev’s defence had filed an appeal to the Supreme Court of Ingushetia.
The court found that from May 2014 to March 2017, Tsechoev and Bersanov misspent ₽2 billion ($31 million) that had been allocated from the federal budget of the Russian Federation for housing and salaries.
The source told OC Media that instead of being spent as intended, the money was used to plug the budget deficit of the republic.
However, according to the laws of the Russian Federation, that any money that is not spent per its allocation must be returned to the federal budget.
To conceal the crime, according to investigators, Tsechoev and Bersanov returned portions of the money the republic received from the federal government in January, February, and March 2015 back to the federal budget.
RIA-Novosti noted that Bersanov submitted forged reports to the Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation on how the money was spent.
In mid-February 2015, the Ingush media reported about the non-payment of salaries in dozens of budgetary organizations in the republic — including schools, child care facilities, hospitals and clinics.
Shortly thereafter, the prosecutor’s office discovered that money for salaries to state employees from Moscow was received on time, but the Ministry of Finance of Ingushetia had used the funds for other purposes.
Following the prosecutor’s inspection, Tsechoev was removed as finance minister and the Russian Investigative Committee in Ingushetia opened a criminal case against him.
Tsechoev and Bersanov were accused of abuse of power, which entailed grave consequences, and of misuse of budget funds in an especially large amount.
Both officials are also accused of committing forgery, that case is still ongoing.
A change in leadership
While under investigation, in May 2017, Ruslan Tsechoev was appointed head of the Office of the Federal Treasury for the Republic of Ingushetia, by then-head of Ingushetia, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov.
Tsechoev left this post no later than July 2018.
This is not the first arrest of Yevkurov’s senior officials. In October, the head of the administration of the head of Ingushetia Muslim Yandiyev, and the ex-minister of construction of the republic, Mustafa Buruzhev, were also detained on corruption charges.
[Read on OC Media: Two former senior Ingush officials under investigation]
On 29 November, the deputy mayor of Nazran, Ruslan Ozdoev, was arrested on charges of abuse of power. According to Interfax, he is suspected of embezzling ₽24 million ($380,000) from the city budget. The money was earmarked for drilling artesian wells and installing water towers, which did not materialise.
Political analyst Denis Sokolov, a senior advisor at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, told OC Media that the arrests in Ingushetia were the result of the change of the head of the republic.
He also said that under conditions in which there are no legitimate elections and ‘no freedom of speech’, accusations of corruption were the main instrument of political struggle in today’s Russia.
Sokolov said he does not believe the arrests will create systemic change. He said the team of the former head of Ingushetia, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, would be ‘cleaned up’ and forced to ‘pay’ for the corrupt past.
‘And when the “degreasing” ends and new people take up key positions, the anti-corruption campaign in the republic will gradually subside. If another leader comes, everything will happen again’, Sokolov said.