Ten years in prison in a penal colony – such a punishment was received by the Dorogomilovsky Court of Moscow, the former head of the customs investigation and inquiry department of the Federal Customs Service (FCS), Lieutenant General Alexander Kizlyk. According to investigators, he twice abused his powers. In the first case, at the request of his colleague, he helped to impose a minimum fine of 315,000 euros on a passenger who tried to take him out of Russia to Montenegro, and in the second, he helped the wife of the Russian ambassador to evade responsibility, who forgot to declare almost 42,000 dollars upon entering her homeland. Four of the general’s colleagues received five to seven years in prison.
The defense, which believes that the actions of the customs officers had neither elements nor events of a crime, intends to appeal the verdict. According to lawyers, such harsh sentences will only force customs officers to apply maximum sanctions to passengers.
In order to announce the verdict, it took Judge Galina Talanina only 12 minutes – according to the new rules, the courts announce only the introductory and operative parts of judicial acts.
She found Alexander Kizlyk guilty of two episodes of abuse of office that caused grave consequences (part 3 of article 285 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). Four other defendants – his deputy Aleksey Serebro, two deputy heads of the Domodedovo and Vnukovo customs, Yuri Cherkashin and Konstantin Mishin, and Andrey Shurygin, senior investigator of the Domodedovo customs department, were convicted in one episode.
Two episodes of the case
The events that formed the basis of the criminal case took place in 2019. According to investigators, in the first case, Kizlyk complied with the request of Dmitry Listopad, deputy Moscow prosecutor in charge of overseeing the implementation of laws in air and water transport (he was arrested in absentia and put on the wanted list). The latter asked for a minimum sentence for passenger Igor Stepanov. He, flying in February 2019 from Vnukovo Airport to Montenegro, tried to take out 315,150 euros without declaring the currency.
On behalf of Kizlyk, his deputy Aleksey Serebro issued a decree imposing “an underestimated administrative fine in the amount of one fourth of the undeclared amount of cash”, and the deputy head of the Vnukovo Customs, Colonel Konstantin Mishin, signed a document in which he announced the need to impose just such a punishment. As a result, Stepanov was issued an administrative fine of 5 million 806 thousand rubles. The seized 315 thousand euros were returned to him, and not confiscated, which, according to the investigation, caused damage to the state in the amount of 23 million 227 thousand rubles (at the exchange rate of that time).
A criminal case was initiated against Stepanov for smuggling money on an especially large scale (part 2 of article 200.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). However, on September 13, 2019, the Khoroshevsky Court of Moscow dismissed the case due to the active repentance of the passenger and imposed a fine of 50 thousand rubles on him.
The second episode of the case concerned Elena Maksimycheva, the wife of the Russian ambassador to Kenya, Dmitry Maksimychev, evading criminal liability. Returning to Moscow in July 2019, the woman, instead of going to the hall of official delegations, where she was met by an employee of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, along with all the passengers, walked along the green corridor at Domodedovo Airport. The passenger herself claimed that she felt very unwell after a long flight and therefore did not declare $ 41,895, which, according to her, was her husband’s salary.
According to the case file, acting at the request of Sergey Konovalenko, the former head of the customs cooperation department of the Federal Customs Service of Russia, Alexander Kizlyk, through the head of the Domodedovo Customs, Colonel Yuri Cherkashin, agreed to issue a decision to refuse to initiate a criminal case against Maksimycheva for cash smuggling on an especially large scale. It was signed by Major Andrey Shurygin, Senior Investigator for Particularly Important Cases of the Investigation Department of the Domodedovo Customs FCS.
An administrative case was initiated against her, but it was terminated due to the insignificance of the deed. The ambassador’s wife was returned 41.8 thousand dollars, which in ruble terms as of the date of withdrawal amounted to 2 million 644 thousand rubles.
Punishment for customs officers
During the trial, the defendants denied guilt, arguing that they acted according to the law and did not receive any material benefit from their actions. However, the judge considered their guilt proven. Having sentenced Alexander Kizlyk to ten years in a penal colony, she deprived him of the rank of lieutenant general of the customs service, as well as the class rank of state counselor of justice of the second class and state awards: the Order of Honor, the Order of Merit for the Fatherland, IV degree, the medal of the Order Service to the Fatherland, II degree, as well as the honorary title of Honored Lawyer of the Russian Federation.
Aleksey Serebro was sentenced to a seven-year term, Yuri Cherkashin received six years in prison, and Konstantin Mishin and Andrei Shurygin received five years in a penal colony. Silver, Mishin and Cherkashin were deprived of the ranks of colonels of the customs service, and Shurygin – major of the customs service. The latter, being the father of four children, unlike other defendants, was not in custody, but under house arrest, so he was taken into custody in the courtroom. Anticipating a similar outcome, Shurygin arrived at the court with things.
Lawyers called the verdict illegal and promised to appeal it to the Moscow City Court. According to Oleg Sopotsinsky, Kizlyk’s lawyer, managing partner of the MILL Law Office, the actions of his client, as well as other defendants, do not constitute a crime at all. “The prosecution was not even able to formulate the norms of the law that they violated,” he said. The lawyer believes that there is no evidence of the guilt of the defendants in the case, it was initiated illegally and was investigated with gross violations. He called the accusation brought against the customs officers “a heap of fabrications.” In his opinion, contrary to the arguments of the prosecutor’s office, which, in order to justify the guilt of the defendants, referred to the testimony of witnesses, they all stated “that the defendants did not actually carry out any criminal activity.” “It is impossible to interpret their testimony otherwise,” the lawyer said.
He noted that the key evidence – audio recordings of wiretapping of Kizlyk’s telephone conversations with subordinates – also does not hold water. According to him, a phonoscopic and linguistic examination conducted in the case at the Ministry of Justice established that the conversations of the defendants did not contain conversations related to the release of Stepanov and Maksimycheva from criminal liability and the reduction of punishment in cases of administrative offenses. The lawyer noted that the investigation did not establish many circumstances, for example, whether Maksimycheva was really the ambassador’s wife. He believes that the woman simply could not have had the intent to smuggle, since she was carrying her husband’s salary home.
Eligibility for parole
According to lawyer Marat Fayzulin, who defended Alexei Serebro, the investigation and the court actually staged a massacre of the customs officers, who only adequately assessed the actions of the passengers. “This is not a bribe, not corruption. I don’t understand where we’re going?” The defender was outraged. In his opinion, after such a harsh sentence, customs officials, holding air passengers accountable for formal violations, will not impose “adequate sanctions” on them, but will apply maximum fines. “Do we want this? Maybe yes. I congratulate you on this, ”the lawyer threw in his hearts after the verdict.
Despite the emotional reaction of the defense, most of the defendants, with the exception of Andrei Shurygin, may soon be released. Serebro, Mishin and Cherkashin, who have been in jail since 2019, have already served more than half of their sentences, and after the sentence comes into force, they can apply for parole. Quite soon, Kizlyk may also apply to the court with a similar request – a day in a pre-trial detention center is equivalent to one and a half days in a general regime colony. Thus, the stripped general has already served four years and eight months of imprisonment.