“We all the time, together with the victims, experienced this situation,” Rustam Timerbaev, a defendant in the TFB Finance case, said on Friday. A few minutes before this, the court made a predictable decision: to terminate the criminal case due to … the expiration of the statute of limitations. Although numerous victims were waiting for something to the last. About how the court session went, with what emotions the participants in the process left the hall and what will happen next – in the report “BUSINESS Online”.
What was accused of: the version of the economic police
Last Friday, the fate of the TFB Finance case was decided in the Vakhitovsky District Court. It took 6 long years to reach its finale – the criminal case was initiated back in February 2017, at the very height of the struggle for the life of the banking empire of Robert Musin. But only last year it came to court. And even there it stalled: it took 10 meetings to read out the indictment alone. Moreover, more than half of this time was taken by a banal listing of the names of the victims (and there are more than 1.7 thousand of them in the case): when a person opened a deposit, in which city, in which bank, how much money he lost …
There are five people in the dock. These are two former deputy chairmen of the board of Tatfondbank Musin – Vadim Merzlyakov and Sergey Meshchanov, as well as managers of TFB Finance Timur Valshin, Rustam Timerbaev and Ilnar Abdulmanov. They were tried for abuse of official powers (part 1 of article 201 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation) with a loss of 2.4 billion rubles. According to the investigation and the prosecution, back in 2016, while holding positions in the TFB and TFB Finance, the defendants “developed and implemented an illegal scheme” for offering trust management services. It allegedly consisted in the redemption of illiquid bonds of the TFB, to which the Central Bank then “ordered” to carry out additional capitalization in order to cover losses. The prosecution believes that the defendants knew about the poor state of affairs in the bank, and therefore decided to bring the scheme to life.
But the TFB bonds on the stock exchange in 2016 were not in demand and were not bought, the prosecution considered, and the acceptance of deposits at that time in the bank was limited, the defendants decided to “sell” the bonds of Tatfondbank to its own depositors. Moreover, the bonds are “bad”, worthless, for which there was no demand at all on the market, the prosecution is sure. To do this, allegedly deceitfully concluded trust management agreements (DDU) with depositors. So, when people brought money to open a deposit insured by the DIA, they entered into a DDU agreement with them to invest their money in bonds, without knowingly informing about the risks and conditions. At the same time, it would seem that improved conditions were offered to the bank client: instead of the standard 10–11% per annum, 14% was promised under a trust management agreement. At the same time, people allegedly thought that they were opening a deposit. It is clear that there was no insurance coverage for him.
Services were offered in branches of three banks at once – TFB, Intekhbank and Timer Bank. From February to December 2016, 1,746 depositors entered into DDUs for 2 billion 379 million 650 thousand 164 rubles 93 kopecks there. “The terms of the contract were deliberately not fulfilled,” the prosecution is sure.
According to the prosecution, Merzlyakov, Meshchanov, Valshin, Timerbaev and Abdulmanov wanted to provide funding for the activities of the TFB at the expense of depositors on unfavorable terms for the latter, but beneficial for the bank. And they also, they say, wanted to improve the financial performance of TFB and TFB Finance, but again, not for the benefit of organizations, but in their own interests, in order to embellish the results of their work, curry favor with management, receive bonuses and even career advancement.
Throughout the trial, the position of the defendants remained unchanged: none of the defendants pleaded guilty. Moreover, the lawyers of the defendants point out that the statute of limitations on the criminal case expired in December 2022, when the court had just begun its consideration. Under such circumstances, according to them, the case should be dismissed.
“No emotions left”
On Friday, the meeting, like the previous one, promised to start with a full house: more than 20 victims came, mostly pensioners, who all these years tirelessly hounded the thresholds of the court and various departments in an attempt to return their money. The meeting was supposed to start at 10:00 sharp, but it was rescheduled for 13:00. Ironically, due to the fact that at that time in the hall, via video conference with the Samara court, they were considering a cassation appeal against the sentence of the ex-head of Tatfondbank Musin (the consideration of this case was also postponed at the request of the prosecutor).
Three hours later, the number of victims decreased by about half, and the rest began to plan how they would behave in the courtroom. Almost everyone wanted to speak before the decision, but the procedure for announcing this did not imply. “We sit on the front bench so that the criminals don’t sit in front of us, but let them at least kneel,” one of the ladies commanded.
The defendants themselves and their lawyers were waiting for the session to begin at the other end of the corridor. Prior to the beginning, they communicated freely among themselves, without interacting with the victims in any way.
Finally, federal judge Artem Idrisov came out to announce the decision. The most important thing was within literally five minutes: he dropped the criminal case against all five defendants due to the expiration of the statute of limitations. The court also canceled the arrest imposed on their property. At this moment, the crunch of pill blisters was heard in the hall. It took Idrisov more than 40 minutes to list all the victims in the case. And then it turned out that the court left their civil claims without consideration.
Already after the meeting, it became clear that the defendants in the case had almost no emotions left over the years of proceedings, or it was clear in advance that, according to formal signs, the case would be closed – they listened to the decision with stone faces. Only Timerbaev told a BUSINESS Online correspondent about his feelings in more detail: “In fact, it is a big tragedy to ruin such a bank. All this time, together with the victims, we experienced this situation, we are very sorry that it happened. Now, after 6 years, there are no real emotions (left).” Timerbaev shared that throughout all these years he coped with all the difficulties thanks to his family: “They tried, of course, not to show what was happening, but without their support it would be very difficult.”
Emotions were running high among the victims, who after 6 years were left with nothing. “There are no words. For 6 years we went to arbitration courts, then we were thrown out of one register, then from another. Everyone just shields the criminals. In Kazan, in general, some kind of lawlessness is going on, ”Nailya Ziatdinova spoke on behalf of the victims. After the announcement of the decision, the victims immediately began to figure out how to file a complaint. Everyone plans to appeal the decision. Let us remind you that 1.7 thousand victims are involved in the case. By the way, the defendants in the case were threatened with up to 4 years in prison.
In general, 6 years after the collapse of TFB and TFB Finance, after all the sensational arrests (the defendants spent almost a year in jail on the wave of excitement from the collapse of the bank), after the torment of the above-mentioned top managers, reputational losses and blows to their careers, after after so many years of painstaking work of the investigation, the main question hung in the air: what was it all about? What does “statute of limitations has expired” mean? If the top managers of TFB Finance are not guilty, who will compensate them for considerable damage (lost time, career, health)? If they are guilty of something, why did the investigation and the court play such a “game” as the termination of a high-profile case on formal grounds? It is obvious that in such fundamental matters, when thousands of people worth billions of rubles have suffered, for the public good it is necessary to put an end to the merits. What killed them? Accident? Their greed when they pecked at higher interest rates? Or dishonesty of the bank’s owners and its top managers?
And in this situation, the society has “unlearned lessons” in its assets. As a guarantee of future shocks …