Investigative department of the Russia’s ministry of internal affairs made up their mind and did not open a criminal case against Sergei Dankvert, head of Rosselkhoznadzor, the state control agency in the field of agriculture. He is suspected of an attempt to sell abroad a unique sable population, worth $1 billion. Incriminating evidence against him has been received from a number of defendants, who accepted plea bargains. Despite that evidence, investigator Oleg Silchenko preferred not to bring charges against the public servant. Noticebly it was Silchenko who investigated the controversial case of the lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in custody.

Back in spring 2008 the FSB agents discovered evidence of a criminal scheme, which could have led to the entire population of rare black Russian sable being stolen. The internal ministry opened a criminal investigation into the case. The police and the FSB agents seized paperwork and discovered more of incriminating evidence.

In 1929 the Pushkinsky fur breeding farm was set up in close vicinity of Moscow. In 1931 the biologists raised a new type of species, black Russian sable. During the Great Patriotic War, 1941-1945, the USSR paid the USA for lend-lease products with the sable fur. The sable fur prices have steadily increased, now reaching the level of $3-4 thousand for a single fur-skin. The whole population is worth valued $1 billion.

In 2000 Sergei Dankvert was appointed a first deputy minister of agriculture. The valuable fur immediately attracted his attention. He conspired with the director of Pushkinsky farm Vladimir Los, who made a profitable farm an utter bankrupt. Los stroke credit deals with front companies, registered with the lost documents. The sable farm owed too much to the debtors and could not repay its debt.

The investigation found out that Dankvert and Los had earlier been associates and committed other financial crimes. Los run a number of state companies. All of them declared bankrupt and were privatized.     

The assets of Pushkinsky farm went under hammer. It was Dankvert’s confidant Denis Lavrov, a businessman, who bought the farm. He paid 30 million roubles, or about $1 million for it. Noticeably, the bailiff, who was in charge of selling the farm’s property, soon moved to his newly bought mansion in Europe.

Meanwhile, Lavrov continued plundering the farm. A company called Russian Fur was a key debtor of the farm. The company had already started to sell the animals to the Kaliningrad Region on the boarder with Germany when the FSB intervened. According to the documents, the company aimed to sell the sable population to Denmark. Both governor of the Moscow Region Boris Gromov and governor of Kaliningrad region Georgy Boos were aware of the scam. Boos acted in the interests of Russian Fur and asked Gromov to secure that the local authorities would not interfere. The investigators told, that Dankvert-controlled companies planned to build offices on the site of the farm when the animals would be abroad. Dankvert had a chance to profit from the affair twice. 

The investigative department began the invesigation. In March 2009 the police placed Lavrov under custody. He denied any wrongdoing, but very soon he began to cooperate with the investigators. The police was but a few steps from catching Dankvert. But then, all of a sudden, investigator Gennady Shantin was removed from the investigation, and Oleg Silchenko took over from him. But that time Magnitsky had already died, and Silchenko could use his time for other cases. He promised to “lock down” all corrupt officials, but in the end the investigation into $1 billion fraud turned out to be a fraud itself.

Denis Lavrov signed a plea agreement and gave evidence against Los and Dankvert. The police arrested Los. He also pleaded guilty and testified against Dankvert. The prosecutors wondered why to strike plea agreements with people whom the investigation had sufficient evidence against. Silchenko explained that he wanted to trap Dankvert, who has been the head of Rospotrebnadzor since 2004. Silchenko postponed the date of Dankvert’s arrest. The rationale behind that was “to wait until the end of Los and Lavrov’s trials”. After their verdicts Silchenko promised to lock down Dankvert.   

In the end, thanks to the plea bargain, both Los and Lavrov escaped true punishment. Los got a suspended sentence of 6 years in prison, whereas Lavrov was sentenced to a year, which he already served during the pretrial detention.

It emerged recently that Silchenko is not going to “lock down” Dankvert. He dismissed the case, killing two birds with one stone.

He has helped the high profile official escape punishment, and helped Los and Lavrov get lesser sentences.