In October 2011 the price of Saint-Petersburg bank shares rose by a record 40% prompted by negotiations around the possible purchase by businessman Yuri Kovalchuk, who is among people closest to the future president Vladimir Putin. This is not the only major achievement of the bank’s management. Rumafia correspondents revealed that bank’s executives were behind the transfer of Oleg Pipchenkov, an investigator with the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (RF IC), from St. Petersburg. Pipchenkov led the investigation of high-profile cases and it was him who brought about the imprisonment of Vladimir Barsukov, "shadow governor" of St. Petersburg.
Until recently Oleg Pipchenkov was in a special position in the IC and in fact was a direct subordinate of Aleksandr Bastrykin, RF IC head. Bastrykin did not give him much personal attention. But he really liked how Pipchenkov dealt with incarceration, which was exactly what the Russian government ruling tandem required from Bastrykin. And it is especially so because St. Petersburg is a native city for both Putin and Medvedev. In this city Pipchenkov exercised his powers in full.
“He is a real watchdog, in a good sense of the word,” told our source in the intelligence services. “You let him loose and point a target, and he gets them all. In our case, Oleg sent to jail all persons involved in high profile cases, regardless of whether they were guilty or not and if so, to what extent. They were all offered to cooperate with the investigation. And only then officers began to really look at who should face charges and who should not.”
Bastrykin was glad to see authorities send to jail scores of defendants in cases connected to Barsukov, murders, or raider attacks (like the one on Frunzensky Fruit and Vegetable Warehouse when among those sent by Pipchenkov to the detention facility there were even several officers of St. Petersburg UBOPs, that is, directorates for organized crime counteraction), department stores, and cafes. After all, it was the IC that was mentioned in relation to bringing order to the city.
Pipchenkov understood what support he had and so he disregarded everyone in the IC only with the two exceptions made for the two leaders, Bastrykin and his deputy, Vasily Piskaryov. He despised all other agency staff and could openly care less for what they told him. For example, he consistently told Dovgy and Markelov, former chiefs of the Main Investigative Department of the IC, and Shchukin, the current one, to mind their own business. This lasted until Pipchenkov jumped over his head and got involved in an issue that would do no good for Bastrykin, but that could bring many troubles.
When investigating the cause of Frunzensky Fruit and Vegetable Warehouse takeover, Pipchenkov began to probe into the activities of Vladislav Piotrovsky, the then acting chief of St. Petersburg and regional police, who enjoyed the support of Governor Valentina Matvienko, but was dismissed from the Ministry of the Interior in summer 2011. The takeover was incriminated to St. Petersburg UBOP head Vladimir Sych and kingpin Mikhail Sliozberg nicknamed Misha Kupchinsky. Pipchenkov began to investigate the activities of Kupchinsky in detail and found that in the early 2000s the kingpin worked closely with Saint-Petersburg Bank.
In particular, he participated in "custom" hostile takeovers of a number of entities. For instance, he was involved in the raider takeover in the result of which the bank got control over Arsenal JSC. Pipchenkov's investigation team looked closely into the circumstances of Arsenal takeover. That was when the first sign of the future transfer came about. In January 2010, on suspicion of taking bribes, police arrested a Pipchenkov’s group investigator, Andrey Grivtsov. He was immediately asked to testify against his boss. Bastrykin preferred to turn a blind eye on this and gave the go-ahead to investigate the case against Grivtsov. The case was assigned to the IC in the CFD, which is headed by Dmitry Zagorodnev. Pipchenkov, who is not exactly careful about what he says, immediately accused Zagorodnev of working for the criminal world, calling him names using swear words. Since then Pipchenkov and Zagorordnev would not even say hello to each other.
Despite the loss of a team member, Pipchenkov’s group continued its inquiry into Arsenal. In autumn 2010 a number of those involved in the case, including businessman Oleg Rifert, agreed to cooperate with the investigation. Police arrested Mikhail Sapego, board chairman of the company and a Saint-Petersburg bank protégé. The financial institution found itself in a troublesome situation. But the bank owners, including its leader Aleksandr Saveliev, have connections with Valentina Matvienko, who is now Federation Council chairman, and with a number of federal officials.
As a result, this spring Pipchenkov saw the second sign when Oleg Rifert refused to cooperate and claimed to have allocated money for treatment of investigator Buev and purchase of the car that is used by Pipchenkov. Bastrykin, head of Russia's Investigative Committee, unexpectedly decided to probe into this statement and for a time suspended Pipchenkov and Buev from work. By the time they returned, the fate of the RF IC head’s "personal inspector" was sealed.
According to Rumafia sources in intelligence agencies, Aleksandr Bastrykin is a very suspicious person. When he was offered to head the State Ministry of the Interior in the Central Federal District, Bastrykin put together a team of St. Petersburg officials. Many of them held good positions and did not want to go to Moscow. But Aleksandr was able to convince them. First of all, by promising that work at the State Ministry of the Interior in the CFD can be considered temporary and then after it they would be transferred to the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, that was about to be established at the moment.
“Among those who went to the capital with Bastrykin there were Dovgy and Schneider. They began to insinuate that some staff members were pursuing their personal goals, that someone said something against Bastrykin.” As a result, when Bastrykin was appointed chairman of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, he took there only Dovgy, who became head of IC under the prosecutor’s office Main Investigative Department, and Schneide, who became assistant to head of IC under the prosecutor’s office. As for about a dozen people from his original team, Bastrykin did not bother to fulfill his promises.
Then Aleksandr Bastrykin had another insinuator, Vladimir Maksimenkov, who was seconded from the FSB. He spoke of a conspiracy, which Dovgy was allegedly preparing to release Kumarin from custody. And also, that Dovgy allegedly planned to take Bastrykin’s place. As a result of these intrigues Dovgy was not only fired from his job, but also found himself behind bars. Then Bastrykin was told similar things about Maksimenkov. And he too was forced to leave the Investigation Committee. A similar fate was awaiting Bastrykin’s "personal inspector" Oleg Pipchenkov.
According to our source in the security services, Bastrykin was consistently told that in the case of Arsenal Pipchenkov was not acting as the head of RF IC watchdog, but was promoting interests of certain people who were aiming at not only hurting the bank, but also at spoiling relations between Aleksandr Bastrykin and businessmen linked to Putin. By that time Yuri Kovalchuk, a friend of Putin and the owner of major Russia media assets and of another big bank, Russia, expressed his interested in buying the bank. As a result, managers and owners of the bank skillfully used their connections to deprive Pipchenkov of support. Aleksandr Bastrykin first began to doubt his investigator, and then, as was in the case with Dovgy, was disappointed in him.
Aleksandr Bastrykin was harsh about removing Pipchenkov from St. Petersburg. He had it arranged as a shift in staffing in connection with the reform of the RF IC. In accordance with the reform, investigators of the Investigative Department should strengthen federal districts department. As a result, most of the investigators were transferred from Pipchenkov’s second Main Investigative Directorate division to the third. When Pipchenkov was left with only two subordinates, Nikolai Shalaev and Andrey Bazhutov, it was announced that the entire second division was transferred from St. Petersburg department to the RF IC in the Central Federal District, that same unit headed by Zagorodnev, a personal enemy of Pipchenkov. Now the former "private investigator" of Bastrykin is investigating just one minor case.
As for the investigation concerning Arsenal takeover, it was transferred to the North-West Department of Investigation of the Investigative Committee of Russia, where it is slowly dying, and most definitely will soon be closed.