The Supreme Court of Russia turned down the appeal against life imprisonment sentence on Igor Izmestiev, a former representative of Bashkortostan in the upper chamber of the parliament, convicted for contract killings and terrorism, reports said on 13 October.
The Supreme Court supported the earlier ruling of the Moscow City Court which had sentenced the oligarch to life in prison. The Russian media was almost silent about the verdict in that high-profile case, involving top officials and their relatives. Speaking before the judge, Izmentiev said that “everyone knew, it was Ural Rakhimov, the son of the president of Bashkortostan, who benefited from the crimes”. Izmentiev denied he was guilty and said he had had no motives to commit the crimes.
The Supreme Court ruled that Izmentiev’s conviction had been illegitimate on two charges of preparing an attempted murder, but the court confirmed he was guilty of other crimes.
Unnamed sources close to Izmestiev told Rumafia.com that the former billionaire expected a lesser sentence, since his people had approached Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov and he had promised to put in a good word for Izmestiev to Vladimir Putin.
Igor Izmestiev has already spent four years in prison, and over that period had a few chances to change his fate. It did not happened, due to two reasons, the sources told Rumafia.com. Firstly, he indeed paid for the public campaign against his conviction, but the funding was not sufficient. People, who would willingly accept money from him, usually come back, saying, “Sorry, man, we just could not help you”. No one wants to pay back, that is way Izmestiev is very cautious with additional payments.
He had his first chance to change the situation immediately after his arrest in Bishkek in January 2007. It was the time when the Kremlin began to ouster regional lords from power in order to re-stamp central authority on the country. One of those who the Kremlin wanted to get rid of was president of oil-rich Bashkortostan Murtaza Rakhimov. For many years Izmestiev was a shadowy financier for Rakhimovs’ clan, and handled their murky business affairs. He knew everything about Murtaza Rakhimov and his family. The prosecutors offered him a deal. Izmestiev could expect that judges reduce his sentence to 10-12 years if he betrayed family secrets of Rakhimovs, which could be the trump card in forcing the wilful leader of Bashkortostan out. Izmestiev had every reason to accept the offer. By that time the relationship between him and his business partner Ural Rakhimov had soured. Izmestiev ordered assassination of Ural, but it failed.
For Izmestiev to reveal the Rakhimovs’ secrets meant to provide the prosecutors with incriminating evidence against himself. Former oligarch was convinced of his impunity, and thought that his connections in the FSB would help fix the problem. He expected to go at large without giving evidence against the Rakhimovs. Above all he had a lot of money.
Izmestiev hesitating, the prosecutors added in new charges against Izmestiev, he stood trial with the members of the Kingisepp mob, accused of murders. In the end, he was charged of terrorism. Russia’s Investigative Committee accused him of blasting a petrol station and a publishing house. It was president Rakhimov who scored points from both explosions.
The gravity of charges did not threat Izmestiev. He hired a team of lawyers, who were capable of convincing jurors, which is a rare case in Russian court system, and a group of people who worked with the jurors outside the courthouse.
In May 2010, the lawsuit entered its final stages. The defendants and their lawyers told Rumafia.com that they had no doubts about the acquittal verdict, because the jury was leaning to it.
Rakhimov was still the president of Bashkortostan. Incarcerated Izmestiev was a good warning for Rakhimov to put up struggle for the power in the region. The FSB could not simple let Izmestiev escape punishment, otherwise the president of Bashkortostan would have received the wrong signal.
Jurors were approached by state security officers who urged them to withdraw from the jury because helping the criminal who committed crimes against the state would be very risky for themselves.
Only a few days before the jury were due to return the verdict, the number of jurors dropped to 11 people, which was not enough to pass the verdict. The jury was dismissed. Long awaited freedom flit away from under very nose of Izmestiev.
By the time of the repetead trial the law prohibiting trials heard by jury for such grave charges as terrorism had come into force. Three professional judges heard Rakhimov’s case. Seeing that, Rakhimov gave in and resigned. In December 2010 Izmestiev was sentenced to life in prison.
After the trial, the spirits of the former ‘senator’ drooped, and he began to rush around as if a trapped animal. He hired a whole crowd of famous people who supported him, including popular TV host Vladimir Soloviev, anti-corruption campaigner Kirill Kabanov, human rights activist Lyudmila Alekseeva. It was all but useless. They accepted money, but did nothing to help Izmestiev get lesser sentence.
That moment the former oligarch made up his mind and decided to do what had been expected from him a few years ago. He offered the prosecutors to testify against Rakhimov in exchange to a different term in prison. Neither the Kremlin, no the FSB needed his help any more. Toppled president of Bashkortostan gave away his oil assets, and was no threat for the federal center. Apart from that, Izmestiev was a deterrent for other businessmen who wanted to defy the state security forces. Izmestiev’s offer was not accepted.
In September 2011 Izmestiev found another way-out. A source in the FSB told Rumafia that Izmestiev’s people approached president Ramzan Kadyrov of Chechnya, a close ally of ‘former and future’ president Vladimir Putin. For a long time Kadyrov has dreamt of building a refinery in oil-rich Chechnya, which will make Kadyrov an oil tycoon. Izmestiev said he was ready to finance the project and to bring in everything necessary for it. When arrested in Bishkek, Izmestiev was actually on business. He participated in talks to finalise the project of a refinery in Kyrgyzstan. The Kyrgyz government abandoned the project, but since everything had been prepared for it, Izmestiev could easily transfer it to Chechnya.
Izmestiyev asked Kadyrov to speak with Putin about his problem. Kadyrov had publicly said that the construction of a refinery would begin in December 2011.
But the Supreme Court confirmed the life-imprisonment sentence. The sources told Rumafia it was difficult to say why it happened. Either Izmestiev was dumped as usual, or there can be a possibility of an appeal court overturning the verdict.
The lawyers of Izmestiev plan to appeal the verdict.
Thomas Petrov, Alexey Gordon, Rumafia.com