The great digitalizer: how new technologies brought the deputy head of the Ministry of Energy to arrest

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The Basmanny Court has arrested Deputy Energy Minister Anatoly Tikhonov until November 8. He is suspected of embezzling more than 600 million rubles allocated for the development of GIS FEC – a large-scale information system for managing the country’s fuel and energy complex. A law enforcement source told Izvestia that the deputy minister’s telephone conversations had been tapped since March. The decision to promptly arrest was made in connection with the attempts of Anatoly Tikhonov to escape. Testimony against the official was given by his former subordinate, who in the mid-2010s oversaw the creation of the GIS TEK. Now the deputy head of the Ministry of Energy may face up to 10 years in prison, lawyers say.

Searched and found

Searches in the offices of officials of the Ministry of Energy, including the Deputy Head of the RF Department Anatoly Tikhonov, officers of the FSB and the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (TFR) carried out on September 8. They also came to one of the largest companies in the Russian information technology market – JSC Lanit, the press service of the company told Izvestia. Law enforcement officials checked the documents under the contract with the Ministry of Energy.

On September 9, the TFR announced the arrest of the Deputy Minister, his adviser Roman Ryzhkov, as well as the vice-presidents of Lanit, Vladimir Makarov and Viktor Serebryakov. Investigators have established their involvement in the theft of more than 600 million rubles. We are talking about the misappropriation of budget funds allocated by the Federal State Budgetary Institution “Russian Energy Agency” of the Ministry of Energy for the creation of the GIS FEC – a large-scale system that was supposed to combine all information about the country’s fuel and energy complex. On its basis, it was planned to predict the development of the fuel and energy complex and make management decisions.

The tender procedure for this contract took place in October 2014 – at that time Anatoly Tikhonov was the CEO of the REA, it follows from the materials of the state procurement, which Izvestia got acquainted with. This was confirmed by a source in law enforcement agencies.

Tikhonov, Makarov, Serebryakov and Ryzhkov were charged with committing a crime under Part 4 of Art. 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (fraud on an especially large scale).

The Basmanny Court of Moscow on the same day decided to arrest the deputy minister and the other three accused for two months – until November 8. Anatoly Tikhonov pleaded not guilty and asked the court not to detain him. The defense side argued that the deputy minister would not put pressure on the course of the investigation and would not attempt to escape, so they asked for a softer measure of restraint – house arrest. But the investigator substantiated the need for a stricter measure by an attempt by Tikhonov’s entourage to put pressure on witnesses. In addition, the deputy minister has real estate in France, he said.

As a law enforcement source told Izvestia, Anatoly Tikhonov came under suspicion following the audit of the Accounts Chamber conducted in 2017. In terms of spending federal budget funds for the creation and development of GIS FEC, both the Ministry of Energy of the Russian Federation and the REA controlled by it, which Anatoly Tikhonov headed from 2014 to July 2019, were checked.

The audit revealed massive violations, which the FSB began to check. In March 2020, the investigator opened a case based on the materials of the service, but the investigation was delayed due to the coronavirus epidemic. All this time, according to a Izvestia source, Anatoly Tikhonov’s phones were tapped and on the night of September 8-9 he was detained. The urgency was associated with an attempt by Tikhonov to escape – he repeatedly changed the cars used and locations in Moscow, the source said.

As the investigator stated in court, the testimony of another person involved – Roman Shcherbov, a former subordinate of Tikhonov, became the trigger for the arrests. According to the defenders of the accused, they became in fact the only piece of evidence that the investigation caught on. Previously, Roman Shcherbov also held a post in the structures of the Ministry of Energy and oversaw the activities of the REA. It was he who was responsible for the project to create a GIS fuel and energy complex. Roman Shcherbov is also involved in a criminal case initiated in March. The indications are the result of cooperation with the investigation. According to the defense of Anatoly Tikhonov, Roman Shcherbov has already been tried for fraud. Back in 2016, the media wrote that he was under investigation precisely in connection with the GIS TEK.

Corruption schemes

As follows from the materials of state purchases, which Izvestia got acquainted with, in the fall of 2014, FGBU REA announced a competition for the creation of a GIS FEC. Five companies applied for participation in the tender. “Lanit” was ready to complete the work for 607 million rubles, and the lowest price among the competitors – 590 million – was requested by CJSC Air-Style. Despite this, CEA gave preference to Lanit. CJSC “Er-Style” filed a complaint against the actions of REA with the OFAS in Moscow, however, it was found unfounded.

REA, in addition to the price criterion, assessed the applications of the participants according to the qualifications of labor resources, experience and business reputation. Thus, according to the calculations of the commission, Lanit was more than one and a half times ahead of its competitors in terms of “experience”, which ensured its victory in the auction.

The winner of the competition was supposed to complete all the necessary work by October 1, 2015, but this never happened. The terms of the agreement were not fulfilled, and more than 600 million rubles were stolen, a law enforcement source told Izvestia. Later “Lanit” and the Ministry of Energy exchanged mutual legal claims, accusing each other of default on obligations. However, according to Izvestia’s interlocutor, these manipulations could have been used to obfuscate traces and justify a fraudulent scheme.

In 2019, it was reported that the creation of the GIS fuel and energy complex was resumed, but already without Lanit. In July of this year, Anatoly Tikhonov announced that the system would be fully operational at the beginning of 2021. According to media reports, the total cost of it is approaching 1 billion rubles.

A source close to the Ministry of Energy told Izvestia that the high-profile case could become very sensitive for Minister Alexander Novak. Anatoly Tikhonov is a man from his inner circle, he had wide influence in the department.

The Ministry of Energy told Izvestia that they would “provide maximum assistance to law enforcement agencies in the investigation of the case and submit all the documents necessary to establish the truth.”

Those accused of large-scale fraud could face up to 10 years in prisonViktor Tsymbal, an expert at the National Anti-Corruption Committee, told Izvestia. However, as the lawyer noted, there are still lengthy litigations ahead.

– When it comes to crimes at such a high level, it is obvious that groups of people can be involved in them. In this regard, new details may emerge about the suspects committing other offenses, he concluded.

For example, if the fact of giving bribes on a large scale is additionally established, the term may be increased to 12 years.

Help “Izvestia”

Anatoly Tikhonov was born in Moscow on June 13, 1969. In 1987, he was drafted into military service and appointed judicial secretary of the Military Tribunal of the Moscow Garrison. In 1995 he graduated from the law faculty of Moscow State University. M.V. Lomonosov, after which he worked for several years in commercial organizations. From 1999 to 2003, he served as deputy head of the finance committee of the St. Petersburg administration. Then Anatoly Tikhonov worked as the deputy governor of the Krasnoyarsk Territory. At the same time, the current head of the Ministry of Energy Alexander Novak worked in the administration and government of the region, with whom Anatoly Tikhonov had built a trusting relationship. In March 2014, he was appointed Director General of the REA of the Ministry of Energy of Russia, and on July 25, 2019 – Deputy Minister of Energy.

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