7 Apr 2020 23:12

Investigation completes collection of evidence in ex-Federation Council member Arashukov's case, indicts him

MOSCOW. April 7 (Interfax) - The investigation has presented the final version of an indictment against Rauf Arashukov, a former member of the Russian Federation Council from Karachayevo-Cherkessia, who was detained last year, Arashukov's defense attorney Anna Svativskaya told Interfax.

"Rauf Arashukov was presented with the final version of an indictment at the Lefortovo detention facility," Stavitskaya said.

The former senator was previously charged with membership of a criminal organization set up by his father, two counts of organization of murder, and pressure on a witness.

The final version of the indictment also charges him with two counts of abuse of office and false denunciation.

The investigation concluded that Arashukov organized the murders of Adyge-Khase Karachayevo-Cherkessia youth movement deputy head Aslan Zhukov and advisor to Karachayevo-Cherkessia's head Fral Shebzukhov, as well as the beating of a witness to Zhukov's murder.

According to the final version of the indictment, Arashukov also exerted influence on former first deputy chief of the Investigative Committee directorate for Karachayevo-Cherkessia Kazbek Bulatov and chief of the Interior Ministry's anti-extremism center for Karachayevo-Cherkessia Timur Betuganov (both arrested in 2019) to conceal his crimes.

The final version of the indictment also charges the former senator with falsely alleging that law enforcement officials tortured Guzer Khashukayev, former director of Gazprom Mezhregiongaz Stavropol, who is currently implicated in the case as a member of Raul Arashukov's criminal organization.

"What makes this version interesting, in the defense's view, is the investigation's trick to claim that Rauf Arashukov is a member of the criminal organization. The investigation believes that his father established the criminal organization exclusively for stealing gas. However, it looks like, no matter how they tried, they couldn't implicate Rauf himself in embezzlements. Therefore, now they are saying that Rauf's father created the criminal organization and included his son in it in 2008 so that he kill people who, in the organization's opinion, could have impeded its functioning," Stavitskaya told Interfax.

By doing so, the investigation has completely changed and "simplified" the alleged motive for murders with which Arashukov is charged, she said.

"The investigation claimed earlier that Rauf Arashukov supposedly killed Zhukov because of an audio recording the latter made during a conversation with him, and that he killed Shebzukhov because he [Arashukov] wanted to occupy the office of the head of the republic's government but learned that Shebzukhov was set to occupy it. Now, according to the investigation's theory, they were killed because they somehow obstructed the criminal organization's activities," Stavitskaya said.

The presentation of the final version of an indictment means that the investigation has collected what it considers to be sufficient evidence of the defendant's role in the crimes he is charged with.

However, amid the coronavirus spread, it is still unclear when the investigation plans to inform Rauf Arashukov that the probe against him has been completed and the defense can start studying the filings, Stavitskaya said.

Rauf Arashukov was detained in January 2019, after the Federation Council gave its consent to depriving him of parliamentary immunity from prosecution.

The investigation also detained his father Raul Arashukov, then advisor to the general director of Gazprom Mezhregiongaz, and indicted him for organizing a criminal community to steal more than 30 billion rubles' worth of natural gas from Gazprom over several years.

The investigation has implicated over 25 people as defendants in the case, all of them charged with membership of a criminal organization and embezzlement. Some of them are still wanted.

Rauf and Raul Arashukov did not plead guilty. Rauf Arashukov said, in particular, that he viewed his prosecution as "a political order" initiated by his predecessor as Federation Council member from Karachayevo-Cherkessia Vyacheslav Derev and former Karachayevo-Cherkessian Interior Minister Kazimir Botashev.