16 Jul 2020 22:19

Investigative Committee says it has irrefutable evidence that Furgal was behind murders of businessmen

MOSCOW. July 16 (Interfax) - The team investigating the case of Khabarovsk Territory Governor Sergei Furgal has irrefutable evidence that he was involved in the murders of entrepreneurs in 2004-2005 as the immediate organizer, Russian Investigative Committee spokesperson Svetlana Petrenko said.

"At this stage, the investigation already has irrefutable evidence of Sergei Furgal's involvement in organizing the murders of entrepreneurs Yevgeny Zorya and Oleg Bulatov, and an attempt to murder Alexander Smolsky," Petrenko told Interfax on Thursday.

The crimes were committed in the Khabarovsk Territory and in the Amur Region in 2004-2005, she said.

"Considering the gravity of the offences committed and the liability under the relevant Russian Criminal Code article, it's for the court to decide whether statutes of limitation may apply. But the investigators have no doubt that Furgal participated in the murders as the immediate organizer," Petrenko said.

This is supported by the evidence collected, including forensic expert reports, materials obtained in police inquiries, witness statements, and other information, she said.

"The work on uncovering the crimes was never interrupted but complicated badly due to the fact that most individuals aware of what happened were intimidated. They refused to give detailed testimony against Furgal or his accomplices," Petrenko went on to say.

Meanwhile, materials of some criminal cases at the initial stage "had isolated testimonies by several different witnesses about some circumstances of the crimes and Furgal's possible involvement," she said.

"In 2019, the evidence was added with other information, which later led the investigation to a clear conclusion that Furgal was involved in organizing murders, and combine the criminal cases in one," she said.

It is obvious to investigators that the decisions to kill "were made against the backdrop of Furgal and accomplices promoting their own commercial interests," she said.

"For example, the murder of Zorya was linked to their long-running conflict with Furgal and the court litigations over a reinforced concrete plant bought earlier by Yevgeny Zorya. The entrepreneur was killed one day before the court issued its ruling, the outcome of which was obvious to both of them," she said.

The second victim of Furgal and his accomplices was his own business associate Bulatov, "who was suspecting Furgal of involvement in the murder of Zorya," she said.

"Fearing that he would be exposed, Furgal organized the murder of Bulatov, acting in concert with another suspect in the criminal case. Having physically removed the unwanted business associate, Furgal also misappropriated his holding in a common business, the company called MiF, which was snapping up and reselling metal scrap," Petrenko said.

According to the Investigative Committee, having expanded the scope of his business, Furgal later opened a metal scrap collection point in a populated locality in the Amur Region.

"Smolsky was running a similar business, giving a higher price for scrap. In a bid to push the rival out of the market, Furgal demanded that Smolsky change his pricing policy or abandoned the business. Furgal apparently resolved the conflict in his obviously usual way, organizing the victim's killing through accomplices. Two grenades were thrown into the garage where the victim was seen. Luckily, Smolsky survived," she said.

Similarly, in serving their commercial interests, the criminals killed local resident Roman Sandalov, "with Furgal's personal driver and bodyguard taking the blame for the murder," she said.

"It's worth noting that one of Furgal's close associates is Alexander Karepov, who became his aide when Furgal was a State Duma member. In the early 2000s, Karepov had close connections to the local criminal network called Timofeyevskiye [the Timofeyev gang]," she said.

Members of the gang were the immediate perpetrators of murders organized by Furgal and his accomplices.

"Furgal himself repeatedly used his member of parliament status, not appearing to testify before an investigator," Petrenko said.

Furgal became the governor of the Khabarovsk Territory in September 2018.

Furgal was detained in Khabarovsk on July 9 before being escorted to Moscow. The Basmanny District Court of Moscow ruled on July 10 to place him under arrest until September 9. The governor was charged with crimes such as 'attempted murder' and 'organizing of murders'.

Furgal denies any wrongdoing. He is insisting that he has nothing to do with the crimes.

Since July 11, the city of Khabarovsk has seen thousands of protesters rallying in support of arrested governor Sergei Furgal.