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Top FSB official jailed on bribery charges, while two former colleagues are accused of stealing 1 million dollars

Source: Meduza
Valery Matytsin / TASS / Vida Press

A military court in Moscow has jailed the head of a local Federal Security Service (FSB) office for two months, pending the results of a criminal investigation. Colonel Kirill Cherkalin was arrested on April 25 and faces up to 15 years in prison on charges of receiving tens of millions of rubles in bribes. The details of the case haven’t been disclosed, and journalists only learned about Cherkalin’s arraignment after it happened.

According to the newspaper Kommersant, Cherkalin works in the FSB’s “Department K” economic crimes unit, managing the second branch that oversees Russia’s banking sector. Sources told Kommersant that he comes from a family of intelligence officers, and is a “highly respected person” and a “significant figure not only in the intelligence community but perhaps also in the country’s whole financial sector.” He’s reportedly close to Ivan Tkachev, the head of the FSB’s Department K.

Federal agents searched Cherkalin’s home and office, seizing large sums of money, a collection of expensive watches, and other valuables. “This might be a second Zakharchenko,” one source familiar with the investigation told Kommersant, referring to Dmitry Zakharchenko, the former top police official arrested in September 2016 on charges of abusing his office and receiving billions of rubles in bribes. According to early preliminary data, Cherkalin accepted bribes in connection with felony cases involving fraud allegations at commercial banks overseen by his department.

Federal agents have also arrested two of Cherkalin’s former colleagues, Dmitry Frolov and Andrey Vasilyev, on charges of large-scale fraud (punishable by up to 10 years in prison). Both men were previously discharged from the military “due to compromising circumstances.” In 2013, the newspaper Novaya Gazeta discovered that Frolov’s family owned undeclared real estate abroad. While serving in the FSB, Frolov and Vasilyev were known as “fixers” who helped close criminal cases for a fee. They were also reportedly notorious for deceiving their own clients. When the two men were arranged at a Moscow court on April 26, the state prosecutor said they are suspected of receiving 490 million rubles ($7.6 million) in bribes.

Earlier in April, the authorities arrested two other federal officials — FSB central office investigators Alexey Kolbov and Sergey Belousov — for extorting roughly 65 million rubles ($1 million) in bribes. The agency’s Internal Investigations Division says it hasn’t ruled out additional criminal charges. Several anonymous channels on the instant messenger Telegram claim that personnel changes to leadership positions in the Russian intelligence community are coming soon.

Alexander Filimonov

Translation by Kevin Rothrock