Russia’s top cop and his curious friends and family Police raid homes of journalists hours before release of report about fabulous wealth and dubious associates linked to interior minister’s relatives
On June 28, the investigative news website Proekt announced its latest report: a deep dive into the personal history and family wealth of Russia’s top cop, Vladimir Kolokoltsev. The next morning, police officers raided the homes of Maria Zholobova, the story’s author, and Proekt editor-in-chief Roman Badanin. At Zholobova’s home, officials detained Proekt deputy chief editor Mikhail Rubin, whose parents were also visited by the police on Tuesday. The authorities acted under the umbrella of a defamation case related to a documentary series that aired back in 2017 on the television network Dozhd, which Badanin and Zholobova co-created. Despite the raids, Proekt nevertheless released its new report about Kolokoltsev. Meduza summarizes it here.
While serving as Russia’s interior ministry, Vladimir Kolokoltsev has acquired no new real estate, but his relatives have
Kolokoltsev has been Russia’s interior minister since 2012. In all that time, according to his income declarations, he and his wife have acquired no new real estate. The minister’s financial disclosures state that he and his wife have lived in the same 90-square-meter (970-square-foot) apartment in Moscow’s Zhulebino District for the past 20 years. His wife, Vera, also owns a 40-square-meter (430-square-foot) apartment on Gerasima Kurina Street in the city’s Fili-Davydkovo District.
Proekt discovered that two Porsches are registered to a retired woman named Zoya Berdichevskaya, presumed to be Kolokoltsev’s sister-in-law. Since 2012, her son has owned a home worth an estimated 200 million rubles ($2.8 million) in the affluent Usadby Usovo cottage village outside Moscow, though the man worked at a small transport company in the Rostov region when he purchased the property.
Meanwhile, Berdichevskaya has lived in the smaller apartment on Gerasima Kurina Street owned by her sister. Last year, during Moscow’s pandemic lockdown, she filed a request to leave the city for a retreat house registered to Vladimir Kolokoltsev in the town of Shevolkino. (Proekt says it found these records in a leaked database of electronic permits issued to Muscovites in 2020.) In her application, Berdichevskaya noted that she would be driving a Toyota Camry, not one of the Porsches registered in her name.
The interior minister’s 37-year-old son, Alexander, is an entrepreneur. Based on available records, his only successful business is a company called “FB Group,” which earns between 40 million and 250 million rubles ($550,400 and $3.4 million) in annual profits. Alexander Kolokoltsev owns 40 percent of FB Group. His other ventures have either lost money or brought in very little.
Proekt found that Kolokoltsev Jr. owns real estate that far exceeds the value of any profits his companies have ever reported. In 2016, for example, he bought a plot of land and a cottage outside Moscow in the town Zarechye that journalists say is worth at least 1.2 billion rubles ($16.5 million). After the sale, information about the property’s owner disappeared from Russia’s State Register. There are no public records indicating any other real estate registered to Alexander Kolokoltsev or the woman believed to be his wife, Kristina.
Proekt estimates that real estate registered to Vladimir Kolokoltsev’s son, his daughter-in-law, and other relatives is worth roughly 2 billion rubles ($27.5 million) in total. This includes the cottages in Usadby Usovo and Zarechye mentioned above, as well as an apartment in Moscow’s upscale Khamovniki District worth 177 million rubles ($2.4 million), apartments in the Moscow International Business Center valued at 80 million rubles ($1.1 million), and three apartments and 23 parking spots on Leninsky Prospekt worth as much as 161 million rubles ($2.2 million).
Kolokoltsev’s son bought his home from the wife of a businessman with possible connections to organized crime. He financed the purchase with money from another businessman who also has alleged mafia ties.
Alexander Kolokoltsev bought the Zarechye property from Liliya Kail, the wife of Lev Cherepov, who reportedly worked with Mikhail Cherny. In the 1990s, when he controlled much of the aluminum production in Russia, Cherny allegedly developed ties to organized crime. One of Cherny’s top managers from that era told Proekt that Cherepov was responsible for “driving officials to restaurants and bathhouses” and “sorting out what kind of kickbacks were needed.”
Kolokoltsev Jr.’s neighbors in Zarechye, it turns out, are relatives of the brothers Pavel and Valery Zadorin (Cherepov’s nephews with whom he founded the “Aromatnyi Mir” liquor store chain, according to Proekt’s investigation). Proekt also identified Pavel Zadorin as Vladimir Kolokoltsev’s longtime personal friend and determined that the interior minister acquired his Shevolkino retreat house (the same one to which his alleged sister-in-law fled Moscow’s lockdown) back in 2000.
In 2014, the Zadorins acquired the Selyatino Terminal, a major customs clearance facility outside Moscow for imported alcohol. According to Proekt, Selyatino’s former owners only agreed to the sale under pressure from Igor Chuyan, then the head of Russia’s Alcohol Market Regulation Federal Service, whom sources identified as the Zadorins’ personal friend. In the negotiations to sell the Selyatino Terminal, Vladimir Kolokoltsev’s name apparently came up, too. “Chuyan said the shares were earmarked for the Zadorins, and Kolokoltsev was called their main backer,” a source told Proekt.
Several years earlier, Chuyan may have helped facilitate Kolokoltsev’s professional ascent. Not long before Kolokoltsev was hired to his current post, Chuyan asked one of his subordinates who’d served previously in the Interior Ministry to vouch for Kolokoltsev, a source told Proekt. At the time, Chuyan reportedly enjoyed the patronage of the billionaire Arkady Rotenberg, a close friend of Vladimir Putin who has major investments in Russia’s alcohol market. But Chuyan soon fell out of favor, and officials charged him with abuse of power in 2018. By that time, however, he’d already fled the country.
Proekt also learned that Alexander Kolokoltsev received monthly payments for at least seven years from the “Novko” company, which is co-owned by Oleg Sheikhametov, the founder of the “Yakitoriya” restaurant chain. In 2018, the newspaper Kommersant reported that Sheikhametov was one of the businessmen who collected money for bribes to federal investigators in 2016 in a failed bid to secure the release of the jailed mobster Andrey Kochuikov, a known associate of the mafia boss Zakhary Kalashov (nicknamed “Young Shakro”). Kolokoltsev Jr.’s role at Sheikhametov’s company remains unknown.
Spokespeople for Russia’s Interior Ministry declined to comment on the wealth of Vladimir Kolokoltsev’s relatives or their apparent connections to members of the mafia. “The minister’s son is an adult and a successful businessman,” Irina Volk told Proekt. “His business practices are completely independent. He is not a police officer and his business ventures are not connected to Russia’s Interior Ministry.”
Translation by Kevin Rothrock