Vyacheslav Khlebnikov

Vyacheslav Khlebnikov

Born: 9 July 1967
Crimes and Convictions:

– Extortion and violent threats, 1989
– Larceny and causing substantial bodily harm to a victim, 1998
– Theft of $230 million of taxes paid by Hermitage, 2011

Vyacheslav Khlebnikov, born in 1967, resident of Tambov, has had several previous convictions, including extortion and violent threats (1989) and larceny and causing substantial bodily harm to a victim (1998).

Vyacheslav Khlebnikov played an important supporting role in the theft of the $230 million from the Russian people. However, authorities have been trying to use his conviction to hide the most important members of the Klyuev Organized Crime Group.

After Officers Kuznetsov and Karpov seized without a warrant and held custody of the documents and seals for the Hermitage companies, Viktor Markelov was fraudulently made the owner of these companies, using the documents seized by police Officers Kuznetsov and Karpov. Shortly before this, Markelov was accused of working with Officers Kuznetsov and Karpov and the beneficial owner of Universal Savings Bank, Dmitry Klyuev, to kidnap a man and extort $20 million dollars.

Markelov appointed himself director of one of the stolen companies and he appointed two more criminals, Valery Kurochkin and Vyacheslav Khlebnikov, as directors of the other two stolen Hermitage companies. He also had the companies open bank accounts in Klyuev’s Universal Savings Bank.

Three criminal directors – Markelov, Kurochkin and Khlebnikov – then issued powers of attorneys to lawyers Pavlov and Mayorova to obtain court judgments for fake debts.

The three criminal directors then applied for fraudulent tax refunds totaling $230 million. Corrupt officials in Moscow Tax Offices 25 and 28 who were members of the Klyuev Organized Crime Group approved the fraudulent tax refunds requests and refunded $230 million to accounts in Klyuev’s Universal Savings Bank.

The history of Khlebnikov’s sentencing and that of his partner in crime Viktor Markelov for this theft is a great demonstration of the partnership between the Russian Interior Ministry and the criminals behind this theft.

In order to prevent any investigation into the stolen money the criminals arranged a farce. First, they organized a “voluntary confession” made by Markelov. The corrupt investigator, Oleg Silchenko, who is a member of the Klyuev Criminal Group, then asked for a trial on an “expedited” basis without the consideration of any evidence.

At the closed hearing, Markelov took responsibility for the entire crime and claimed that the tax officials who returned the money were tricked into refunding the money. On the basis of this confession, Officer Oleg Silchenko exonerated all the officials.

After convicting Markelov, the Interior Ministry released Khlebnikov from prosecution in spite of the evidence of his direct part in the $230 million theft. This was not the first time the Russian law enforcement authorities released him from liability for the largest tax theft in Russian history.

On 11 June 2008, six days after Sergei Magnitsky’s testimony implicating criminals and Interior Ministry officers working together, Officer Gordievsky of the local Moscow district branch of the Investigative Committee released Khlebnikov from criminal liability.

On 8 July 2008, one month after Sergei Magnitsky’s testimony, Officer Urzhumtsev of the Kazan branch of the Russian Interior Ministry questioned Khlebnikov and released him again clearing him of any wrong-doing. This was done despite Khlebnikov admitting to the fraudulent actions against the Hermitage Fund’s companies during his questioning. In particular, Khlebnikov described how he took part in the unlawful re-registration of Hermitage Fund’s companies and fraudulently authorised court documents for multi-million dollar liabilities against those companies:

“In September 2007, I, together with Markelov, and Kurochkin, went to the tax inspection…where we submitted some documents, but I did not look carefully into their content …As far as I remember, among the documents I had signed, there were some power of attorneys and some court documents…The statutory documents I received from the tax inspection and gave them straight to Markelov,”

stated Khlebnikov in his July 2008 testimony.

In April 2009, Officer Oleg Silchenko released Khlebnikov from criminal prosecution, again clearing him of any wrong-doing.

Senior Officials Providing Protection to Vyacheslav Khlebnikov
Officer Silchenko’s findings clearing Khlebnikov of liability for the $230 million theft were sanctioned at the highest levels of the Russian government: by Oleg Logunov, Deputy Chief of the Interior Ministry’s Investigative Department, and Viktor Grin, Deputy General Prosecutor of Russia.

In 2010, one year after the death of Sergei Magnitsky, as more details of the Magnitsky testimonies and the $230 million theft were revealed, and the public no longer believed that a “sawmill worker” Viktor Markelov could have been a single mastermind of the largest tax theft in Russian history, the Interior Ministry finally arrested Khlebnikov.

As in Markelov’s court case, Khlebnikov was sentenced in a closed expedited proceeding which heard no evidence in order to hide the corrupt officials behind the theft.

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