Governor of N. Russian region busted for fraud & criminal gang membership

Head of the Republic of Komi Vyacheslav Gaizer © Valery Melnikov
Nineteen public officials and businessmen based in the Komi Republic have been charged in Moscow on suspicion of fraud and organizing a criminal gang. The group includes Vyacheslav Gayzer, the governor of the northern Russian region.

The criminal gang has been active since 2006 and committed grievous crimes aimed at the acquisition of public property, said Russian Investigative Committee spokesperson Vladimir Markin.

The criminal group, which also listed Gayzer's deputy Alexey Chernov, is behind large-scale illegal activities in Russia and even beyond, according to the IC.

Police conducted several searches – including the office of Gayzer in Moscow. Investigators found a substantial sum of money and a collection of luxurious watches – one of them costs about $1 million.

Investigators also showed a special interest in particular documents – for instance, a project aimed purchasing a plane – the Bombardier Learjet 60, TASS news agency reports.

Alongside the region chief, police arrested the deputy head, Alexey Chernov, Komi state council speaker Igor Kovel, ex-senator Evgeniy Samoilov and other prominent officials and businessmen.

The government of the Komi Republic, a northern region rich in natural resources and known for its reindeer and forests, has not yet commented on the situation.

Gayzer has been governor of Komi since 2010.  The charges against him were brought on Saturday and on Sunday his arrest was confirmed by a Moscow court.

In March, bribery charges were brought against another regional governor, Aleksandr Khoroshavin, who was the head of the far-eastern Sakhalin Region.

Arrests and charges against such high-level officials are extremely rare in Russia. Prior to this year, only one governor in post-Soviet history had ever been charged with criminal offenses while in office, in 2006.