On May 25, head of the Interior Ministry’s internal affairs department Konstantin Romodanovsky briefed Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev on the involvement of officers from the State Road Safety Inspectorate (GIBDD) in an auto-theft ring. Romodanovsky reported that as many as 100 people, including more than 10 traffic policemen, were part of the ring, which is accused of stealing expensive cars in Moscow and selling them, using documents forged with the help of GIBDD employees in Samara and other Russian regions. Gazeta reported that the ring operated in Moscow, the Moscow and Nizhegorod oblasts, Samara, Mordovia and Ryazan. Eight suspected members of the ring were identified, four of whom were arrested. Among them was Alexander Morozov, a captain from the GIBDD’s Road Patrol Service (DPS), who was arrested while trying to sell a stolen Volkswagen Golf to an undercover policeman for US$4,200. Reportedly arrested along with Morozov were his two “assistants,” whom Gazeta described as “active members of the Murmansk organized crime group.”
Another traffic police officer, Major Yuri Morozov, was questioned on May 25 at the Prosecutor General’s Office. According to Romodanovsky, 22 stolen automobiles were seized in 18 raids. Vedomosti quoted a source in the Prosecutor General’s Office as saying that nine foreign cars, including a collector’s Ferrari, were seized on May 24, along with several hundred thousand dollars and forged documents. According Newsru.com, investigators believe the ring sold around 365 stolen cars a year (Gazeta, Moscow Times, Vedomosti, May 26).
The Interior Ministry’s internal affairs department began investigating the auto-theft ring as part of a larger probe launched two years ago into cars stolen in Europe and sold in Russia. Nurgaliev described auto-theft as a sophisticated transnational business. “There are some groups which directly specialize in vehicle theft,” he said. “There are others that specialize in the changing and the manufacture of license plates. There are others that specialize in forging road-worthiness certificates. And there are also operations which are being conducted by members of internal affairs bodies – not only in Russia, but also in CIS and European countries.” He added: “Crime has infiltrated our own ranks. Punishment for such officers must be inevitable” (RIA Novosti, May 25; Moscow Times, May 26). In January, Nurgaliev announced the arrest of a group of officers from the Moscow GIBDD’s registration division on charges of providing forged documents for more than 1,000 luxury cars stolen in Western Europe and brought to Russia (Interfax, January 13).
State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov said the arrest of Captain Morozov and his confederates was a continuation of the “Operation Werewolves in Uniform,” begun last year when he was interior minister. In the course of that operation, a group of high-ranking Moscow police officers and an Emergency Situations Ministry general were arrested on charges of running an extortion racket that targeted businessmen in the Russian capital. But State Duma Deputy Viktor Pokhmelkin, who heads the Automotive Russia movement, said that while corruption in law-enforcement agencies, and especially in the GIBDD, has reached “critical mass,” “it does not look like a systematic fight against this evil has begun.” Pokhmelkin said he thought that the moves against the latest auto-theft ring were simply part of another Interior Ministry “propaganda campaign” (Vedomosti, May 26).