Gazeta on February 7 described how Chechen officials have been systematically extracting kickbacks from residents who received compensation payments for homes destroyed during the republic’s two wars. The newspaper reported that according to residents of the capital Grozny who have already received compensation payments, there are two ways to ensure that you receive at least some compensation. “The first is to give a bribe of from 30,000 (rubles) [around $1216] beforehand, but that isn’t the most reliable way; you can run into fraud,” Gazeta wrote. “The second variant is more reliable: you need to share the money fifty-fifty immediately after receiving it. The officials engaged in [distributing] the payments often themselves step forward as middlemen in this business. The sharing out usually takes place directly beside branches of Rosselkhozbank, which carries out the operations.”
Indeed, a Grozny resident named Uslam told Gazeta: “On leaving the branch of the bank on Ulitsa Mira, an acquaintance who was acting as a middleman in filling out documents suggested going to his car. There we split my compensation equally, as had been agreed to, after which I was even driven home. My neighbors, who did not agree to split [their compensation payment] 50-50, are still waiting their turn [to receive compensation].”
Gazeta quoted Chechnya’s deputy prosecutor, Nikolai Khabarov, as saying that while the fight against such schemes is successful, it is not without problems. He said 789 criminal cases had been filed since the republic started making compensation payments for destroyed homes, and that 225 cases against 280 people were heard in court, all of which resulted in convictions. In addition, 18 cases of malfeasance were brought against 18 officials in connection with compensation payments, the source said. An unnamed and highly placed Chechen Interior Ministry source had different figures: the source told the newspaper that 611 cases had been brought since the start of compensation payments, including 80 cases against officials responsible for the process of registering requests for compensation payments. As a result, the source said, the state averted 2.95 billion rubles (more than $119 million) in losses. The source said that criminal cases were brought last year against Chechen housing officials who allegedly conspired with construction contractors—and, in at least one case, with military officials—to fake documents concerning the amount of work completed. One such official has already been sentenced to six years in prison, the source said.