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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Corrupt Ingush Officials Getting Lax Sentences

Officials in Ingushetia who have stolen millions of rubles are being fined and released, with many of those accused of corruption even being allowed to keep their posts, according to an analysis by the Investigative Committee.

Twenty-nine criminal corruption cases have been opened in the republic this year, 17 of which involve officials or executives at state companies, according to a briefing on the findings obtained by Vedomosti. The Investigative Committee confirmed the document's authenticity.

The results come amid an anti-corruption campaign launched by Ingush President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov after the Audit Chamber said it had found financial violations involving 1.7 billion rubles ($53 million), or one-fifth of the republic's budget, of Ingush budget funds in 2008 and early 2009.

Yevkurov offered amnesty to officials who return stolen funds, and he has directly linked corruption in the republic to terrorism.

In the first seven months of 2009, 22 criminal cases went to court involving officials ranging from deputy ministers to accountants but there have been no serious sentences, the Investigative Committee said.

In June, the Sunzhensky District Court found Salman Archkhoyev, an accountant for the local housing and utilities agency, guilty of using his post for massive theft. Of 115 million rubles allotted last year for subsidized utilities, just 17.7 million found its way onto the books.

The rest was misappropriated by Archkhoyev, agency director Maret Barakhoyeva and Ingush Deputy Finance Minister Alikhan Gandaloyev.

The court sentenced Archkhoyev to a six-year suspended sentence and fined him 50,000 rubles (about $1,600). Barakhoyeva was detained in February, but the Magassky District Court declined to sanction her arrest. She subsequently hid from investigators and was placed on wanted lists.

Gandaloyev, the deputy finance minister, is also in hiding, although a court has declined to allow his arrest.

On June 26, a court found Abubakar Merzhoyev, former director of the Ingush housing and utilities agency, and Batyr Dugiyev, a department head of the long-term development directorate, guilty of official forgery and abusing their authority. They signed acts accepting work on a 130 million-ruble water pipeline that was never built.

They were each fined 300,000 rubles.

The same charges were pressed against Ingush Deputy Construction Minister Mikhail Barkinkhoyev after he signed orders allotting 81 million rubles for work that was never done.

Investigators say Barkinkhoyev knew that the construction wasn't done but signed the documents anyway. Two officials who processed the documents — Ilyas Mankiyev and Alikhan Sautiyev — were found guilty in May of official forgery and abusing their authority and were fined 80,000 rubles each.

The deputy minister was freed on the condition that he not leave the republic and is continuing to perform his duties. Two other officials were demoted.

Despite publicized efforts to fight corruption, even the most prominent criminal cases are falling apart in court, and the accused are getting off with suspended sentences, said Bamatgirei Mankiyev, an Ingush rights campaigner. Even since the attempt on Yevkurov's life, the Ingush Supreme Court cleared former Sports and Tourism Minister Issa Ozdoyev, who was accused of misappropriating budget funds.

In March, a court had sentenced Ozdoyev to three years in a prison colony.

Kaloi Akhilgov, Yevkurov's press secretary, said the light sentences were because of the president's prolonged absence while recovering from the suicide attack in June. He said the problem might be helped by President Dmitry Medvedev's suggestion that such cases be heard in outside regions.

Magomed Khazbiyev, leader of the Ingush opposition, said the convicted officials were getting off lightly because the judges and prosecutors who served under the previous authorities have not been replaced.

After the June assassination of Aza Gazgireyeva, deputy chairwoman of the Ingush Supreme Court, judges are too afraid to hand down harsh sentences, a source in the Ingush government said.

There is a direct link between the terrorists and corrupt officials, said Khazbiyev, the opposition leader. The officials steal, and if the militants do not get their cut, they attack. He cited the recent assassination of Deputy Construction Minister Ruslan Amirkhanov, who had opened a financial investigation into the ministry's earlier work.

The federal government, meanwhile, is stepping up its financing for the republic. Under the federal targeted program on the development of Ingushetia from 2010 to 2015, the federal budget has allotted 21 billion rubles, while the overall assistance for the republic will be 32 billion rubles, Regional Development Minister Viktor Basargin said in July.