While the law enforcement agencies were occupied after Beslan in finding out the the identity of the leader of the terrorists, "Komsomolka" began its own investigation.
And this was before the fingerprint experts declared that "The Colonel" could be no one else besides Ruslan Khuchbarova.
Our information disclosed that during the first Chechnyan war he fought on the guerilla side as a ordinary cut-throat. Later he settled in Orel for a few years.
Officially he did not work. Through just what means he lived, one can only guess. In 1998, during a fight between gangs, he shot two Armenians with a machinegun and left the city in a hurry. Even now Khuchbarov is on the federal most-wanted list.
We succeeded in finding out quite a lot about his background and even had an interview with his former live-in girlfriend (see KP issues from 11, 14, 16 September 2004). The main conclusion that we arrived at as we followed the Colonel's tracks: in the Orlov countryside, under the protection of high-ranking persons, there has operated - and probably continues to operate - a well-organized criminal group of Chechnyan immigrants who make money to send to their guerilla brethren for carrying out the war in Chechnya.
In the 1980s, while they were still brothers with the USSR, the Chechnyans came to the Orlovsk area to live and work. The settled entire villages and worked as farmers. They say that Shamil Basayev himself paved the roads in the Novosil'skiy region. After the disintegration of the nation, the proclamation of Iskeriya independance and rise to power of Dzhokhar Dudayev, the Chechnyans began working in a completely different field: they began to send meat, grain and money to Chechnya.
Millions from thin air
We at "Komsomolk" suceeded in acquainting ourselves with several of the criminal activities run by Chechnyans, through whose hands passed enormous sums during the time of reconstruction.
At the beginning of the 1990s there were financial documents called avisos, similar to today's money orders, which were printed by the Russian central bank. The sums which the bearer of these could acquire could not be carried in their hand, but made it possible to transfer money to any firm, or order any kind of merchandise. Validation systems did not exist at the time. And oh how the Chechnyans exploited this. They opened fake firms, counterfeited aviso forms, and came to Orel city in order to "laundry" their money through any one of the local firms. There was no shortage of those wanting to help: the Chechnyans always gave a good percentage for the transactions.
Here is but one episode from criminal case #294015: a certain Khasanbek Osmayev and Khumid Khunarikov offered the manager of the Orlov private firm "Irida" a cooperative deal with their firm "Merkuriy". The manager was to sign an order for the import of 22 Volvos, Nissans, and BMWs, then present a counterfit aviso in the sum of 46,700,000 rubels and transfer this money to the account of a certain firm in Saint Petersburg. For his service, the Chechnyans would pay the manager with two of the imported cars and cover a few small debts for his firm.
All went without a hitch. The machines were transported to Orel straight from Sweden, but later they disappeared without a trace. Through their own channels, police operatives found out that one of the cars was driven by Dudayev's own bodyguard.
"The avisos were the first con that the Chechnyans mastered," remembers former operative for the financial and credit fraud department for the Orlov district police, Oleg Solokhin. "One time we fumbled around in the North Caucasus for an entire month, looking for firms which were allegedly transferring money to the accounts of Orlov private firms. We didn't find a single one - all of them were fake."
The fact that similar machinations were planned and organized in Chechnya, one can judge from the confession of Ibragim Bogatayev, who was arrested in Bryansk for stealing an entire block of aviso forms. He reported to investigators that he was ordered to steal blanks by a certain Daud Omarov at a personal meeting with him in Chechnya, which took place at the entrance to the building where sat the entire leadership of the Dudayev's Iskerian republic.
From the accusation section of criminal case #294015:
These indications in conjunction with the socio-political events in the Chechnyan Republic in the period since 1992, as well as the present events, allow investigators to come to the firm conclusion that the crimes, accomplished with the use of false credit avisos, were controlled and directed by government bodies of Chechnya. These well-organized criminal groups were at work, and the stolen money entered the government of Chechnya, for the benefit of Dudayev's criminal regime.
It would be naive to think that this has been going on only in Orel. These tidal wave of transactions in fake avisos at the time also washed over Tver', Bryansk, Smolensk, and Yaroslavl'. The Chechnyan mafia had the entire nation in its grip, sending into the Russian countryside their compatriots from poorer clans. Their bundles were dragged out of trains and buses, they were interrogated and body searches were conducted, but no money or valuables were found.
The operatives checked their relatives in Chechnya, thinking that the money could have been transported to there somehow, but they did not find a single trace of a luxurous lifestyle. Not one of the Chechnyans who engaged in similar machinations could explain to investigators where the money had gone.
When the banks learned how to authenticate avisos, working with counterfeit papers became dangerous. Then the Chechnyans started to "buy" the people who were responsible for giving out credit. For a kickback of 20-30 %, the Chechnyans took hundreds of millions from banks under the guise of nonexistant businesses, or firms that existed only on paper.