Russian Anti-corruption Officer Jailed After Police Find $139 Million in Cash Bribes in His Apartments

A Russian anti-corruption police officer has been sentenced to more than a decade in jail after being found in possession of $139 million in cash bribes.

Colonel Dmitry Zakharchenko, 41, was serving as the acting deputy chief of a branch at the General Directorate of Economic Security and Anti-Corruption of Russia's Ministry of Internal Affairs when he was arrested in September 2016.

Though he was only convicted of one charge of bribery, police found around 9 billion rubles (around $139 million) in cash—much of it in foreign currencies—at properties linked to him in Moscow, state news agency Tass reported.

Zakharchenko was sentenced to 13 years in a maximum security correctional facility and slapped with a fine of around $1.8 million. He was found guilty of accepting large-scale bribes and obstructing justice, Tass explained. He was also stripped of all titles and state awards. His lawyers have said they intend to appeal the sentence.

The bribery case that eventually took Zakharchenko down centered on a seafood restaurant called La Mare, owned by one Mehdi Douss. After multiple inspections of Douss' restaurants and disruption to his businesses, the owner arranged a meeting with Zakharchenko through friend Major General Alexei Laushkin—a high-ranking officer at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Lenta reported.

Investigators said Zakharchenko demanded a bribe of $5 million, later reduced to $800,000, to overlook Douss' violations, cancel inspections and ensure the smooth operation of his businesses.

However, the court said it was unable to confirm without doubt that Zakharchenko ever received the money, though Laushkin testified he had passed Zakharchenko the money via FSB Colonel Dmitry Senin. He was thus found innocent of this charge.

But then in 2015, Zakharchenko and an accomplice returned to La Mare, demanding discounts ranging from 30 to 50 percent in exchange for protection. Douss accepted, and over time Zakharchenko racked up around $46,000 in savings by using his discount. This was considered a bribe by investigators and the court found Zakharchenko guilty of the charge.

The court also heard that Zakharchenko abused his position in 2016 by notifying his friend Galina Marchukova, a finance director at Nota Bank, about imminent police searches of her property in a tax evasion investigation relating to one of her clients. He suggested Marchukova remove certain documents from her home before police arrived.

His arrest came soon after. According to Lenta, authorities searched properties linked to Zakharchenko, including one belonging to his sister, Irina Razgonova. They recovered $139 million in cash in total. Police photos show officers poring over large bricks of dollars, euros and rubles, stashed in shopping bags and cardboard boxes. It is not yet known where all the money came from, the state-run RIA Novosti agency explained, though the officer is still facing two other criminal cases.

In the first, he is accused of taking more than $108,000 in bribes from Anatoly Pshegornitsky, the former head and co-owner of the Rus-Inzhiniring mining company. The second case relates to $3,400,000 of the cash found among the huge haul, which he is accused of embezzling. All the money seized has been transferred to the state treasury, RIA noted.

Russia, dollars, corruption, police officer, corruption
This file photo shows new $100 notes at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing on May 20, 2013 in Washington, D.C. Getty/Mark Wilson