Popular opposition figure Aleksey Navalny has accused the head of Investigative Committee, Aleksandr Bastrykin, of being a foreign agent after discovering that the official allegedly received a residence permit in the Czech Republic.
The report, which quickly became a hit on the Russian internet, was published on the recently founded website Kind Machine of Truth, maintained by Navalny in order to fight corruption and challenge the authority of parliamentary majority United Russia, to which Navalny refers with a personally coined term “the party of crooks and thieves.”
In addition, Navalny and his aides sent official letters to the Federal Security Service, the Investigative Committee, the heads of Russian television channels and President Vladimir Putin.
This time the opposition activist targeted Aleksandr Bastrykin, head of the Investigative Committee, a recently founded agency for dealing with high priority and resonant criminal cases, seen by analysts as the equivalent of America’s FBI.
Navalny accused Bastrykin being a co-owner of a business in the Czech Republic while at the same time being a state servant. Russian state officials are not allowed to own foreign assets.
The accusations are backed by a 2008 article in the Russian daily Moskovsky Komsomolets and 2010 articles in the Russian-language online daily Prague Telegraph. Navalny wrote that his aides had done additional research on the subject.
The essence of the accusations is that Bastrykin became a co-owner of the Law Bohemia company in 2000 and officially resigned from the company’s management board only in 2003, and not in 2001 when he first became a civil servant (Bastrykin became the head of the Justice Ministry’s directorate for North-Western Federal District). Additionally, Bastrykin continued to own a share in the company till 2008 and only passed his stake to another person when the story leaked to the press.
Navalny, who is also a trained lawyer, went on to accuse Bastrykin of using forged documents and stamps when he was selling his shares in the company. The activist referred to a private talk with a notary clerk who pointed at inconsistencies in the papers.
The blogger also claimed that a high-ranked civil servant, like Bastrykin, must not have a residence permit in another country, especially if this country is a NATO member. According to Navalny, this could be a sign that the official is cooperating with foreign special services.
At the time of publication, neither Bastrykin nor his agency has officially commented on Navalny’s accusations.
It should be noted that in 2008 the scandal was initiated by journalist Aleksandr Khinshteyn – himself a member of Navalny’s arch-enemy, United Russia. Back then, Bastrykin refuted all reports and Khinshteyn refused to persist with his charges.
Khinshteyn commented on Navalny’s report in his Twitter microblog, saying that he was on vacation and promising to start a parliamentary investigation into Bastrykin’s tax evasion as soon as he returns to work. The MP also corrected Navalny, saying that he did not give up his pursuit of truth, but simply received no answers from Dmitry Medvedev and the FSB, while the Prosecutor General’s Office replied that they had no powers to investigate Bastrykin’s activities.