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Barsukov Handed 14 Years for Fraud

Reputed St. Petersburg crime boss Barsukov, left, sitting in the defendant?€™s cage in a Moscow court on Thursday. Vladimir Filonov

Reputed St. Petersburg crime boss Vladimir Barsukov was sentenced to 14 years in prison late Thursday after being convicted of fraud and money laundering during a high-profile trial.

St. Petersburg’s Kuibyshevsky District Court, whose staff moved to the Moscow City Court for the trial out of fear for the safety of the participants, ruled that Barsukov and seven co-defendants were guilty of money laundering and organizing the illegal takeover of companies and property in St. Petersburg between July 2005 and June 2006.

Prosecutors had asked the court to sentence Barsukov to 15 1/2 years in a maximum-security prison and to fine him 1 million rubles ($34,880).

The court on Thursday also ordered Barsukov to pay the 1 million ruble fine.

Barsukov, who has maintained his innocence, is believed to have led the powerful Tambov crime group in St. Petersburg in the 1990s. He was arrested at his country home outside St. Petersburg in August 2007 by dozens of OMON police officers who were brought from Moscow, while local law enforcement agencies were left in the dark to prevent information leaks.

The courtroom was packed with people Thursday. A dozen armed officers guarded the two defendants’ cages, while the onlookers included about 25 prosecutors who had pressed the charges against Barsukov and his associates at various times and three dozen photographers, television cameramen and reporters.

The court handed down punishments ranging from five to 15 years in prison to the seven co-defendants: Vyacheslav Drokov, Pavel Tsyganok, Albert Starostin, Oleg Kumishche, Dmitry Malyshev, Valery Astashko and Alexander Baskakov.

“Barsukov and Drokov dealt with general questions and coordinated the activities of the criminal group,” Judge Yelena Gorbunova said in announcing the guilty verdicts.

She said Barsukov had pleaded not guilty, while Drokov had pleaded partially guilty to the charges.

Barsukov faces a second trial on charges of organizing murder and attempted murder in a separate criminal case.

Several foreign publications have speculated that Barsukov might have had ties to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in the 1990s, when Putin worked in the St. Petersburg city government. The reports said Barsukov was a board member of a Russian subsidiary of the German firm SPAG, where Putin once worked as a consultant. Barsukov has repeatedly denied any links with Putin, and Putin’s spokespeople have declined to comment about Putin’s ties to SPAG.

A native of Tambov, Barsukov, who changed his last name several years ago from Kumarin, is thought to have assembled the infamous Tambov gang with natives from his hometown in the 1990s.

The illegal takeover of companies and property is a bane of businesspeople in Russia. President Dmitry Medvedev called for tougher punishment against such raiders Nov. 5.

In October, Investigative Committee chief Alexander Bastrykin proposed introducing a new clause in the Criminal Code that would cover corporate raiding.

The Investigative Committee has opened more than 70 criminal cases into corporate raiding over the past two years and 12 cases were sent to court in the same period, Bastrykin said.

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