The Dubrovka theater. The poster of a restored Nord-Ost musical on entrance doors of the theater.
Photo: Dmitry Azarov
Chechen Bank Formation
// The Moscow Prosecutor's Office Finds the Source of Financing for the Seizure of the Theater on Dubrovka
The Nord-Ost Case
Citing sources close to the investigation of the seizure of the theater on Dubrovka in October 2002, Interfax reported yesterday that the terrorists' leader, Ruslan Elmurzaev (Abubakar), worked as head of the security service at Prima Bank in Moscow. And by giving money to Abubakar, this bank actually financed the hostage-taking. Former employees of the bank told Kommersant that this information was “absurd”.
Prima Commercial Bank was registered in June 1991. Its charter capital was 2.68 million rubles. Mukharbek Barkinkhoev was chairman of the board of directors. In June 2003, the bank's license was revoked by order of the Bank of Russia. This was preceded by problems with clients at the bank. The bank's management was accused of deliberate bankruptcy, and a member of the board of directors and the treasurer were accused of misappropriation of depositors' funds.
On October 23, 2004, Kommersant reported that the Moscow Prosecutor's Office was examining the theory that Prima Bank was involved in organizing and financing a number of terrorist acts in Moscow, including the Nord-Ost hostage-taking in the fall of 2002. According to information leaked to the press yesterday, the terrorists' ringleader, Ruslan Elmurzaev, who was killed during the storm of the theater center, allegedly worked as head of Prima Bank's security service. Kommersant has learned that a card issued under the name of Fuad Khunov with a photograph of Ruslan Elmurzaev identifying him as head of Prima Bank's security service was actually found on him after the storm. We remind our readers that Ruslan Elmurzaev in fact obtained a second passport under the name Khunov in Karachaevo-Cherkessia not long before Nord-Ost.
According to the investigators, Ruslan Elmurzaev was actually a co-owner of Prima Bank. And part of the money used to organize terrorist attacks in Moscow was obtained from there. Shamil Basaev personally provided the remaining funds. Meanwhile, former employees of the bank know nothing about its involvement in financing Chechen terrorists and consider the theory of the Moscow Prosecutor's Office absurd
– I've never even heard that they had such a position as head of the security service,” Aina Dzhafarova, a former member of Prima Bank's board of directors, told Kommersant yesterday. “It was a small bank after all. There were guards, of course. As for the money, someone had to give it to him (Ruslan Elmurzaev – Kommersant). Musa Gatiev? He doesn't have the guts. And Mukharbek Barkinkhoev was hardly ever there.”
Musa Gatiev is one of the figures in the criminal case of the disappearance of funds belonging to the bank's depositors. This case is now being heard in Moscow's Gagarinsky Court. Ms. Dzhafaorva says that the bank's problems were connected solely to the fact that Musa Gatiev and treasurer Olga Donskikh were engaged in double-entry bookkeeping and stole money.
According to the investigators' theory, Ruslan Elmurzaev and Aslanbek Khaskhanov were the organizers of the terrorist act on Dubrovka and a series of explosions in Moscow in October 2002. Aslanbek Khaskhanov is one of the accused in the case of an explosion at a McDonald's near Yugo-Zapadnaya metro station. He gave much of the evidence used as the basis for charging the other accused in the case – Aslan Murdalov, Alikhan and Akhyad Mezhiev, and Khampash Sobraliev. He also said that Abubakar was connected with banks in some way. During the trial in Moscow City Court, Aslanbek Khaskhanov lapsed into a reactive state and was sent for compulsory psychiatric treatment. The other four Chechens were sentenced to 15-22 years on April 27, 2004 (the Supreme Court of Russian did not hear their appeal yesterday: the parties had not had time to prepare the documents).
– Khaskhanov's crazy. He's violent; he spit out his own teeth during the trial. He behaved aggressively. He asked them to hang the Chechen flag. We wrote in the appeals that he was insane and that he was being influenced. We're asking that his testimony be declared contrary to fact, because it's influencing the progress of the trial of our clients,” Musa Khadisov, one of the lawyers in the McDonald's explosion case, told Kommersant yesterday. According to Mr. Khadisov, Prima Bank is not mentioned at all in the investigation materials.
“The investigators did not identify Elmurzaev's body”
Lawyer Ilyas Gelagaev, who obtained an acquittal for his clients, accused of forging documents and suspected of aiding and abetting the terrorists who seized the hostages at the musical Nord-Ost, contends that the death of Ruslan Elmurzaev, the organizer of the terrorist act, has not been legally established and he may be alive. Kommersant correspondent Murat Gukemukhov spoke with lawyer Gelagaev.
In December 2003, the Supreme Court of Karachaevo-Cherkessia passed sentence on three citizens accused of aiding and abetting the terrorists who seized the theater on Dubrovka. According to the investigation report, they helped Ruslan Elmurzaev (Abubakar) obtain a forged passport under the name of Khunov, a deceased resident of Karachaevo-Cherkessia. Shadid Borzaev was sentenced to 6 years in prison, Luiza Daudova, to 5.5 years, and Rita Bidzheva to 2.5 years for falsification of documents and fraud. The charge of complicity was dropped. Lawyers for the accused appealed to the Supreme Court of Russia, which found them not guilty in June of this year.
– Your clients were regarded as accomplices of the terrorists because a passport they prepared was found on one of them, Ruslan Elmurzaev.
– Where and how this passport was seized is unknown. The only references to it in the criminal case materials are a record of its seizure at the scene of the incident, which is not a procedural document, and quotations from the verdict to the effect that it was seized during an examination of the body. One thing is indisputable: there was no document of passport seizure in the case as required by law. Maybe they seized it in Stavropol in early May 2002 in connection with the counterfeit bill swindle that Elmurzaev was involved in, that is, six months before the terrorist act at Nord-Ost. Maybe they found it during a search of Elmurzaev's Moscow apartment or of his home in Urus-Martan. It can be stated that the passport was not seized according to the established procedure and consequently is of no importance my clients' trial.”
– According to the investigation report, the terrorist Elmurzaev got to Moscow using the forged passport.
– The investigators received negative answers from all airports and railway ticket offices in the Southern District to their inquiries as to whether airline or railway tickets had been purchased on a passport issued in the name of Khunov. At the same time, Elmurzaev flew three times – in February, June, and July 2002 –between Ingushetia and Moscow alone on his forged passport. The investigation itself established that Elmurzaev did not use the forged passport, so there was no complicity in the terrorist act on the part of my clients. Another reason you can't speak of complicity is that there's no proof of Elmurzaev's involvement in the terrorist act.”
– But the investigators in the case of the terrorist act on Dubrovka have always claimed that the identities of the terrorists, in particular Elmurzaev, have been established!
– The investigators did not conduct an identification of the body. The forensic examination report states: “The photographs designated by the number 2029 show a body that, of all the putative male persons whose documents were submitted for examination, can belong only to the person registered under the names Aliev, Khunov, and Elmurzaev”. In other words,17 other photographs were provided to the expert; of these, the body most closely resembled the photo pasted in the passport under the names Elmurzaev, Aliev, and Khunov. Is this really how they determined the identity of the deceased? Why wasn't Elmurzaev's body – if it really was him –shown to his mother for identification? This combination of circumstances suggests that the investigators didn't have his body.”
– Are you saying that Elmurzaev is alive and that during the storm they killed someone who resembled him?
– I don't know. But there is a very interesting document from the criminal case that supports this conclusion. In a separate instruction from an investigator of the Interior Ministry (MVD) of Chechnya there is the notation: Establish Elmurzaev's whereabouts. If it is established that Elmurzaev is dead, I would ask you to obtain a certified copy of the death certificate'. There is no information in the case materials on whether this order was carried out.”
All the Article in Russian as of Oct. 28, 2004