New law makes first shots

For the first time an official agreement between a prosecutor and a defendant has been concluded. Sergey Katorgin, a onetime security officer of Euroset, the largest Russian mobile phones retailer, agreed to give evidence against the former owner and the director of the company Yevgeny Chichvarkin who fled to London in December 2008, hours before a warrant for his arrest was issued.

In exchange for his help Mr Katorgin can expect some leniency in punishment - no more than 2/3 of the maximum sentence as established by law - and the court hearing under the 'special', simplified, procedure. The agreement, newspaper Kommersant reports, has already been signed by the vice-prosecutor of the Russian Federation Viktor Grin.

The news that one of the main suspects in the case agreed to plead guilty and to help to convict the others was announced during the preliminary hearings last week and had an immediate impact on his fellows. Mr Ermilov, another defendant, requested more information about a bargain. Two others submitted formal applications to enter the deal.

According to the investigators in 2003 Euroset security officers, acting upon Chichvarkin's orders, kidnapped Andrey Vlaskin, who at the time worked as a shipping agent. They tortured and kept him locked until he paid money and gave away some of his property. Another version of the story is that Vlaskin stole mobile phones worth US$600k and later agreed to compensate the losses in exchange for not pursuing his prosecution.

The law came into effect on July 14. It allows prosecutors to guarantee some lenience in sentencing in exchange for a guilty plea - and, effectively, surrendering the right to compel the state to prove the case - and for help to convict other, less co-operative, defendants.

Whatever the outcome of the Chichvarkin case will be, the ultimate result is already clear: justice as a bargain is an effective weapon. And first of all, against business.



September 4, 2009