Meduza Reporter in Jail; Moscow Deputy Mayor in Penthouse for EUR 20 Million

Nikolay Marchenko

Russian police arrested Thursday in Moscow Ivan Golunov, investigative journalist of the respected site Meduza, on “drug possession” accusations. There are suspicions that the arrest may have been “ordered” by the Moscow Deputy Mayor Piotr Biryukov.

Ivan Golunov, 35, has a serious professional biography as an investigative journalist. He has worked as a special correspondent of the newspaper Vedomosti (founded by The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times), as well as other prominent media such as Novaya Gazeta, RBK Daily, and the Forbes Russia magazine.
The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), whose partner in Bulgaria is Bivol, already published two articles in Ivan Golunov’s support.

The OCCRP’s article in English is titled, “Independent Russian Journalist Arrested For Drugs, Claims They Were Planted”.

“Six Questions to Police Regarding Ivan Golunov’s Detention”, is the OCCRP publication in Russian.

Moscow Deputy Mayor as a secret billionaire

The investigation of the journalist of the Russian and English-language site Meduza into the family business Moscow’s Deputy Mayor was published on December 28, 2018.

It is titled “Family of Moscow Deputy Mayor Piotr Biryukov Buys Penthouse in Legenda Tsvetnogo Complex; Market Value of Apartments – around RUB 1.5 billion“.

Russian editions (Rusmonitor and others) cite the Telegram channel “Futlyar ot Violoncelli” (Cello Case), according to which “one of the most hideous officials in Moscow,” – Biryukov – has paid USD 1.2 million in briberies for the journalist’s arrest.

Recently, Ivan Golunov has been working on a number of Meduza investigations linked to the Moscow City Hall and the activities of organized crime groups (OCGs) in the Russian capital.

These include the investigation into business interests behind the shutdown of the Moscow trolleys, the funeral business, and “black” microlending to take possession of debtors’ homes.

The investigation into Biryukov’s multi-billion dollar business is particularly significant and has caused a scandal of the scale of the Bulgarian #ApartmentGate.

A reporter sets up an OCG?

On Saturday, June 8, the Moscow police filed an indictment against Ivan Golunov for “an attempt to organize the sale of narcotic substances” under Art. 228.1 of the Penal Code of the Russian Federation, said lawyer Pavel Chikov. If found guilty, the journalist is facing 10 to 20 years behind bars.

Moscow police arrested the reporter on suspicion of “drug manufacturing and drug dealing”. They say that they “discovered banned substances” in his backpack and his apartment and that Golunov was suspected to be one of the founders of an OCG to deal drugs, including cocaine.

The publisher of the Latvia-based site Meduza, Galina Timchenko, was firm that the Russian Interior Ministry is persecuting Golunov for his investigations. “We know that Vanya has been threatened for several months,” she said.

Meduza‘s Editor-in-Chief Ivan Kolpakov told Interfax that the reporter’s latest investigation was about the so-called “Black Lenders”, the said microlender organizations that take possessions of their debtors’ apartments by fraud.

Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin has reacted to detention. He has asked Oleg Baranov, the Chief of the Moscow Ministry of Internal Affairs, to take the case under personal control.

The Independent Trade Union of Journalists of the Russian Federation said the reporter’s arrest is an attack on freedom of speech. The International organization Reporters Without Borders also voiced strong concern about the suspicious behavior of the police in Moscow.

You investigate; they thrash you as a “dealer”…

The journalist’s lawyer Dmitry Dzhulai explains that the police had planted the drugs: “During the searches, the detainee lost sight of his backpack and the cupboard in his apartment where the banned substances were found.”
The lawyer also stated that his client was beaten with fists and kicks by the police.

In his first interview, Golunov told the TV show “Dozhd” (TV Rain) that he has been hit on the head twice after the search because he has insisted on the presence of a lawyer.

When refusing to leave the hospital without a lawyer, he sustained additional blows and injuries.

The police left him lying on the asphalt as a particularly dangerous and armed drug dealer. “The foot of one of the policemen was on my chest. I was handcuffed… Everything must be recorded by video surveillance cameras.”

Meduza is the most cited Russian site abroad, headquartered in Riga, and its journalists’ articles are strongly critical of the Kremlin. On Friday, June 7, four famous journalists and other protesters were arrested in front of the Moscow police headquarters for posters in support of Ivan Golunov.


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