Who Wants to Take Over Rossiya Collective Farm and What Does Sugar Have to do With it?

Who Wants to Take Over Rossiya Collective Farm and What Does Sugar Have to do With it?

Photo: https://www.stav.kp.ru/

Residents of the village of Grigoropolisskaya and shareholders of Rossiya, one of the oldest collective farms in the Stavropol Territory, continue to defend their company.

The successful agribusiness was praised many times by heads of state. It was visited by Nikita Khrushchev, Mikhail Gorbachev, and the incumbent President Vladimir Putin.

It was headed by chairman Sergei Pyanov for about 30 years. However, foremen Alexander Grinev was elected the new chairman at a meeting of shareholders on February 5. Pyanov wanted to regain power and even tried to seize the enterprise with the help of a Voronezh-based private security firm specially hired for this purpose, but the cooperative members repulsed the attack. Pyanov was expelled for these actions from the cooperative by the decision of the general meeting of July 2.

Alexander Grinev could not continue managing the enterprise either. He was arrested on suspicion of stealing almost 1,000 tonnes of peas on July 19. According to Grinev's lawyer, the investigator’s arguments seem somewhat strange, given that the above-mentioned amount of peas had stayed at the collective farm and had been simply transported from one warehouse to another. That is, even if the law enforcement agencies suspect criminal intent, it should be qualified as “attempted theft,” because the peas had not disappeared. Even the investigators do not dispute that.

Meanwhile, other people are trying to get their hands on the collective farm which was left without administration. According to Grinev's defense, the Uspensky sugar factory, belonging to the Prodimex group of companies, is trying to buy up the property shares of the shareholders for 2.5 million rubles each ($33,075) through Pyanov. The members of the cooperative have sounded the alarm as they are afraid of losing their jobs when the leading agribusiness comes to the village.

Where are the peas hidden?

Grinev's lawyer Vyacheslav Feoktistov said at a press conference that a warrant order had been served on Alexander Grinev and ten other employees of the enterprise on the night of July 20-21. Almost 300 concerned members of the collective farm and fellow villagers rallied at the house of their director. As a result, the Department for fighting against economic crimes and Investigative Department officers called in the Special Purpose Mobile Unit (OMON) from Stavropol to help. About 200 of them arrived at 4 a.m. to disperse the civilians, committing mayhem on them in the process. Grinev was detained. Sergey Radionov, deputy head of the Main Investigation Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia in the Stavropol territory, and his subordinate investigator Evgeny Ter-Avanesov asked the court to arrest Grinev who has been in custody ever since. The company's accountant, Svetlana Podstavkina, was arrested a month and a half later.

The lawyer also said that according to the investigation, in 2020, Grinev and Podstavkina entered false data into warehouse and accounting documents during the harvesting of peas in 2020. The unaccounted peas in the amount of 911 tonnes were allegedly stored in a Team 10 warehouse up to a certain point. Later, it was moved to Team 11’s restricted access warehouse. Investigator Ter-Avanesov assumed that a theft had been committed, although the peas had never left the collective farm.

According to Feoktistov, if one knows how the harvest goes then it is impossible to commit theft in the manner described by investigator Ter-Avanesov. Combine operators and drivers have numbered and personally signed coupons before the beginning of the harvest. These coupons are exchanged when the harvester hands over the harvest to the driver. The driver receives the crop from the combine harvester and takes it to the warehouse. The harvested crops in the warehouse are transported to the weigher who makes a mark on the combine harvester's ticket and indicates the name of the driver, as well as the time of arrival and weight of the unloaded peas. That is, all the information about weighing, warehouse accounting documents is recorded in the tickets, as well as automatically in the accounting.

“Grinev and Podstavkina could not have possibly worked out deals with the farmers at any stage of the harvesting without leaving traces in warehouse and accounting records. As part of the independent examination, experts were brought in, who used the GLONASS system to compare the data indicated in the drivers' and harvesters' tickets. Their reliability has been confirmed with a difference in time from 1 to 5 minutes only, which is considered an admissible error,” Grinev's lawyer Vyacheslav Feoktistov says.

He specifies that there is documentary evidence confirming that “each of these cars carried to the warehouse the harvest of 2021 and not of 2020 some part of which the investigator considers unaccounted for.” All these documents were handed over to Ter-Avanesov but he ignored them.

Such crimes, of which the investigating authorities accuse Alexander Grinev, have been known since Soviet times. At that time, they were dealt with by the Department Against Misappropriation of Socialist Property. It is necessary to conduct an inventory to establish the fact of theft but the deputy head of the investigation department Radionov and investigator Ter-Avanesov did not do this which raises a big question: are they acting in the interests of the investigation?

The collective farm conducts an inventory at the end of each year. It was found in September 2021 that the peas were kept in the warehouses of Team 10 and Team 11. An independent examination was conducted by the Financial Investigation and Forensic Expertise Center which re-weighted the peas brought into the warehouses of Team 10. Kamaz trucks transported grain from to Team 10 warehouses for four days. As a result of this re-weighing, 1,083 tons and 300 kg of peas were found that had been in warehouse No. 11 all that time.

This was done to check if the documents correctly stated the actual amount of peas stored at the farm. The documents showed a 2 percent surplus. It means that peas are accounted for with a small margin of error. Therefore, there is no evidence of a crime, Feoktistov says.

The results were sent to the regional Ministry of Internal Affairs. The investigator decided to take away the peas in October of this year. According to his data, there was the same amount of peas as the examination showed, with a margin of error of 2%, i.e., 20 tonnes.

However, instead of releasing Grinev and Podstavkina and apologizing for unjustified criminal prosecution, investigator Evgeny Ter-Avanesov brought more serious charges on 11 October. According to his version, Grinev, as part of an organized criminal group, created an unaccounted stock of peas in 2020, which he entered in the harvest 2021 statement.

The investigation contradicts itself. If the theft was committed in 2020, what is the point of accounting for the stolen peas in 2021, thereby legalizing them? Moreover, why were the allegedly unaccounted stolen crops stored in Rossiya’s warehouses from which Grinev allegedly wanted to steal them? The investigation reached a blind alley, says Feoktistov. The contradiction “went unnoticed” by investigators who continued in the same vein. At the end of October, the Team 11 foreman was arrested. Ter-Avanesov suspects him of abetting Grinev and Podstavnaya'.

Peas vs. Sugar

Meanwhile, Sergei Pyanov, the former chairman of the collective farm, was urging the members of the collective farm to sell their shares to the Prodimex group of companies. According to lawyer Vyacheslav Feoktistov, flyers were distributed on Pyanov's behalf among members of the collective farm and its pensioners stating that his “longtime partner,” Uspensky sugar factory from the Prodimex group of companies was ready to buy property shares from cooperative members for 2.5 million rubles ($33,075.) All this under the pretext of not stopping the work of the collective farm, because the sugar factory for many years accepted from the collective farm the beet for its further processing into sugar.

The residents of Grigoropolisskaya village began to doubt that they would be able to keep their jobs with the arrival of Prodimex. Most of them believe that they will grow sugar beets on the lands of the collective farm since the company owns over 27% of sugar production in Russia.

The Rossiya agricultural collective farm occupies about 20,000 ha. It is the largest and almost the only employer in Grigoropolisskaya village, almost every family is somehow involved in the collective farm activities. The shareholders of the collective farm are doing everything to prevent company collapse.

Destroying a single village/stanitsa [a village inside a Cossack host] is not beneficial to the government of the region. Alexander Grinev's defense is preparing an appeal to the Commissioner for Entrepreneurs Boris Titov, as well as to the Department of the Federal Security Service against Deputy Head of the Main Investigation Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia in Stavropol region Sergey Radionov and his direct subordinate investigator Evgeny Ter-Avanesov. The people of the village need the help of the authorities to prevent the destruction of the collective farm and their jobs.

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