Members of the Deaflympic movement are fully aware that their former president Valery Rukhledev (Valery) has been under house arrest since 2018 for embezzlement of funds at VOG. What has not been told until now is how this could impact in ICSD.
We reported here on Two Big ears in December 2014 that ICSD CEO Dimity Rebrov was found guilty of audiogram fraud whilst working for the Russian Deaflympic Committee. This was not an isolated incident as we will now share information reported by a Russian news agency Interlocutor.ru
In 2011, Russian Deaflympians and their coaches complained to their Ministry of Culture that the Russian Deaflympic Committee was demanding 10% of their Deaflympic medal winnings awarded from the state. 90% of the medals winners have refused to get involved with the ‘almighty extortionist‘ but the rest ‘have had their careers mercilessly ruined’.
As far as the Ministry of Sport are concerned the 10% donations are to help the development of other Russian athletes. But Interlocutor cites another new source “Novaya Gazeta” that ‘Rukhledev and the SKR (Russian Deaflympic Committee) earned over 1.8 million Euros from medals won at the 2009 Taipei Deaflympics and the Deaflympians and their coaches were complaining that no funds were being passed down to support athletes.
But all this is not the reason for Valery being placed under house-arrest.
So, Why is Valery Rukhledev under house arrest?
In January 2018, a criminal investigation was opened against Valery and four others for the embezzlement of 320 million roubles (£3.1m, US$4.05m, 3.4m Euro) belonging to the All-Russian Society of the Deaf (VOG). Valery co-defendants are a former lawyer of VOG and the former head of Finance at VOG. A fourth person was imprisoned for 3.5 years as her trial revealed that as a close friend and assistant of the VOG lawyer ‘between 2011 and 2014, she created and sought out controlled legal entities as fictitious counterparties of VOG LLC and its subsidiaries and managed their bank accounts, took actions to cash out founds obtained as a result of theft, took measures to conceal the crimes.’
But Where did this all start for Valery?
Natalia Metlina, a journalist and TV and radio presenter, Moscow City Duma (Council) Deputy and author of the book “My Mafia” wrote that Valery became the head of VOG in 2003 with the support of Caucasian criminal groups, whose money was used to bribe the heads of VOG regional branches 500,000 roubles each to approve the election of Valery.
Once he was in power, Metlina writes, that he surrounded himself with hearing assistants and rewrote the organisation’s charter in such a way that he became de facto owner. The criminal investigation has evidence to show that Valery became ‘the sole executive body of the company… having the right to dispose of the property of VOG entrusted to him by virtue of his position and make transactions on behalf of the company without additional approval’.
What would a Mafia stand to gain from putting money into Valery’s election campaign?
In 1926, VOG was created by the state to support Deaf people, it allocated buildings and factories. Deaf people had their own houses of culture, sanatoriums, rest houses and much more. VOG owned hundreds of buildings and plots of land throughout Russia. All this could be very useful to a Mafia. As well, in the 1990s, the state provided VOG with significant benefits on the importation of goods from abroad and it appears that the mafia used this to smuggle vodka, cigarettes and petrol into the country.
The investigation has been told that Valery was involved in a worked-out scheme of real estate, the buildings belonging to VOG throughout Russia were sold at bargain prices to the ‘right people’ and the difference between the price on documents and the real sale price was paid to Valery in cash. Those premises that could be rented out earned them another income.
The scheme also scammed state benefits. False names ‘dead souls‘ were used to claim state funds to pay for the fictitious use of sign language interpreters as well as organising fake jobs and selling equipment that should have been given to disabled people. grants given to renovate buildings also went into the ‘pockets of the president’s team’.
Amongst the evidence is one example of where VOG owned 100% shares in a company. The entire share were sold to another company for 500,000 roubles and then two months later the ownership of the company building was transferred over. It turns out that the building was worth 40 million roubles ‘There are dozens of examples throughout Russia’ According to another source in the report, it is calculated that over the 15 years under Valery’s management, VOG started out with 90 enterprises and this was reduced to 6. VOG still owns 191 buildings and 1 million hectares of land.
How much is Valery Rukhledev accused of making from all this?
The investigation suggest that Valery owns assets in Switzerland and the USA. His personal estate in Russia is estimated at half a billion roubles and twice as much again is in the names of other members of his family. In 2018, the Tverskoy Court of Moscow ruled to seize property belonging to his wife, as well as accounts, land plots and nine other properties that were in shared ownership.
Valery was eventually arrested when he tried to sell the central office of VOG for 1 billion roubles.
Rukhledev is still trying to hold on to power at VOG
Then Valery was placed under house-arrest in 2018, he was immediately replaced by Stanislav Ivanov as interim president. But despite the conditions of his arrest, on 3rd January 2018, Valery was able to issue a decree which cancelled Ivanov’s appointment and he was replaced by Alexander Kachergis, who according to reports is a protégé of Valery. It has been implied that the wording on the VOG website suggests that Kachergis is acting on the orders of Valery.
This is not the only time that Valery had violated his conditions and the investigators petitioned the Tversky Court to put him in a pre-trial detention centre because under secrecy he had arranged for visitors to meet him in his apartments and he still had access to the Internet and video-relay communications. So, for that, Valery spent some time in a detention centre cell before being released back under house-arrest where he will remain until 28 November 2020 with a ban on certain actions imposed by the court.
The next Congress of VOG will be held on the 12-14 November 2020. there are concerns that if Kachergis remains in position after the congress, then VOG will continue to remain as a pocket filling trough for the usurped power and thief unless the 76 regional branches and 878 local ones can find it amongst themselves to fight against this and stop the VOG being the personal wallet of Valery and be transferred back into an organisation designed to protect the interests of hundreds and thousands of Russian deaf people.
Does the shadow of Valery Rukhledev still hand over ICSD?
Having absorbed the magnitude of this information, members of ICSD might not help but wonder at the similarities they find in the ICSD where the Board has recently tried to remove Rebrov who was appointed by Valery. Looking further back, people might also wonder if similar methods of using stuffed envelopes in Valery’s 2003 VOG election might also have been used again in 2013 when he replaced Craig Crowley for the presidency of ICSD.
As we know, the VOG investigation suggests that Valery owns property in Switzerland and the ICSD (under the direction of Valery and Rebrov) were quick to move its assets to Geneva where ICSD uses Swiss law to govern its financial operations.
This week, ICSD have announced its intentions to hold an Extraordinary Congress in 2021. If members think that by voting in a new Board, they will win the support of the IOC and have their funding reinstated, they may need to reconsider.
They should also think about protecting ICSD from any potential criminal interference from within and outside itself by removing its Secretariat away from Geneva and officially disassociate itself from Russian management.