The Grasping Organs. Leonid Nikitinsky on the opening shot from the newest weapon— “confiscation”—against a member of “terrorist” Boris Akunin’s family itself may turn out to be a fake.

27 February 2024

by Leonid Nikitinsky

Source: Novaya gazeta

Amendments to the Russian Criminal Code and Criminal Procedural Code on the confiscation of the property of nonpatriots (in the event of their conviction by a Russian court, in particular for “fake news” about the Russian armed forces) went into effect in accordance with general rules ten days after publication, that is (symbolically) as of 24 February.

And now, apparently, we have the first attempt, which confirms the fears of those who dare criticize the SVO [special military operation] outside the sovereign borders of the Russian Federation (but not the very worst fears; it is not yet a question of property). On 27 February, Moscow’s Basmanny Court seized the accounts of Boris Akunin’s* wife, totaling about 6 million rubles, within the context of the criminal case against the writer. . . . The office clarified that the seizure had been made in December and was later extended to the summer. 

In the investigation’s opinion, this money was the couple’s joint income and was used to fund the commission of crimes.

As one might guess, the announcement from that office appeared at the initiative of the capital courts’ press service, which, in turn, more than likely requested the services of the Investigative Committee. It was in December that it was announced that a criminal case had been brought against Grigory Chkhartishvili (Boris Akunin) under Articles 207.3 (“fake news”) and 205.2 of the Russian Criminal Code (the justification of terrorism). The Investigative Committee declared the “figure” wanted, and Rosfinmonitoring [Federal Financial Monitoring Service of the Russian Federation], in connection with his being added to the list of terrorists (which was enough to open the case), blocked the account, as we now understand, of the writer’s wife—probably because Akunin had managed somehow to empty his own accounts in Russia.

In any event, for now this is just a preventive measure in the form of the account’s seizure; confiscation can be applied only after a verdict. But the in absentia investigation of the “Akunin case,” Akunin having long resided abroad, could turn into a whole spectacle. Even if this is heard in a closed court due to the terrorist aspect, the writer, who has an artistic bent, has the good sense to address the same lawyers, and there’s no certainty this will make the Bastrykin department and court look better. In any case, since the moment of Rosfinmonitoring’s decision, the account has been inaccessible to Akunin’s wife or her representative, so there is no substantive news here.

The writer himself managed to comment on this on his Telegram: “My wife’s account, which is where her pension goes (about 12,000 a month—Great Britain is salivating), had imposed on it a debt of 6 million rubles, and their silly newspapers write: ‘accounts in the millions of rubles seized.’ All this would be beneath contempt—go choke on your pension—but that’s not the point and neither is my wife. It’s no accident that they launched this nonsense with that kind of opening shot. Russia’s grasping organs have reached a new level: going after family members. And this obviously will affect a great many people.”

Not for nothing did Akunin for many years write engaging detective stories. He is precise about his intentions: in the first place, this is a message to all the critics of the SVO and their family members who have and haven’t left, but it is also a statement to law enforcement about how they have not been slow to roll out the tank the State Duma just presented them with. But there is still this question: due to the yawning gap between the size of the writer’s wife’s pension and the sum named by Interfax, citing the Basmanny court (Grigory Shalvovich declined to give Novaya additional commentary).

Her pension may have not been all that accumulated in the account; there may also have been certain fees or sums from the long-ago sale of property, from back before her departure. That’s none of our business. In any case, the money was undoubtedly received legally, but after the SWIFT system was blocked in Russia, exchanging rubles for hard currency and taking it out to England was difficult for the writer’s family and maybe not all that necessary.

On the other hand, the comedy awaiting us in the Basmanny court in the form of the in absentia “Akunin case” gains a bonus plot line. Besides questions of criminal law on the writer’s dissemination of “fake news” and justification of terrorism, the prosecution will have to prove exactly how he used his wife’s account for his diabolical purposes. When was the last time and exactly where (for instance, through the ABCs of Taste store’s till) were the millions of “funds for the commission of crimes” transferred?

*Recognized in Russia as a “foreign agent.”

Translated by Marian schwartz

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