The wheel of justice is slowly turning in one of the most significant corruption scandals in recent Russian history. Marat Tambiev, the former head of the Tverskoy district’s investigative department in Moscow, stands accused of accepting bribes amounting to nearly $24 million in Bitcoin, a first of its kind corruption case that is casting a new light on how cryptocurrencies could be manipulated in Russia.
Tambiev, a long-standing servant of the Russian Investigative Committee (ICR), ascended through the ranks from an investigator in Gagarinsky to the top post in the Tverskoy district. Despite his modest public profile, suspicion arose about the source of his extensive Bitcoin fortune.
Bitcoin: A new age bribery tool
The corruption allegations against Tambiev came to light during an investigation into a hacker group named Infraud Organization. It was uncovered that Tambiev allegedly received over a thousand Bitcoins on April 7, 2023, from the hackers who were under his investigation.
This was reportedly done to ensure their assets remained unseized, a clear violation of his professional mandate. This 1.6 billion ruble bribe (approximately $23.98 million) sets a new record for Russian law enforcement officials.
By comparison, Dmitry Zakharchenko, a former police officer and another ‘underground billionaire’ from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, was found guilty of accepting bribes totaling 1.4 billion rubles over a decade, making Tambiev’s alleged single bribe a record-breaking feat.
Tambiev’s clandestine activities were eventually exposed during a search of his residence, where an Apple MacBook Pro laptop was found.
It was only after months of trying to hack into the computer that investigators found a folder marked “Pension”, containing photographs of code records. These codes unlocked access to 932.1 and 100 Bitcoins, a discovery that cemented the case against him.
In a unique move, the Bitcoins were seized and transferred to a new wallet located on a Ledger Nano X cryptocurrency hardware wallet, under the order of the Basmanny Court.
The access keys were subsequently placed in the storage room for physical evidence, ensuring the integrity of the evidence in this case.
The case continues
Despite the mounting evidence, Tambiev denies any guilt in the corruption case and until recently, he was attempting to sue the Investigative Committee for reinstatement.
The courts dismissed his appeal, citing the confirmed violation of his professional oath by a departmental audit. This dismissal lends further weight to the case against him and draws more attention to the charges.
Conversely, the hackers implicated in the case escaped heavier sentences by accepting guilt and reaching an agreement with the prosecutors, which entailed divulging information about corruption within the investigative authorities.
The court handed them suspended sentences, ranging from two and a half to three and a half years. Their remaining Bitcoins, valued at nearly 700 million rubles, were confiscated by the state.
The case, unique due to the involvement of Bitcoin in bribery, not only raises questions about the use of cryptocurrency in Russia’s corruption landscape but also sends ripples through the larger international community.
With Tambiev’s court hearing looming, the world waits to see how Russia navigates this unprecedented legal terrain, as it could set new precedents for similar cases worldwide.