On February 5, 2018, Valery Pshenichny, an entrepreneur who the Russian press calls the “Russian Elon Musk”, was found hanged in St. Petersburg’s pretrial detention facility SIZO-4. The official explanation was that he had committed suicide. But the autopsy showed that Pshenichny died of physical injuries. Forensic doctors found out that before his death Pshenichny was raped. Experts concluded that the electrical torture was applied to him at least 19 times, to his mouth, tongue, and fingers on both hands. Additionally, there were dozens of cuts and stab wounds on his body and his spine was broken. Death was caused by neck trauma and asphyxia. Pshenichny was strangled with a 40-centimeter-long string from the hood of his jacket. DNA analysis showed that the SIZO employees did not rape him, most likely, they brought in someone (a criminal convict?) who “worked over” Pshenichny.
Valery Pshenichny was charged with embezzling funds coming from a state order of Defense Ministry to build the “Varshavyanka” submarine. His company “NovIT PRO” was developing a three-dimensional computer model of the boat for its future maintenance. According to experts, Pshenichny’s work was absolutely unique, it opened up new opportunities in shipbuilding, and in the work of oil and gas companies.
In 2016, Pshenichny, the owner of “NovIT PRO”, began to suspect his partner Andrei Petrov of multi-million theft of money from the company’s account and reported it to the police. Petrov was arrested. After spending several months in custody, he made a statement that the real perpetrators were Pshenihny himself and an employee of the Admiralty Shipyards Gleb Emelchenkov. Allegedly they conspired and deliberately overstated the cost of the state order.
Petrov was released, while Pshenichny and Emelchenkov were arrested by operatives of the Investigation Directorate of the Petersburg Main Directorate of the Interior Ministry (MVD). Natalia Pshenichnaya, the wife of Valery, recalled the search before the arrest: “When they came to our apartment with a search warrant, these people looked at my husband’s suits in the closet and immediately told him: “Well, you’ll never need this again.” The MVD officer also said that now my husband needs only a grave about two meters in length.” Three weeks later, Pshenichnyi was found hanged.
During that search, Pshenichny’s blood pressure jumped to 250/140. Several years before the search, Pshelichnyi suffered from a stroke, and the doctor said that a second heart attack would be his last one. Natalia begged the investigator to allow her to call for an ambulance, but he forbade her to call. To prove that it was necessary, she gave the officer medical documents. However, these documents were not mentioned in the list of objects taken during the search and were not put in the case file.
Natalia Pshenichnaya told the press: “My husband and I lived together for 40 years. I’ve never met another equally smart, bright, strong, and positive person. He was confident in himself, in his position, he knew that he was innocent, and was not afraid of anything. ”
Before his death, Pshenichny managed to hand her a note in which he repeated three times: “Do not pay anything to anyone.”
Although the forensic study in the case is still incomplete, on May 16, 2018, Aleksandr Klaus, head of the Investigation Directorate, made the following statement for the press: “Investigators found that businessman Valery Pshenichny, whose body was found in the cell of St. Petersburg’s pretrial prison, committed suicide.”
Ms. Larisa Fon-Arev, the lawyer of Pshenichnikov’s family, commented: “The reputation of both the investigative bodies and law enforcement service is extremely low because this kind of violence against prisoners [as in Pshenichny’s case] is used throughout the whole country, and the state agencies then cynically declare that there is no evidence of murder.” Supposedly, Pshenichny hanged himself on a short string from the hood of his jacket.
There is a clear similarity of the Pshenichny case with the case of Sergei Magnitsky: a man discovers a multi-million dollar scam, turns to the law enforcement agencies for help, but eventually ends up in jail where he inexplicably dies. The only difference is that by the time Pshenichny was put in prison, an amendment to the Criminal-Procedure Code of the Russian Federation prohibiting sending entrepreneurs to jail had been in existence for 8 years. But, obviously, the situation has not changed when serious money is involved.
On the Magnitsky case, see Bill Browder. Red Notice: How I Became Putin’s No. 1 Enemy. Bantam Press, 2015. On July 16, 2018 at the press conference in Helsinki given jointly by Russian President Vladimir Putin and American President Donald Trump, Putin falsely accused Bill Browder again of “tax evasion” in Russia.