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Gold fraud flop trips up crafty crook

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PHOTO: Kohtutoimik

An major Ida-Viru criminal strings puller for years, Mihhail Semjonov got caught in the stupidest of ways when a straw man linked to him and involved in a gold fraud undertook to deny his «boss» with utmost and exaggerated eagerness.

PHOTO: Kohtutoimik

The guy with «gold» bars said there was some Mihhail behind it with family name unknown. Well, the usual. Curiously, though, the crook shortly launched into ardent denial that said Mihhail even exists. The investigators said aha! the man must be real and important enough to be thus protected.

The search was on.

Afterwards, prosecutor Stella Veber thanked her lucky stars: never ever caught for years, the infamous Mihhail Semjonov (48) was finally found guilty of at least something.

Now for the story.

At initial glance, red gold and copper may look identical. That’s what Mihhail Semjonov and his subordinate Dimitri Moloditšenko (46) went for.

In March 2013, 3.5 kg of copper was molten into 12 bars with AS Metrosert gold certificate analyses added saying this is pure gold.

The analyses were falsified, and the €50 worth of copper was supposed to haul in €158,962. Over 3,000-fold profit – a fairy tale.

In the morn of March 5th Mr Moloditšenko took the «gold» to OÜ Unico Gold, in Tallinn, complete with certificates, and waited for the transfer of money on a company account linked to him.

Alas, the employees smelled evil as a package was a bit torn. Fingering the certificate, the paper felt wrong. Which Metrosert promptly confirmed.

As Mr Moloditšenko returned after a while, the cops got him. Then came the reference to a Mihhail followed by painstaking denial the person existed. Now he said he did it «all by himself». Smelling a rat, police dug in.

Turned out, the invoice mailed to the gold «buy-up» was sent via Tallinn’s Sikupilli Statoil public WiFi. Knowing the time, they checked the cars that were there then. Their eyes caught a black Toyota Land Cruiser.

Alas, security camera showed the last ...AA of the number plate only. From Road Administration, a few variants were offered. The name Mihhail Semjonov struck the eye whose plate is 555 AAA... a sign of some slight vanity. And the characteristics of the SUV were just as the one in the filling station.

Finally, police had reasons to pay the man a visit, in Jõhvi. While there, they detected a telephone repeatedly used to contact Mr Moloditšenko the other suspect. At times the phones of the guys had been moving together – likely, sharing a car.

Also, a taxi driver testified that when taking Mr Moloditšenko from handing in the copper to nearby Statoil, a SUV with 555 was waiting.

Unpleasantly surprised, Mr Semjonov said they only communicated with Mr Moloditšenko within a fuel business. As for the Statoil, he said he was there for other business and headed towards home in Jõhvi.

The court believed him not.

As the last resort, Mr Moloditšenko the key witness opted to flee to Russia. Citing health problems. In hopes the crime would expire.

That might have worked had Harju County Court chairman Helve Särgava in charge of the trial claimed that with Mr Moloditšenko not soon returning the court could judge by default. The trick not working, Mr Moloditšenko returned from health treatment.

To get 1.5 of real jail. Alleged author of the scheme and with no earlier criminal record, Mr Semjonov was spared with one year conditionally. Looks mild, but covers the upcoming five years. «He will have to really walk a tightrope the whole time,» said an investigator.

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