- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 1, 2002

MOSCOW A man who forged Russian President Vladimir Putin's decree to set up a virtual, nonexistent federal agency has been nabbed by police and security agents, Moskovsky Komsomolets daily reported yesterday.
Nikolai Chemodanov, 51, worked as a driver at Russia's Constitutional Court, but in his spare time he indulged in a long list of hobbies that included reading, foreign languages and Internet surfing.
All of these skills he applied to make money as he embarked on one of the most spectacular swindles of Russia's post-Soviet era, which has seen many such tricksters during the country's economic turmoil of the 1990s.
Mr. Chemodanov told the newspaper that he had been a regular at Moscow's Lenin library, where he spent hours studying legal documents, and, particularly, Mr. Putin's signature, whose electronic image he downloaded from the Internet.
Mr. Chemodanov then composed a presidential decree purportedly signed by Mr. Putin and issued a governmental resolution bearing a forged signature of Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov. Both documents also bore the replicas of presidential and federal coats of arms.
According to the papers, Mr. Putin and Mr. Kasyanov sanctioned the creation of a federal agency titled "State Directorate for Ferry and Sporting Fleet."
Mr. Chemodanov faxed both documents to Russia's State Property Ministry, demanding that its officials allocate office space for the agency, which he said would employ up to 15,000 people working on a $15.7 million annual budget.
Mr. Chemodanov then started making regular phone calls in which he pretended to be officials from various ministries inquiring about details related to the creation of the new directorate.


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