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'Send In the Helicopter!' -- Daghestan Anticipates Pension Fund Head's Arrest


Former wrestler Sagid Murtazaliyev (right) was elected to Daghestan's parliament in 2003.

Former wrestler Sagid Murtazaliyev (right) was elected to Daghestan's parliament in 2003.

Just three weeks after the Daghestan subsidiary of the Federal Pension Fund was designated the best in the North Caucasus, its offices in Makhachkala have been searched and papers relating to contributions in 2012 confiscated. Unconfirmed reports say the investigation is focusing on the suspected embezzlement of maternity benefits.

Daghestani bloggers anticipate -- with hope and schadenfreude -- the imminent arrest of the pension fund head and former Olympic wrestling champion Sagid Murtazaliyev.

Some have called for dispatching Murtazaliyev by helicopter to Moscow to occupy the prison cell next to disgraced Makhachkala Mayor Said Amirov, who was arrested in a high-profile operation four months ago on suspicion of commissioning a contract killing.

As in the case of Amirov, the search of the pension fund's offices was reportedly conducted by law enforcement officers sent from outside Daghestan, and Republic of Daghestan President Ramazan Abdulatipov was not informed in advance.

Murtazaliyev and Abdulatipov are both Avars.

Journalist Orkhan Dzhemal, too, is convinced that the search of the pension fund's offices suggests that Murtazaliyev may be arrested, the objective being to restore the balance between Daghestani political factions that was destroyed by the arrest of Amirov.

Murtazaliyev, 39, was born in Makhachkala and trained from an early age as a freestyle wrestler. He won the 1999 World Championships in Ankara and a gold medal at the Summer Olympics in Sydney in 2000.

Earlier this year, he threatened to hand back that medal to protest the planned removal of wrestling from the 2020 Olympic Games. He responded to the dropping of that proposal with an official statement that began by saying "justice has triumphed."

On his retirement from wrestling, Murtazaliyev entered local politics. He was elected to the republican parliament in March 2003 and as head of the northern Kizlyar municipality that borders on Chechnya in March 2007.

Magomedsalam Magomedov, whom Murtazaliyev describes as "a friend," appointed him as head of the pension fund in March 2010, shortly after then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev selected Magomedov to succeed Mukhu Aliyev as Daghestan's president.

Since then, Murtazaliyev has come to be regarded as one of the republic's political heavyweights, not least thanks to his close relations with Moscow-based oligarch Suleiman Kerimov and with Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov.

Murtazaliyev was one of just six senior political figures whose personal New Year’s addresses to the republic's population were posted on the official website RIADagestan.ru in late December.

When the rumors of Magomedov’s imminent dismissal first began to circulate in March 2012, Murtazaliyev was identified as one of his possible successors.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.

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