x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Warlord 'death plot' revealed to Dubai court

Alleged confessions of men claimed to be involved in Chechen's assassination tell tale of surveillance, execution and escape.

Sulim Yamadayev seen with fighters from the Vostok battalion in May 2005.
Sulim Yamadayev seen with fighters from the Vostok battalion in May 2005.

DUBAI // The gang behind the murder of Sulim Yamadayev staked out the former Chechen warlord's apartment for days before his killing, prosecutors allege, according to newly released court documents. The suspects also used text messages, phone calls and clandestine meetings to arrange for the assassin to receive the "golden gun" used to shoot him, they say.

The details were contained in the charge sheet filed with the Dubai Criminal Courts of First Instance, where two of the alleged plotters appeared yesterday. MH, an Iranian who was formerly a horse groom for the Chechen president, Ramzan Kadyrov, and MJ, a Tajik, are accused of aiding and abetting a premeditated murder as well as possessing an unlicensed weapon. Mr Yamadayev was shot dead in the basement car park of his residence at Jumeirah Beach Residence on March 28.

He had commanded the elite Vostok battalion in Chechnya. A Chechen rebel fighter, he reportedly switched sides to fight for the Russians. Dubai Police have said that the former warlord survived multiple attempts on his life before he moved to Dubai. Mr Yamadayev had apparently been living in the city with his wife and six children. He was reported to have "retired" and moved to Dubai earlier in the year.

According to the charge sheet, police officers claim the defendants have confessed to their part in the plot. They also alleged the involvement of Adam Delimkhanov, the Russian MP and former Chechen deputy prime minister. A police first lieutenant told prosecutors that MJ admitted to agreeing to take part in the plot when he was offered US$100,000 (Dh367,000) by two men named Salman and Tirpal earlier that month. Interpol has issued seven arrest warrants in connection with the case, including for two men named Salman Kimayev and Tirpal Kimaev.

According to prosecutors, MJ told officers that he was ordered by Salman to rent a car for the purpose of following Mr Yamadayev, 35. A few days later, MJ said, he was introduced to two people named Ramazan and Zelimkhan. Interpol has also identified two men named Ramazan Musiev and Zelimkhan Mazaev as suspects. Another police investigator told prosecutors that MH had also confessed, the documents show.

The officer said MH became aware of the plot after he heard Mr Delimkhanov speak ill of Mr Yamadayev and say: "He must die." MH is said to have told investigators that he, Mr Delimkhanov and another Chechen man followed Mr Yamadayev, who was returning to Dubai after a trip, from the airport to his home at the Jumeirah Beach Residence. According to MH, the three men then surveyed the complex's basement parking area for 45 minutes and took note of Mr Yamadayev's parking space.

According to the court documents, MH told investigators that Mr Delimkhanov later - it was unclear when - took a briefcase from him and returned it to him the following day. He was instructed to hold on to it until he was contacted again and then to hand it over to someone. MH said he opened the case out of curiosity to find a gold-plated 9mm Stechkin APS pistol with a full magazine. He hid it in the Emirates Hills area.

Later - again it was unclear how many days later - Mr Delimkhanov called MH, asking him to text him the location of Mr Yamadayev's building at the Jumeirah Beach Residence, which he did. Mr Delimkhanov then told MH he would receive a call from a man, and that he was to deliver the gun to him. When he received that call, MH went to retrieve the hidden weapon. He and the Russian met near the Clock Tower roundabout in Deira, where the weapon was handed over.

MJ was said to have told officers that, on the day of the murder, he and Salman spent hours staking out Mr Yamadayev's flat. The pair went to a cafe in the complex and, while they were there, Salman spotted Mr Yamadayev's car passing by. They then contacted Ramnazan. The ambush took place later that day. He was shot in the back of the head despite the presence of two unarmed bodyguards, according to police sources.

The court documents allege that, after returning to his flat in Rigga Street, MJ was then called by Salman and told to take several of the suspects to the airport. The murder has been reported as the sixth in a series of killings of high-profile Chechens during the past year. Yamadayev's brother, Ruslan, a former member of the Russian parliament's lower house, was shot dead in Moscow last September.

Both were prominent opponents of Mr Kadyrov, who has denied any involvement in either killing. Mr Yamadayev was dismissed as commander of his battalion last August over alleged involvement in the 1998 abduction and murder of a Chechen businessman, according to the Russian press. The battalion, which answered directly to the Russian federal defence ministry rather than Chechen authorities, has since been disbanded.

Police have since issued seven Interpol red warrants - requests for arrest with a view to extradition - for the remaining suspects who are out of the country. They include Mr Delimkhanov, who served as Chechnya's deputy premier in 2006-07 and is reported to be a close friend of Mr Kadyrov. MH and MJ both deny the charges. A request by MJ to defend himself was refused by the presiding judge, Hamad Latif.

Ibrahim al Qassim, MH's defence lawyer, said after the hearing his client was innocent. The trial was adjourned until October 5. The defendants were remanded in custody.
amustafa@thenational.ae