A story with no end: Criminal spectacle of Zenit Arena
The mysterious and illogical story of the most long-lasting constriction of St. Petersburg Zenit Arena is finally coming to a head. No doubt, the government will not be able to turn a blind eye to the notorious long-lasting construction. The deadline is close - three months before the X-hour left. Now all bets: not will the builders meet deadlines, but who to be arrested over the case.
The first loud corruption scandal over the stadium constriction was Marat Oganesyan’s arrest, the former vice-governor of St. Petersburg. As the CrimeRussia reported earlier, in November 2016 the ICR indicted Oganesyan in theft of more than 50 million rubles in the construction of the stadium on Krestovsky Island. Investigators accused Oganesyan of committing a crime under Article 159 of the Criminal Code (Swindling on a large scale). He was accused of stealing money while making contracts on supply of video screens for the football stadium. According to investigation, while managing the construction, Oganesyan made TDM company sub-contractor illegally, as well as organized transfer of advance payment in the amount of more than 50 million rubles, which was then withdrawn through fly-by-night firms.
Oganesyan’s arrest made whole St.Petersburg feel nervous, especially those who served in the Committee for Construction of the St. Petersburg administration. The investigation required the court to close the process from the public. This measure was taken in order to prevent names of the well-known people involved in the case to be leaked; those, who investigators wanted to get through Marat Oganesyan. He was the one, who knew the scheme of siphon off the money, allocated for construction of the stadium. According to the CrimeRussia’s sources, those who steal in the construction did not hesitate in sums.
Initially, OJSC Gazprom suggested the idea of replacing of the Kirov stadium in 2004. The Stadium project was carried out by Japanese architect and artist Kisho Kurokawa. It was called the Spaceship and was not considered as a ‘construction of the century’ dedicated to the championship. The new stadium was to become one of the most advanced sports facilities and a business card of Gazprom, as well as the stadium of the XXI century. As soon as Gazprom moved to St. Petersburg and became an official tax resident, the company paid 20 billion as tax each year. It was expected, a part of this sum was allocated for construction of the ambitious project. However, the state-owned corporation was not an official builder of the stadium.
Now the criminal story of the notorious sports facility is gaining momentum. According to sources, the police are actively rooting against TDM company. Representatives of the firm are actively defending its interest in the court, trying to move the financial scandal out of the criminal jurisdiction. It is known that in the middle of December 2016, the Arbitration Court declared Teatral’no-Decorativnye Masterskiye Company (Theatrics decorative workshops) bankrupt and introduced external monitoring procedure. However, after examining all the documents, the court concluded the TDM was carrying out works and even spent 118 million rubles for it.
Yet investigators were not satisfied with the Arbitration Court’s conclusions. According to law enforcement bodies, the company, which made an agreement with Intranzhsstroy-SPb in 2014 for supply of video screens and trolleys for sliding roofs, received 150 million rubles as an advance, yet did not fulfill its obligations. It is not difficult to guess, the law enforcement authorities have a basis for such allegations. It's no coincidence, along with Marat Oganesyan, businessman Artem Kuspits was arrested as well. According to the Investigative Committee, they were not going to perform any works in spite of receiving the money for it.
Along with the former vice-governor, another four people are facing charges of embezzling 50 million rubles in installation of the video board. They are: Alexander Yanchik, the former deputy chairman of the Construction Committee of St. Petersburg Administration; Grigory Popov, the director of the Alexandrinsky Theatre; Elena Kovaleva, the financier of Teatral’no-Decorativnye Masterskiye Company (Theatrics decorative workshops); Artem Kuspits, the director of Stage Technology Construction.
According to the CrimeRussia’s sources, it is only a drop in a bucket of investigation of the giant theft, which has been permanently taking place since the start of Zenit Arena construction. In fact, the first criminal cases connected with the constriction are found back in the mid-2000s. The current criminal case has become the fourth in this story. For example, in 2013 the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation initiated a criminal case, which revealed misuse of 500 million rubles. The second criminal case was initiated in 2015 in connection with 100-million-ruble theft. Figurant of the case was Alexey Vatutin, the Director of the Department of design and construction of the stadium of the Capital Construction Fund and one of the contractors of the construction. Investigators questioned him about the vanished 100 million rubles allocated for the purchase of expensive lamps for artistic lighting of the stadium. Sources suggest, it was ‘high protection’ of officials from the clan of vice-governor Igor Albin, who helped Vatutin escape from the prosecution. Unlike him, subcontractor company’s CEO Vasily Slivkin, specializing in art illumination, did not manage to clear of charges and now is under arrest.
Vasily Slivkin, CEO of StroyElektroMontazh
Theft at Zenit-Arena turns out to be an absorbing detective story. There is no doubt, the situation will have far-reaching consequences of criminal prosecution. There are several versions of development of the story.
First of all, informed sources say Marat Oganesyan is not the main person law enforcement authorities are ‘hunting’. According to some reports, neither fly-by-night companies, nor the notorious 15% kickback were his role in the deal. The investigation is trying hard to find out the scheme of the kickbacks, as well as who are the real ‘characters in the play’. In this regard, Oganesyan may provide invaluable service to the investigation or to remain silent, hoping for the ‘high’ support. Same say, that his arrest in connection with 50-million-ruble theft is nothing but a tactical maneuver organized in order to distract attention from the real embezzlers of budget money during Valentina Matvienko’s service.
Secondly, it is no secret that the investigating authorities, specialists in combating economic crimes, the Prosecutor's Office and the FSB are now particularly interested in what is happening in the offices of the St. Petersburg Administration. They believe it is the place, where the corrupt officials gather. Investigation has been collecting materials on the case during a long time, and now everyone is waiting for the nod from the leadership.
Thirdly, the investigation is interested in the period before Marat Oganesyan took his office –from 2008 to 2012, when the construction estimates began to grow exponentially.
Marat Oganesyan, Dmitry Medvedev, Dmitry Poltavchenko
Today, Zenith Arena's case has become revealing. Contractors write letters to the governor complaining that they are being eased out with a scandal by the protégés of vice-governor Igor Albin. The Prosecutor's Office has revealed violations related to the timing issuance of documents for the construction. The Prosecutor General's Office has issued a request in connection with the situation. It seems, Sergey Litvinenko, the current prosecutor of St. Petersburg, will have to examine a lot of complaints on corruption, fraud connected with the Zenit Arena construction, as the 2018 Championship is coming, and there is serious possibility for some people to be charged for the project postponement very soon.
This scheme is successfully demonstrated by the FSB and the ICR, carrying out searches at Metrostroy company, which signed a contract on performance of building works of the notorious stadium. Initially, there was information that the ICR’s interest is not connected with the stadium. However, soon the FSB’s Grad SWAT searched office of the director general of the contractor company Vadim Alexandrov. In this case, investigators may kill two birds with one stone. Firstly, they examine Metrostroy company for old ‘sins’ related to the current construction of the metro stations, as well as they want to receive information about the ‘patrons’, ‘roof’, and other lawbreakers.
Moreover, investigation has information related to some city officials of the St. Petersburg Administration. However, leadership sees no sense in discussing the future arrests. No doubts, the long-lasting constriction will turn into multivolume criminal cases, arrests, searches and loud statements. Yet it is to happen only after the notorious stadium is finished or the championship is held. However, people of the business circle believe it is contractors who will become victims of the prosecution, not the corrupt officials. As for law enforcement officials, they keep silent full of meaning on the issue.
Minister of the Chechen Republic for National Policy, Dzhambulat Umarov, noted that there are a huge number of cases all over Russia, when people, wearing camouflage uniforms, do "not very plausible things."
Today, St. Petersburg tensely awaits two important political events for the city. Election of the governor and the rotation of the heads of power structures. The prosecutor of the city Sergey Litvinenko is again named the first in the line of generals. The CrimeRussia is trying to find out whether there are any compelling reasons for this.