A ‘TV-laundromat’ to appear in ‘Markelov case’ 

A ‘TV-laundromat’ to appear in ‘Markelov case’
Head of Mari El could launder money through the TV empire of Maria Mit’sheva Photo: The CrimeRussia

Maria Mit’sheva, Head of Mari El State TV and Radio Broadcasting Company and cofounder of Kremlevskoe Homeowners Association, is under investigation on suspicion of complicity in budget funds embezzlements via companies associated with the family business of Leonid Markelov, ex-Head of the Mari El Republic.

The Mari El law enforcement authorities are carrying out a large-scale audit of the local TV. Searches and seizures of documents have been carried out in the Mari El Branch of the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VGTRK) chaired by Maria Mit’sheva. For many years, the TV diva was a companion in the family business of Leonid Markelov. According to our source in the law enforcement structures, Maria Mit’sheva is suspected of numerous frauds. A number of financial violations committed in the framework of the federal special purpose program for switching to digital TV and radio broadcasting have already been identified. But the primary target of the investigators are the ties between Maria Mit’sheva and suspect Leonid Markelov.

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Maria Mit’sheva

Mit’sheva has attracted the attention of law enforcement structures for the first time back in 2009 – after purchasing an apartment with the living space 46.51 square meters in a guest house built on the guarded territory of Sosnovy Bor (Pine Forest) health resort. Mit’sheva acquired the apartment for 5.473 million rubles ($93.2 thousand). At that time, she was the General Director of Novy Vek (New Century) company affiliated with 12 Region TV Company belonging to Leonid Markelov. 12 Region TV Company has sold the elite apartment to Mit’sheva. There is every reason to suppose that that deal was fictitious and the funds have just been transferred from one company to another one. It is necessary to keep in mind that the factual owner of 12 Region TV Company was Tatiana Markelova, stepmother of ex-Head of the Mari El Republic, while its General Director Natalia Kozhanova is currently a suspect in the criminal case against Markelov: she has been charged with mediation in bribery.

Maria Mit’sheva managed to avoid criminal prosecution in 2009, but after the arrest of her ‘protector’, she got in trouble as well. The new Mari El authorities do not extend the contract with her, while her TV empire is undergoing continuous audits.

What are the enforcement authorities looking for?

It is known that Maria Mit’sheva had close ties with the family of Leonid Markelov, ex-Head of the Mari El Republic arrested on suspicion of bribe-taking. Officially, she is a cofounder of the Mari El Independent Broadcasting Corporation and Director of Mari El State TV and Radio Broadcasting Company Federal State Unitary Enterprise – a branch of VGTRK. In fact, she is the creator and mastermind of TV and radio channels serving the Markelov’s policy and funded both from the budget and through voluntary-compulsory advertisements of local businesses. Ex-governor’s wife Irina Markelova has created, jointly with Mit’sheva, the largest corporation in the republic uniting Mari El State TV and Radio Broadcasting Company, Nashe Radio (Our Radio), Radio Retro, Marimedia, and Region 12 advertising and information agency. All these media companies have amalgamated into Mari El Independent Broadcasting Corporation Limited Liability Company specializing in advertising and mass media. 51% of the corporation charter capital belonged to Irina Markelova, the rest – to Maria Mit’sheva. The media empire entrusted to Maria Mit’sheva by Markelov had generated good revenues from profitable governmental contracts implemented half-heartedly.

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Leonid Markelov, ex-Head of the Mari El Republic, and Maria Mit’sheva 

Contracts awarded to three companies controlled by Maria Mit’sheva by power of attorney given to her by Markelov have attracted special attention of the law enforcement authorities: SMI (Media) Limited Liability Company incorporated in December 2007, Mari Media Limited Liability Company incorporated in the same year, and Novy Vek (New Century) Limited Liability Company incorporated in July 2000. These companies were winning tenders and receiving profitable contracts due to their affiliation with the Head of Mari El and constituted a part of his business. The profits received by the above legal entities since 2009 have been estimated at 149.4 million rubles ($2.5 million). The Regional Ministry of Culture chaired by Mikhail Vasyutin had acted as the governmental consumer. Currently Vasyutin is a Deputy Head of the Government of the Mari El Republic. Should it be proven that the functionary had lobbied the financial interests of Markelov&Co., he won’t stay at this post for long.

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Mikhail Vasyutin, ex-Minister of Culture of Mari El and currently a Deputy Head of the Republican Government

Based on the contracts, Mit’sheva’s companies had to cover the public, political, and cultural life in the republic in the Mari language. But according to the sources, these companies were used to launder budget funds, while the contracts had been implemented unprofessionally.

In 2016 alone, the total income of the company belonging to the business lady and her husband Sergei Mit’shev, Deputy of the Municipal Council of Yoshkar-Ola, was over 110 million rubles ($1.9 million). By the way, the husband of the TV diva has also made good money on governmental contracts with the support of Markelov. His pharmacies – Optima Farm and Apteka 67 – have brought the people’s choice 268 million rubles ($4.6 million). Similarly with his wife, Sergei Mit’shev was winning governmental contracts without any issues. The Ministry of Healthcare of the Mari El Republic had carried out tenders to supply medicines – and the contracts were awarded to the husband of Mit’sheva, most probably, thanks to her close ties with Markelov.

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Sergei Mit’shev, Deputy of the Municipal Council of Yoshkar-Ola

Another notable fact may also be of interest for the law enforcement authorities: Maria Mit’sheva is a cofounder of Kremlevskoe Homeowners Association serving the former residence of Leonid Markelov in Yoshkar-Ola and several administrative buildings. After the arrest of Markelov, Mit’sheva was, in fact, ousted from that job. Currently the business lady refuses to come to the investigators for questioning citing health issues and potential stroke condition.

The CrimeRussia will continue monitoring this story.

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