Former official tells in court about slush fund of Murmansk Region governor

Former official tells in court about slush fund of Murmansk Region governor
Marina Kovtun

The money came from commercial organizations for charity.

Former deputy head of the Murmansk Region’s government administration, Georgy Blagodelsky, testified about the slush fund of the region’s governor, Marina Kovtun. According to the defendant, Kovtun used the money received from large commercial organizations for charitable events for her own needs and reception of high-ranking federal officials, Interfax reports.

The charity money was cashed at the orders of former deputy governor Igor Babenko through fictitious purchases and contracts with loyal counterparties, Blagodelsky said. The investigation estimated the caused damage to 8.2 million rubles ($ 124,000). More than 2.88 million rubles ($ 43,000) were spent on purchasing fishing gear.

The defendant is not aware, whether Kovtun knew about the slush fund, however, according to him, the governor understood that “there is some kind of monetary asset to which she can use.” Since 2015, the money from organizations has been collected not for charity, but for “promoting the image of the Murmansk Region and its governor, there was no social background.”

According to Blagodolsky, for Kovtun, her family and the delegations arriving in the region, venison, salmon, crabs and other expensive food, as well as elite alcohol, were bought. The charity money was paid for vacations in the Krechet shooting club, the governor’s banquets and receptions, Kovtun’s gadgets, including three iPhones purchased from 2015 to 2017.

“Babenko demanded that it be the most expensive gadget, the latest iPhone (...) Everyone was like brainwashed, tried to please the governor, maybe she (Kovtun) herself demanded it from Babenko and his assistants, and they delegated it to us,” Blagodelsky said.

The slush fund money was also used to please the VIP-guests. They were treated with “snowmobile safaris (Rogozin),” “echo sounder for Medvedev,” “transport services (for the Patriarch),” “raincoats (Naryshkin’s visit),” “renting a business hall (Matvienko),” Novaya Gazeta wrote in July of the year 2018.

Blagodelsky handed over the documents for the slush fund the to the investigation after entering into a pre-trial agreement with it. Ex-deputies of the head of the regional government administration Sergey Keller, Eduard Nikrashevsky and Babenko are also defendants in the case.

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