Light show. Witness Aleksander Yanchik turns suspect again
Aleksander Yanchik, ex-Deputy Head of the Construction Committee of St. Petersburg, may be put under investigation again. Two years ago, Yanchik had testified against his boss Marat Oganesyan and ‘inadvertently’ remembered a bribe given in exchange for a contract to decoratively illuminate Zenit Arena. Now Vasily Slivkin, the one who had paid that bribe, has remembered some unpleasant episodes involving Yanchik.
Vasily Slivkin, Director of StroyElektroMontazh 5 (SEM-5) company, has been charged with giving a bribe in exchange for a contract for decorative illumination of Zenit Arena and placed under home arrest. Recently he decided to share his memories about the events that had occurred in relation to Zenit Arena three years ago with Alexander Bastrykin, Chairman of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, and Sergei Litvinenko, Prosecutor of St. Petersburg.
The construction of Zenit Arena was commenced in 2007. The first general contractor was Avant company; the contract with it was terminated in 2008. At that time, the first criminal case was instituted for setting artificially high prices during the stadium construction. Grigory Feldman, General Director of Avant and one of the key suspects in this case, was killed in a car crash shortly after that. Inzhtransstroy–SPb belonging to Oleg Deripaska has taken up the torch and performed the main portion of the project. Then the company started accusing Vice Governor Igor Albin supervising the construction of delaying the commissioning and non-payment of money. Shortly thereafter Inzhtransstroy–SPb had to abandon the project, and Metrostroy became the new general contractor. In ten years, the construction cost increased to 43 billion rubles ($656.2 million) (according to Transparency International, to 50 billion rubles ($763 million)).
In his hand-written confession, Slivkin admits the bribe-giving but poses as a victim of supreme powers. Allegedly, it was the work of the devil. Slivkin presents Aleksander Yanchik, then-Deputy Head of the Construction Committee of St. Petersburg, as a deceitful tempter who had initially offered him a knowingly impossible contract to decoratively illuminate Zenit Arena, then promised the reluctant Director of SEM-5 to award him a contract to build a school worth 1.4 billion rubles ($21.4 million), and finally threatened to put his business into trouble.
Vasily Slivkin, Director of StroyElektroMontazh 5
According to Vasily Slivkin, Yanchik was eager to receive a ‘kickback’ in the amount of 20 million rubles ($305.2 thousand). Slivkin engaged his son Kirill, former owner of SEM-5 also charged in the framework of the criminal case, into this affair. Kirill sold four apartments in Domodedovo and handed over the money to Yanchik. This circumstance relieves Slivkin from naming the final recipient of the bribe. To avoid being caught in inconsistencies, Vasily Slivkin tries to be mathematically precise.
The majority of Slivkin’s confessions are easily verified. SEM-5, being totally unknown in the city, has easily won the tender worth 347 million rubles ($5.3 million) to illuminate the most long-delayed construction project of St. Petersburg surpassing a subsidiary structure of Baltstroy. Then the company won a tender worth 1.4 billion rubles ($21.4 million) to build a school, thus, beating Baltstroy – the local ‘king of governmental acquisitions’ – again. The only problem is that two years ago, Marat Oganesyan, ex-Vice Governor of St. Petersburg, was charged with the receipt of the ill-fated ‘kickback’ on sufferance of Slivkin.
In summer 2016, Vasily Slivkin, Director of StroyElektroMontazh 5, and Marat Oganesyan, ex-Vice Governor of St. Petersburg, were overwhelmed with their own problems. Slivkin was charged with embezzlement of almost 163 million rubles in the course of the illumination of Zenit Arena. According to the investigation, at the time of signing the ‘impossible’ – according to the letter from Slivkin to Bastrykin – contract, the Director of SEM-5 has pocketed 74 million rubles ($1.1 million) from the municipal budget. Prior to the contract termination by the customer, StroyElektroMontazh 5 has successfully ‘spent’ 189 million rubles ($2.9 million). Out of that amount, only some 27 million rubles ($412 thousand) have been used on the illumination of Krestovsky Stadium.
Marat Oganesyan in court
Concurrently, Oganesyan was charged with swindling on an especially large scale – although the sum incriminated to him was much less in comparison with Slivkin: only 50 million rubles ($763 thousand). This was the supposed cost of a huge display on Zenit Arena to broadcast the games. According to the investigators, Oganesyan has created a scheme allowing to participate in the tender only those companies who would later lose to the ‘right’ contractor in the ‘competitive struggle’. The pre-selected winner was Teatralno-Dekoratsionnye Masterskie (Theater Scenery Workshop) (TDM) – who has siphoned off the advance payment in the amount of 50 million rubles ($763 thousand) via dummy companies. The mere sum of 50 million rubles ($763 thousand) had emphasized the importance of Oganesyan as an informant. However, the Vice Governor of St. Petersburg, who was spotted once at a thieves’ congregation, was very well aware of risks associated with such confessions and hadn’t rushed to share the valuable information with the investigation.
It seemed like the both criminal cases pertaining to the construction of Zenit Arena had hopelessly stalled. But in spring 2017, the investigators summoned Aleksander Yanchik for questioning. The ex-Deputy Head of the Construction Committee of St. Petersburg and ‘right hand’ of Marat Oganesyan had studied the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation and was aware of benefits stemming from a voluntary surrender. Therefore, he has provided details of the fruitful collaboration between Oganesyan and TDM and named Oganesyan the creator of the corruption scheme. According to Yanchik, some Anna Kolesnikova, a Baltstroy employee also charged in the framework of the swindling case, has creatively implemented the main idea of that scheme by producing the terms of reference and other documents – although Kolesnikova claims that it was Yanchik who had offered her to tinker with the papers.
The former official has also complained about his ‘dictatorial’ boss who had rudely rejected a vacation request submitted by Yanchik. Being fully aware that his name would inevitably pop-up in that case sooner or later (Yanchik has personally signed the contract with SEM-5), he was the first to remember about the 20 million rubles ($305.2 thousand) received from Kirill Slivkin. Except for that amount, the confessions of Yanchik contradict the testimonies of other suspects and new revelations of Vasily Slivkin.
I challenge you to a duel!
In 2017, Yanchik claimed that in January, he had sent Anna Kolesnikova to meet Kirill Slivkin and receive the money from him. Allegedly, she was not aware of the contents of an envelope and laptop bag brought to the second meeting. Kolesnikova had never contested this, while the father and son Slivkin had kept silence. Interestingly, Yanchik remembered well the receipt of the money – but totally forgot the conveyance of the bribe to Oganesyan. It is always difficult to part with cash – especially after being deprived of vacation.
The revelations of suspect-turned-witness Yanchik were full of inconsistencies – but the investigators were eager to get Oganesyan to talk. Unlike the father and son Slivkin, the ex-Vice Governor of St. Petersburg was not put under home arrest – but detained in Gorelovo Pretrial Detention Facility. However, Oganesyan continued keeping silence. In November 2017, he made a plea deal – but, based on the absence of new suspects, he has just admitted the embezzlement of 28 million rubles ($427.3 thousand). The operatives felt themselves insulted.
Their revenge was pretty elegant: they refused to lift the conservatory attachment imposed on assets of Oganesyan, thus, making it impossible for the defendant to compensate the inflicted damages. Two weeks ago, the indictment was submitted to the court, but domestic Themis could not accept such a mayhem. The criminal case has been returned to the Prosecutor’s Office; the investigators are currently trying to reclassify it under Article 290 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (bribe-taking). In addition, after reading the hand-written confessions of Vasily Slivkin, the prosecution officers started reconsidering the bribery case involving SEM-5 and the role of Aleksander Yanchik in it.
In 2010–2012, Marat Oganesyan was in charge of the Directorate for Construction, Reconstruction, and Restoration and Northwestern Directorate for Construction, Reconstruction, and Restoration. In 2013, he was appointed the Vice Governor of St. Petersburg for Construction. Up until his resignation in 2015, Oganesyan had supervised multibillion projects accompanied by corruption scandals, including:
- reconstruction of the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow at a cost over 35 billion rubles ($534.1 million);
- construction of the second stage of the Mariinsky Theater at a cost of 22 billion rubles ($335.7 million);
- reconstruction of Rimsky-Korsakov Saint Petersburg State Conservatory at a cost of 5 billion rubles ($76.3 million); the project is not completed yet;
- reconstruction of Tovstonogov Bolshoi Drama Theater; the investigation estimates the amount of embezzled funds at 1.9 billion rubles ($29 million).
After the designation of Aleksander Yanchik a suspect, new high-profile cases are expected to be instituted by the Prosecutor’s Office of St. Petersburg. For many years, he was a protege of Marat Oganesyan. Like a talisman, Yanchik had accompanied his patron at the Northwestern Directorate for Construction, Reconstruction, and Restoration, then became an Advisor to Vice Governor Oganesyan, and finally settled in the Construction Committee of St. Petersburg. The resentful ex-official would likely claim that he was just a witness of frauds pulled off by his boss, including the reconstruction of Tovstonogov Bolshoi Drama Theater, reconstruction of Oranienbaum, and, of course, construction of Zenit Arena. A grand duel with compromising materials between the ex-Deputy Head of the Construction Committee and ex-Vice Governor of St. Petersburg is forthcoming.
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