Ministry of Culture officials order to demolish historical buildings in St. Petersburg for kickbacks
Special forces raided the building of the St. Petersburg Government and the Committee on Culture.
The Federal Security Service (FSB) has conducted an inspection in the building of the St. Petersburg administration and the Committee on Culture. Security agents suspect officials in the Ministry of Culture of machinations with objects of the city’s cultural heritage.
In recent years, officials withdrew some two hundred historic building from the fund, Life reported, citing its sources. Investigators believe that the authorities were doing it for kickbacks from businessmen who wanted to obtain the buildings or the land they were interested in. Old buildings were removed from the list of objects of cultural heritage through bribed experts who devaluated the monuments. Dozens of objects were demolished at the whim of businessmen who wanted to profit from favorable location and implement attractive projects.
One of the source claims that in 10 years, the Ministry of Culture staff managed to remove about two hundred historic buildings from the fund. According to the most conservative estimates, the damage caused to the city by fraudsters amounted to about 10 billion rubles.
The criminal scheme was revealed thanks to assistance of a defendant in the so-called ‘case of the renovators.’ His name has not been disclosed to the media. It has been clarified that he made a deal with the investigation and told about a dozen accomplices in St. Petersburg administration and the Ministry of Culture.
A source close to the Russian State Register Office in St. Petersburg has confirmed to RBC that such a scheme does exist. He noted that it is possible to challenge the change of the status for the buildings in court, but for that to happen, the interested party has to file a complaint, whereas usually all participants in this process are satisfied with the changes.
On January 31, security officers raided the Hermitage Museum. According to media reports, their interest to Russia’s largest museum may be linked to a corruption scandal in the Ministry of Culture, which broke out in March 2016, and the arrest of the deputy minister Grigory Pirumov on charges of embezzlement of public funds allocated for the restoration of monuments. The Audit Chamber found violations in the Hermitage Museum during the restoration works on the objects performed by the infamous company Baltstroy CJSC. Listing more complex works and more expensive materials in the budget estimate than those that were used in real life, Baltstroy increased the contract amount by 140 million rubles.
The special services believe that Russian Interior Ministry officials could have cooperated with the press to sell passport applications and border-crossing data of the two men suspected of poisoning the Skripals in Salisbury.