Real estate developers reveal scheme involving Untied Russia, prosecutors, UEBiPK, and Saratov authorities
Experts believe the entire local construction industry was in cahoots and had an elaborate plan for how to give and take bribes in exchange for construction permits. Businesspeople confirmed all suspicions, even the fact that there were 'official' price sheets. The fact was revealed by Galina Chernova, a suspect, during questioning.
The Investigations Department of the ICR Investigations Directorate in the Saratov region has launched an inspection following a motion filed by attorneys of Aleksey Abasov, the owner of several construction companies, and his wife Galina Chernova. The two are suspected of fraud and embezzling money of 250 investors into co-funded construction projects.
Attorneys Andrey Plisov and Andrey Bous cited Chernova’s testimony in the motion; Chernova had claimed that the police, prosecutors, and the Saratov Administration were all involved in the scheme.
Abasov was charged with violation of article 159, part 4 (Swindling) in August 2017. His wife faced the same charge a month later.
12 of Abasov’s houses are on the list of Saratov region apartment houses facing issues. It will take some 2.7 billion rubles ($43.3 million) to finish building them. The spouses caused more than 520 million rubles ($8.3 million) worth of damage to investors, investigators believe.
Chernova described how the construction companies would get construction permits. For example, incorporators of Saratovregionstroy-S LLC allegedly paid 10 million rubles ($160 thousand) to City Administration officials to get the right for a land transferred to them. They did it to be able to start building at Nagorny Proezd 4. They paid another 2.5 million rubles ($40 thousand) to make changes to how they are allowed to use the land. Then they paid from 600 thousand to 1 million rubles ($9.6-$16 thousand) to introduce changes to the city development plan. And then they paid 1.5 million rubles more ($24 thousand) to get the permission to use less strict construction allowances. Andrey Gnusin and Natalia Masyutina, two Saratov Administration head deputies, were mentioned in this regard.
Chernova also claimed that public officials had asked her to pay a 600-thousand-ruble invoice for street lights procurement, which she did. She also made an at least a 1-million-ruble donation to the United Russia political party's Saratov branch.
She also claimed that businessman Vyacheslav Krasovsky and real estate developer Mikhail Shutov were the ones who gave them the contact of the “right people.”
Chernova also claimed that various law enforcement agencies were involved in the scheme. The Administration for Economic Security and Combatting the Corruption of the MIA Main Directorate in the Saratov Region would be given “apartments, rights to claim apartments, and Toyota Camry cars in exchange for turning a blind eye to such activities.”
Chernova claimed 500 thousand rubles ($8 thousand) were paid to Leninsky district (Saratov) Deputy Chief Prosecutor Diamedis Vasiliadis by Abasov’s Grad-S for not prosecuting the company for violation of article 14.28 (Embezzlement of Investors’ Money) of the Administrative Offences Code. Chernova communicated this information to investigations back in April. However, they refused to investigate. Allegations of an investigator taking a bribe did not stand up to.
Galina Chernova was arrested in April 2018, half a year after her husband
The same thing would allegedly happen at other construction sites of the real estate developer. The spouses believe that the apartment houses construction was illegal from the git-go. They also believe that it was not possible for prosecutors, the Ministry for Construction and Utilities, and Saratov Administration to be unaware of the fact that the land had been allocated illegally; this is why they should be prosecuted as accomplices.
Moreover, experts said that the scheme as described by Chernova might have spread at other Saratov construction sites. Andrey Larin, the CEO of the Argument Law Firm, is one of the people who believe this is the case. The abundance of small details that would have been too hard to invent is the reason why he believes it. Plus no one would waste their time working out such an elaborate scheme for just one real estate developer.
Nikolay Skvortsov, a member of the Saratov Public Chamber, noted that there are other Saratov businesspeople who confirmed there is such a scheme in place that actually does have its ‘official’ price sheet. Saratov Public Chamber head Aleksandr Lando said he drew the attention of the police to Chernova’s testimony and claims. The Saratov Administration and prosecutors did not comment on the situation.
The United Russia Saratov branch stated that they “carried out an investigation of their own”; it revealed that the donation allegedly paid to the branch by the developer never actually happened.