Who is missing in Zenith Arena fraud case?

Who is missing in Zenith Arena fraud case?
Former Vice-Governor of St. Petersburg Marat Oganesyan

The Russia’s Investigative Committee central office has taken the case of former Vice-Governor of St. Petersburg Marat Oganesyan for investigation. However, the St. Petersburg’s Investigative Committee dept (regional dept where the case had been investigated previously) did not find state budget damage in the Zenit Arena fraud case.

Shadows in the leadership

Russian chief investigator Alexander Bastrykin has taken a case of embezzlement during construction of infamous stadium Zenit Arena under personal control. He obliged an investigator for particularly important cases of the central dept, Alexander Khalapov, to held the investigation. This decision was announced during a court session on extension of arrest for former Vice-Governor Marat Oganesyan. His case was transferred to Moscow for further investigation.

There are several versions why the case has been transferred to the federal level. According to the first version, the federal authorities are dissatisfied with the work of St. Petersburg’s investigators, as no investigative measures has been carried out within the framework of the case during the year. As for the second version, the federal office of the Investigative Committee became interested in testimony given by Marat Oganesyan.

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Zenit Arena football stadium

The first version is supported by the fact that the Vice-Governor is accused of embezzling 50 million rubles ($843.500) only. Yet these accusations are based only on the words of the former Vice-Governor. Another case of 20 million rubles ($337.400) bribe is full of contradictions. The argument that Oganesyan made a deal with investigation in order to soften his punishment in the bribery case seems dubious, as the only way for him was to give testimony on specific criminal episodes. The transfer of the case means that the information contains criminal episodes at the federal level. In other words, the investigation found out that high-ranking officials were involved in the case. So, Marat Oganesyan should be prepared for long interrogation.

Our
notes

Earlier, the St. Petersburg City Court extended arrest for the former vice-governor until February 2018. Most likely, the preliminary investigation to be completed by that time. Taking into account an agreement made by the accused with investigation, the case will go to court in a special order. Testimony of the former vice-governor may become a basis for another criminal case, or used as an evidence.  

Black waters of the criminal case

In November of this year, it became known that St. Petersburg’s administration was no longer the injured party in the case of embezzlement during constriction of Zenit Arena stadium. This fact caused huge public outcry. Instead of the government entity, Inzhtransstroy-SPb commercial organization, the general contractor, was recognised as the injured party in the case. This decision contradicts the fraud accusation incriminated to Marat Oganesyan.

Thus, the case gets political character, instead of financial. Obviously, the former vice-governor is accused of spending money, allocated for purchase of scoreboards, for improving the stadium. This accusation seems much softer in comparison with those that the Accounts Chamber had brought against the official.

Our
notes

In 2013, the Accounts Chamber found Smolny guilty of rise in spending on Zenit Aren construction. The total amount of financial violations during construction of the football stadium was estimated by the auditors at 15 billion rubles.

It was 4 years ago when the fact of financial violations was established. Yet the charges against the supervisor of the constriction were brought only a year ago. According to our sources, the upcoming football championship was the reason for this delay. Now, the leadership needs to show the world community that all guilty have been punished. It's no secret that many high-ranking officials were involved in the construction. These officials belong to rival clans struggling for power. So, the ‘difficulties’ in the case of the former Vice-Governor are nothing but evidences of this clans’ struggle.

Version and consequences

During the last two years, fight against corruption has become a trend in Russian politics. And this fight is very diverse and selective. Political scientists joke that a jail term is inevitable part of a business career in Russia. People close to the situation say that vice-governor Marat Oganesyan (despite his criminal connections) was believed to be an open-minded and ambitious person. The state leadership did not consider his connections with criminals as a threat to the power structures. The main requirement for him as a civil servant was ability to stand by his word.

The corruption scandals were not demonstrative punishments, as it may seem at first glance. They were held in order to hide something more serious taking place in the depths of power structures. And if the leadership wanted Oganesyan in a jail, he would be sentenced long time ago. Some sources believe that this criminal case is a signal to the forces behind Oganesyan. And this story is just a cover for clans’ struggle.

Some sources believe that this criminal case is a signal to the forces behind Oganesyan. And this story is just a cover for clans’ struggle

As we have already mentioned, such a long investigation of a one-episode criminal case is nothing else but a pressure. During the whole year the former vice-governor had been keeping silence, and only at the end of the investigation he suddenly decided to speak. Moreover, in his testimony he mentioned the names which attracted attention of the Russian chief investigator. This fact means that high-ranking people may be behind the financial violations in the construction of the infamous stadium. And Oganesyan plays a role of a modest manager in this story. Our sources also say, this fact explains why the criminal process is so vague. It is clear that these people are not willing their names to be disclosed. And it is likely that we will never know who is the "top manager" in this scandalous story.

Our
notes

Construction of Zenit-Arena stadium started back in 2007. Delivery of the object was being delayed many times, while the cost rose dramatically. The initial price of the construction was 6.7 billion rubles. Later, this figure has changed to 43.7 billion rubles ($737m). 

It is noteworthy that the financial violations revealed back in 2013 did not became the basis for initiation of investigation. Moreover, the Audit Chamber did not suggest St. Petersburg administration to apply to the law enforcement bodies after the check, and recommended to send results of the report to the Parliament. Information of the audit had not been disclosed for a long time, which caused outcry among the St. Petersburg deputies demanding the report. However, the materials have not been fully disclosed up to now and stay classified. Perhaps, the secrecy is connected with the names reveled by auditors.

As for the former Vice-Governor, he is likely to get a suspended sentence or a minimum prison term.

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