Tsar-official

Tsar-official
Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov Photo: © the CrimeRussia

Lately, Alexey Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (the FBK) has focused its attention on the Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov. The organization has made a series of publications about Shuvalov’s property. However, the wealth of this Russian official itself did not surprise anyone: the Deputy Head of the Vovernment is at the forefront of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s coterie and is famous for his ability to get the ball rolling in stagnant projects.

Surely, his work is paid well, and his close people claim that even before Shuvalov became a civil servant, he had been making money, living by dealing in targeted investment. His declarations inlcude foreign real estate and luxury cars. However, as the anti-corruption specialists learned, the list of Shuvalov’s assets, which are not mentioned in the official documents, is more intriguing. For instance, the Deputy Prime Minister owns a private jet, which his wife uses to bring their Corgi dogs at international exhibitions. Shuvalov has also bought out almost entire floor of the skyscraper on the Kotelnicheskaya Embankment, aiming to turn it into a superapartment. Commenting on this, people on the Internet have come to the conclusion that even the notorious fur coat storage of the former Head of Russian Railways Vladimir Yakunin pales in comparison with Shuvalov’s wealth.

His friends and colleagues claim that Igor Shuvalov is an indispensable man in the Kremlin. Perhaps that is why he gets away with what could ruin the whole career of some other official. For example, in 2011, the US Securities and Exchange Commission revealed that Shuvalov participated in the asset acquisition transactions in the United States. The stated sum was 319 million USD, as well as "Shuvalov’s loan for this purpose in the amount of 119 million USD under the astronomical 40% per annum." Soon afterwards, in March 2012, the Western media outlets published information that Igor Shuvalov’s family had purchased through Gazprom shares worth about 18 million dollars through the Sevenkey Company, which was registered in the Bahamas. The media sources had no formal reason to believe that the transaction had violated the legislation, but they pointed out that those documents raised uncomfortable questions about the connections that Russian state officials had with large businesses.

Did it have any effect on Shuvalov’s career in Russia? Hardly, judging by the fact that two months later, in May 2012, Shuvalov was approved as the First Deputy Prime Minister.

Здание, в котором находится лондонская квартира семьи Шуваловых

Photo: building of the Shuvalovs family's flat in London  

The FBK became interested in Shuvalov’s case in 2015. At the time, they found out that the price of his apartment in London – which cost him 688 million rubles – was many times higher than his salary in the government. The circumstances of the transaction are dubious as well: Shuvalov had originally registered it on offshore companies, and then the apartment somehow turned out to be registered on the Russian company Sova Nedvizhimost. Coincidentally, the latter belonged to his wife Olga Shuvalova. It looked like that the official's family rented the London apartment to themselves.

Shuvalov employed the same scheme to rent a castle in Austria. Commenting on the situation in an unexpected interview to the pro-opposition edition The New Times, the official said that he never concealed that the property belonged to a foreign company, owned by his wife.

Strictly speaking, all of this is not a violation of the law, although it raises questions. However, given the immense wealth at his disposition, Shuvalov’s opinion about the crisis and salary cuts in Russia is even more questionable. The Deputy Prime Minister repeatedly stated it before journalists, giving rise to a number of Internet memes, for instance, about the need to tighten belts and save energy.

"We will endure any hardship in this country - just consume less food, save energy... We will simply be united as never before," Igor Shuvalov, the owner of luxury real estate, said at the Davos forum in 2015. His words provoked a real backlash, as well as a stream of jokes and caricatures, almost as Dmitry Medvedev's notorious phrase "we have no money, but you keep going here."

Shuvalov’s rhetoric about small apartments in 2016 was met with even greater enthusiasm from the liberal media and Internet users. The Deputy Prime Minister was showed a 20-square-meters apartment, to which he said the following: "It seems ridiculous, but people buy such housing, and it is very popular, and there is a place in the market for such housing."

Amidst this uproar, the news that the Deputy Prime Minister did not declare his Rolls-Royce Phantom worth 40 million rubles passed by almost unnoticed. However, another story was widely discussed at that time: on Shuvalov’s behalf, an authorized person bought up ten apartments on a floor of a skyscarper on the Kotelnicheskaya Embankment. It was reported that all together, those apartments cost 600 million rubles, and that the deputy prime minister has managed to repair them on funds from the Moscow budget.

План квартиры на Котельнической набережной

Photo: apartment plan on the Kotelnicheskaya embankment

Shuvalov’s representatives confirmed the information about the purchase of apartments on a floor of the Stalinist skyscraper. They also said that the authorized person had acted on a blind trust principle, so the deals had been absolutely legal.

However, this was not the whole extent of exposure - the FBK staff discovered that Shuvalov’s family regularly flies on a personal Bombardier Global Express aircraft, not included in any of the declarations. The cherry on top was the fact that the Deputy Prime Minister not only attended his working meeting in this manner, but also allowed his wife to carry the family’s Welsh Corgi dogs at international exhibitions. The photos of Corgi traveling on a private jet in yet another trip to Europe (by the way, their names are Hugo Boss, Ostap Bender, I am your idol, and Fox Flock Gabby Joy of the Elves) were widely discussed on the Internet.

Корги семьи Шувалова на борту частного самолета

Photo: corgis of Shuvalovs family in a private plane

During the investigation, FBK members decided to call Olga Shuvalova and ask her to comment on the aircraft, which her husband had failed to declare. Unexpectedly, the official’s wife not only agreed to talk about the family property, but also confirmed the fact that the jet had been used to transport dogs. "We use our plane, which is declared by the way, to carry our dogs at the exhibitions. For the record, to defend Russia’s honor on the international level," Shuvalova stated. After that, however, she said that the FBK staff misinterpreted her words, and promised to sue them, but the anti-corruption fighters immediately published a telephone conversation with Shuvalov’s wife, which proved they were correct.

So, why is the Deputy Prime Minister constantly featured in scandals involving allegations of illegal enrichment and shady deals? Shuvalov’s acquaintances think that he might be compensating for his poverty in the early 90s. "Shuvalov likes to live lavishly, because he was very poor in his youth," an anonymous source told Meduza, adding that the current wealth of the Deputy Prime Minister is conservatively estimated at minimum 2-3 billion dollars.

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