Shady case of Gorodetsky. Who ‘set up’ governor of Novosibirsk Region?
The scandal over the leasing of the huge site of the wood, which is a federal property, for half a century unfolded in the Novosibirsk Region. 258 thousand hectares of a taiga could be cut. The transaction was stopped. The chief forester of the region lost his position. The reputation of head of the region Vladimir Gorodetsky is called into question. Deputies of regional Legislative Assembly suggested the governor to resign. Who is Gorodetsky in this situation? Responsible? Victim? And whose swindles is he forced to cover?
The juicy scandal arose at the end of June in the Novosibirsk Region. The public discovered that the region leased 258 thousand hectares of the coniferous forest in Bolotninsky and Toguchinsky districts of the area for 49 years. The sites, which are in federal property passed into private hands by results of the auction held by Department of Forestry of the Novosibirsk Region. The competition was not even expected – the only participant of the auction on rent of more than a third of the territory of all Toguchinsky district, little-known LLC Toguchinsky Timber Industry Plant, became the winner. This company received the unique forest grounds for rent for almost half a century just for 11,83 million rubles ($197 thousand) a year (the regional budget receives a part of the sum, the rest – federal). Under this contract, the Novosibirsk Region would receive only about 3 million rubles ($50 thousand) a year. At the same time it was possible to earn on the lease contract ‘siphoning off’ of the leased site in tens times more, than the budget was to receive. The estimated cost of this wood makes from 250 to 300 million rubles ($4 million to $5 million).
After conducting the lease contract, Toguchinsky LPK acquired a legitimate right to saw and take out the wood from this territory for half a century. “Considering the fact that now they will be cutting and taking out the wood during 49 years, there will be superspace profits. At the same time for rent they pay three million a year. We are talking about billions of profit”, vice speaker of Legislative Assembly of the Novosibirsk Region Andrey Panferov indignantly declared. “They do not need 49 years. Ten years would be enough to leave nothing from the Toguchinsky wood and bring more wood to China”, deputy of Legislative Assembly of the Novosibirsk Region Darya Ukraintseva commented on the situation.
Toguchinsky LPK was created in July of last year. The only founder of the enterprise is a certain Vyacheslav Makarov. This person, according to the speaker of regional Legislative Assembly Andrey Shimkiva, has earlier already “ruined" the pride of the area – unique Karakansky pine forest.
Why did the forest grounds fall to Makarov? It becomes clear if to pay attention to the name of the director. Dmitry Slyunyaev heads Toguchinsky LPK, he is also a director of the agricultural enterprise Prostor located in Kolyvansky district of the Novosibirsk Region. Earlier Slyunyaev headed the Suzunsky forestry founded by the regional government. But the most interesting part is that till June, 2017 the same Slyunyaev was the director of LLC Zlatnik plus belonging to Ekaterina Dubovitskaya.
This lady is also the chairman of the board of Garden noncommercial association Soglasheniye. One of founders of this association is the head of department of forestry of the Novosibirsk Region Vyacheslav Dubovitsky – Ekaterina Dubovitskaya's namesake.
Head of department of forestry of the Novosibirsk Region Vyacheslav Dubovitsky
Similar surnames in this case is not a coincidence. It explains why Dubovitsky, chief forester of the region, who should protect the woods and to stop doubtful transactions, personally signed the contract on transfer of the Toguchinsky wood for rent.
Curious detail: the authorized capital of Toguchinsky LPK makes only 10 thousand rubles ($167). The typical sum for short-lived companies, which are created to turn one good bargain and to disappear after that.
The public learned about the loss of Toguchinsky wood only thanks to vigilance of chairman of the Legislative Assembly of the Novosibirsk Region Andrey Shimkiva. He raised this topic during the meeting of the regional government, which took place on June 26. The parliamentarian had to ask Dubovitsky three times whether this transaction has really taken place. Only from the third attempt the deputy received the answer that the contract was signed and was on registration. After that Shimkiv harshly criticized Dubovitsky's actions. The deputy called the transfer of the wood “one more extortionate decision not for the benefit of residents of the area and region”. According to Shimkiva, even the head of Toguchinsky District did not know that the woods for safety of which he is responsible, now have another owner. “It [woods] will just not exist soon”, the parliamentarian was indignant.
Vyacheslav Dubovitsky headed department of forestry of the Novosibirsk Region in October, 2016. He was born in 1973 in the city Rudny of the Kustanay Region of Kazakhstan. In 1995 graduated from Rudnensky industrial institute, from 2005 to 2007 was working as the head of Department of Use of Woods and Rent Relations of Administration of Woods of Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Protections of the Novosibirsk Region. In 2007 he headed the Department of Use of Woods and Rent Relations, in 2010 became the deputy head of Department of Forestry of the Novosibirsk Region, the head of Department of Forest Planning. He is married, and a father of four children.
On June 29 at the session of the Legislative Assembly of the Novosibirsk Region deputies demanded from the head of the region to punish the officials who put the federal property in danger. Governor Vladimir Gorodetsky in reply assured: there is no need any more to worry, the scandalous contract for rent of the Toguchinsky wood is dissolved. And law enforcement agencies will estimate actions of the officials responsible for the conclusion of the transaction. They have already begun check for the corresponding “professional conclusion concerning corruptibility”. Besides, functional audit check will be also carried out in the next 10 days.
Governor of the Novosibirsk Region Vladimir Gorodetsky
First of all, the governor laid the blame for the incident on Dubovitsky, however he declared: there is no question of his dismissal so far. Secondly he blamed Deputy Prime Minister of the Novosibirsk Region Vasily Pronkin supervising the project.
The head of the region also recognized that it is inadmissibly to make decisions of similar scale within one department. Regional investment council, which was not reported about transfer of the Toguchinsky wood, should also consider such questions. Gorodetsky promised that this will never happen.
After listening to the governor's justifications, deputies demanded him to dismiss Pronkin. Gorodetsky reported that he deprived this official of the status of the Deputy Prime Minister. However Pronkin kept a post of the Minister of Agriculture though parliamentarians also demanded to at least him discharge him of the position for the period of internal check. The governor characterized the actions of his subordinate excessively softly: according to Gorodetsky, Pronkin just “has not fully coped with a coaching role”.
Vasily Pronkin holds a post of Deputy Prime Minister of the Novosibirsk Region - Minister of Agriculture of the region since 2015. He was born in 1957 in the village Studennoye of Karasuksky district of the Novosibirsk Region. Graduated from the Novosibirsk agricultural institute. From 1979 to 1981 worked as an assistant of foreman of office of state farm Studenovsky of Karasuksky district. In 1981 became master serviceman STO MTP of Karasuksky RO Agricultural machinery. In the 1982nd – worked as an engineer on operation of MTP of state farm Oktyabr of Karasuksky district. In the 1983rd - manager of RTM of state farm Oktyabr of Karasuksky district. In 1984 was appointed the chief engineer of collective farm named after Zhdanov. In the 1989th – the chairman of collective farm named after Zhdanov. Since 1993 was the first deputy head of administration of Karasuksky district on trade and monetary circulation. In 1998 was elected the head of Bagansky district. Since 2014 held a post of deputy governor of the Novosibirsk Region. He is party member of United Russia. He is married, the father of two children.
Minister of Agriculture of the Novosibirsk Region Vasily Pronkin
Deputies of regional Legislative Assembly came to another conclusion: they believe that the name of the main responsible for the scandal with the Toguchinsky wood was not called. Transfer of this territory to rent – a system, but not random error. The vice-chairman of committee on the budget of the Legislative Assembly of the Novosibirsk Region Yury Zozulya commented on the situation: "We have incidentally grasped this situation already at a final stage when if we had waited a little longer the transaction would have been irrevocably registered in institutions of justice. But when we started to figure out [the situation], we understood that it is not an isolated fact. It is a Chernomyrdin’s classic: this has never happened before, and now it happened again. Unfortunately, today we have a defective system, which has developed in the state bodies. It should be changed. And the fact that we try to find ‘switchmen’ — it is wrong. Responsibility needs to be personified. The attempt to understand this question has also generated a discussion. When the head of department of forestry of the Novosibirsk Region Vyacheslav Dubovitsky told that the decision was made by him, it became clear who is directly responsible for similar contracts. But even Dubovitsky's dismissal – not the solution of a system problem. It is necessary to change the system”.
Zozulya brought to the session several copies of the similar lease contracts proving that the case with the Toguchinsky wood – not the only one in recent years. Thus, in 2009, 112 thousand hectares of the wood of the Iskitim forestry were leased for 2,9 million rubles ($48 thousand), in 2008 – 597 thousand hectares were leased for 1,9 million a year. ($31 thousand). “We have a standard and traditional situation. If to follow this logic – the thing which caused such resonance today is no more than a tracing-paper comparing to what was systematically going on in the area over the last ten years”, Zozul noticed.
Parliamentarians doubted that Gorodetsky did know anything about actions of his subordinate. The sum on the stake was too big for governor not to know about it. Therefore deputy from the Communist Party Vadim Ageenko suggested the head of the region to leave his post: “Certain ministers are mistaken too often. Are deputies accountable to you controlled at all? Being a governor, at what level do you control what is happening? Perhaps, you should retire if you are tired and do not control [anything]?”.
Gorodetsky hurried to be fenced off from his charges in his address, sacrificing his subordinates. Without waiting for the end of the functional audit check, the governor dismissed Vyacheslav Dubovitsky from a post of the head of the Forest Department of the region. On July 6 it became known that on July 5 Gorodetsky signed the letter of resignation at own will of the chief forester of the region.
Oppositional journalists put forward an alternative
version of why Gorodetsky tried to hush up the scandal quickly. In their opinion, the head of the region is not a responsible person in a situation with the Toguchinsky wood, but a victim. The governor of the Novosibirsk Region had to settle the problems created by the official of other level. The transaction of similar scale would not be possible without a cover ‘from above’. As the Toguchinsky wood is in federal property, the regional authorities had no right to independently announce a competition on delivery of this territory for rent. They would need permission of the Federal Forestry Agency – Rosleskhoz. Since 2014 this department is headed by Igor Valentik, the deputy minister of natural resources and ecology of the Russian Federation.
Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology Ivan Valentik
During the time that Valentik directs Rosleskhoz, he managed to be caught in several scandals. The last is connected with the fact that the management of the department automatically, without competitive procedures and coordination with Public chamber, created structure of public council at the agency. Chairman of the board Evgeny Schwartz called such rearrangement a “raider capture”. While in the inner circles, rumors had it that the new part of the council consisted of the people interested in concealment of corruption crimes of Valentik. Thus, in April of this year the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation established that Rosleskhoz bought unsuitable equipment for suppression of the fires for the sum of 76 million rubles ($1,2 million). The sum is much less, than it was possible to receive from the ‘cut’ of the Toguchinsky wood. Was Valentik had to get part of the money? It is unknown. The law enforcement agencies of the region, completely under control of local authorities, will hardly ask similar questions. And the governor of the region has already extinguished indignation of the public, sacrificing Dubovitsky.
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