Governor Aleksey Gordeev and his team lay hands on Voronezh construction market
The Voronezh construction market is being re-divided: the team of Governor Aleksey Gordeev is trying to seize control over the issuance of permits for residential and commercial construction in the regional capital. Unprecedented pressure has been put on municipal officials involved into the construction sector. Anton Shevelev, Chief Architect of Voronezh, has been accused of bribe-taking, Vice Mayor Vladimir Astanin stripped of his powers, while Viktor Vladmirov, Head of the Construction Policy Department of the Voronezh Administration, had to resign.
The current situation in Voronezh is a logical result of the multiyear confrontation between two groups – the team of Aleksey Gordeev and people of Sergei Koliukh, the previous Mayor of Voronezh. Three and half years ago, the Governor managed to seat his henchman Aleksander Gusev in the Mayor’s chair – but the bitter struggle for spheres of influence is still ongoing within the Voronezh political elite.
Governor is against the café of the railroad terminal square
On January 23, 2017, during a weekly briefing, Aleksey Gordeev, the Governor of the Voronezh Region, has asked the law enforcement authorities to check the work of the Administration of the City Chief Architect Municipal Unitary Enterprise managed by Anton Shevelev. The Head of the Region has requested Mayor Aleksander Gusev to put things to order in the construction subdivision of the Municipal Administration.
Gordeev was displeased with the construction of a café on the square near Voronezh–1 railroad terminal. According to the Governor, this building violated the architectural appearance of a landmark city location.
Construction of café on the square near the railroad terminal
“They used the holidays to cut down the trees. Machinery, fences... I believe that this is architectural banditry. We have been struggling with this for eight years to leave a normal, nice city to the future generations,” – Aleksey Gordeev resented.
He has harshly criticized Anton Shevelev, the Chief Architect of Voronezh, and accused him of serving interests of commercial structures. The Municipal Administration had issued the construction permit – that has outraged the Governor so much – to Alf Limited Liability Company. It turned out that this company belongs to Natalia Koliukh, spouse of the ex-Mayor. Aleksey Gordeev has made it clear to the municipal officials that any assistance to people close to the former Mayor and business structures affiliated with them won’t be tolerated.
On the next day, the Voronezh people have understood that the Governor sticks to his words. On January 24, 2016, Anton Shevelev, the Chief Architect of Voronezh, has been arrested on suspicion of bribe-taking. The investigation believes that the municipal official had illegally received over 500 thousand rubles from the director of a local organization. Allegedly Shevelev had been providing patronage to a commercial company in exchange for the bribe.
Obviously, Aleksey Gordeev and law enforcement structures under his control had premeditated this operation to discredit the construction subdivision of the Voronezh Municipal Administration. To avoid a scolding, Viktor Vladmirov, Head of the Construction Policy Department of the Municipal Administration, has resigned voluntarily.
After the Governor’s criticism, Mayor Aleksander Gusev has promised that the construction subdivision of the Voronezh Municipal Administration would be radically reformed in the nearest future. The Mayor has stripped his deputy Vladimir Astanin – who used to supervise the construction sector in the Municipal Administration – of his powers. The official went on vacation; his new scope of duties will be determined after his return in February.
Vladimir Astanin, Vice Mayor of Voronezh
According to the federal legislation, the powers of local authorities include two key functions: issuance of construction permits and approval of the commissioning of newly-built facilities. It is unclear yet how the Governor’s team is going to assume these powers. Insiders believe that, should the Administration of the City Chief Architect Municipal Unitary Enterprise be liquidated, some functions of this institution could be transferred to the regional level.
It is also unclear how Aleksey Gordeev had managed to gain support of Voronezh law enforcement structures – who have initiated a criminal case against the disliked Chief Architect just in time.
Architectural banditry or bribe?
The Investigations Directorate in the Voronezh Region of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR) reports that Anton Shevelev has been charged under part 6 of Article 290 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (bribe-taking on an especially large scale). The criminal case against the former Chief Architect of Voronezh was initiated based on materials received from the Regional Directorate of the Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation.
According to the investigation, since the beginning of 2016 and until January 2017, the suspect had received over 500 thousand rubles from the director of a Voronezh-based organization for actions performed in the interests of this commercial enterprise. The funds had been paid to Shevelev in parts, both in cash and through bank transfers.
Anton Shevelev, ex-Chief Architect of Voronezh
ICR and FSB operatives have searched the residence and office of the suspect and seized items and documents confirming the involvement of the former Chief Architect into the offences incriminated to him. The official is facing a prison term of up to 15 years.
On the next day after the criminal case announcement, Anton Shevelev has left the office. The Leninsky District Court of Voronezh has placed the ex-official under home arrest until March 23, 2017.
Sources claim that Ruslan Kutsev, Director of KROiS Design and Construction Company, had given the half-million bribe to the suspect. In exchange, the Chief Architect has allegedly approved the construction of a residential apartment building at 35 Massalitinova quay – right in the center of the city, near the Voronezhskoe reservoir. The building had to be constructed by Shelf Limited Liability Company, 50% of which belongs to Vladimir Kolykhalin, a Deputy of the Regional Duma.
Ruslan Kutsev also manages Novy Gorod – XXI Vek (New City – XXI Century) Limited Liability Company, which belongs to Yuri Gaidai, ex-Vice Mayor for Construction, and Anton Shevelev. By combining commercial operations with the municipal service, Shevelev has violated the Federal Law № 273-FZ of December 25, 2008 “On Combating Corruption”.
The other co-owner of the company – former Vice Mayor Yuri Gaidai – had to leave his post several years ago as per demand of Aleksey Gordeev. At that time, Sergei Koliukh, then-Mayor of Voronezh, was not willing to engage into an open conflict with the Governor and opted to quietly fire his deputy.
Common business interests of Anton Shevelev and Yuri Gaidai – a ‘henchman of the ex-Mayor’ – indicate that the architect accused of bribe-taking is somehow related to the team of deposed Sergei Koliukh. Apparently, Aleksey Gordeev is about to oust from office the last remaining associates of the ex-Mayor and establish full personal control over the Voronezh Municipal Administration.
Some experts suppose that the Governor might not necessarily be the mastermind behind the prosecution of Anton Shevelev – Aleksey Gordeev could allegedly be aware of the upcoming arrest of the Chief Architect and took the liberty to criticize him. But this is unlikely because Gordeev had lashed out at Shevelev because of his approval of the café construction project submitted by a company belonging to the spouse of Sergei Koliukh. In other words, the confrontation between the people of the former Voronezh Mayor and Governor’s team has escalated again.
By the way, the construction permit for the ill-fated café had been issued to Alf Limited Liability Company on December 14, 2016. The project provided for the construction of a one-storey building with basement and total space of 453 square meters near the railroad terminal, at 4a Koltsovskoy street, Voronezh.
The investigation still has to find out whether Shevelev had, in fact, received bribes from heads of architectural and construction companies.
‘Pocket Mayor’ Gusev
Political experts have called the election of Aleksander Gusev the Voronezh Mayor a major victory of Aleksey Gordeev. In September 2013, the Governor has seated his loyal associate to the Mayor’s chair, thus, strengthening his own positions in the region.
Voronezh Mayor Aleksander Gusev
So far, Gusev has been meeting the expectations of his powerful boss. Immediately after the criticism expressed by Gordeev, the Mayor has promised to prepare and perform a reform in the construction subdivision of the Municipal Administration as soon as possible. In the meantime, Gusev intends to determine personally whose residential and commercial construction projects should be approved and whose – rejected. Apparently, the Mayor would consult with the Governor before making such decisions.
The old conflict between Aleksey Gordeev and Sergei Koliukh had been initiated by the Governor. The ex-Mayor had never objected Gordeev in public, but instead demonstrated his full loyalty. For example, the financial sanation of the Municipal Enterprise for Water Supply and Waste Water Treatment and its further transfer to concession to a Rosvodokanal structure had been performed under control of regional officials. The privatization of the municipal electric network had also been initiated by the Governor’s team. Still, Sergei Koliukh was unable to establish good relations with the Head of the Region.
By contrast, Aleksey Gordeev had repeatedly harshly criticized the performance of the municipal authorities. He had often said that officials in the Voronezh Municipal Administration pursue not public, but personal interests in their work.
“I had already stated in public that I am displeased with the performance of the Municipal Administration. I can say even more straight: we are now at a crossroads – I must either close my eyes and follow the way of the municipal team, thinking that this is normal and such things occur everywhere, or I must completely reject this system because the clannish approach to the state municipal service is totally unacceptable. I choose the second path,” – the Governor said back in 2012.
Sergei Koliukh, ex-Mayor of Voronezh
Gordeev had been conducting the offensive on Koliukh step by step. The crackdown on the ex-Mayor’s team has started from a recertification of municipal officials initiated by the Governor; then law enforcement structures controlled by Gordeev joined the fight. Several close associates of then-Mayor, including a number of Deputies, have been criminally prosecuted. Perhaps, this was the last argument used by the Governor in his struggle against Koliukh.
On March 13, 2013, the Mayor has resigned before the expiration of his term.
Corruption around Aleksey Gordeev
Corruption scandals occur in the ‘inner circle’ of Governor Aleksey Gordeev on a regular basis. In 2004–2009, being the Minister of Agriculture of the Russian Federation, he was surrounded by scandals as well.
Actions of the team led by Aleksey Gordeev in the Ministry of Agriculture have resulted in huge losses for the state budget. Sufficient to say that Elena Skrynnik, another ex-Minister of Agriculture, was the Head of Rosagrolizing Open Joint Stock Company during the rule of Gordeev. Billion-ruble embezzlements had been committed through this company in that period.
After changing the ministerial chair to the Governor’s one, Gordeev still remains a pretty wealthy person. Several agribusiness enterprises belong to his family: his son Nikita owns a share in Sady Podmoskovia (Gardens of the Moscow Region) company, while his wife Tatiana holds portfolios of shares in two Moscow-based enterprises – Agrobiznes Limited Liability Company and Agroplast Limited Liability Company. Sources state that Agroeko Agro-Industrial Enterprise Limited Liability Company founded by Cyprus-based ECO Agribusiness Holdings Ltd. in 2009 also belongs to the Governor’s family.
Aleksey Gordeev has an important trait that allows him to overcome opponents and protect his interests – the ability to gain support of enforcement structures. Sources state that Aleksander Klopov, the previous Head of the FSB Directorate for the Voronezh Region, had supported the Governor by all means and informed him of upcoming investigations. Then disagreements allegedly arose between the Head of the Region and FSB general, and in 2015, Oleg Nefedov was appointed the Head of the Regional FSB Directorate.
Apparently, Gordeev was able to ‘find a key’ to the new FSB commander – after all, the criminal case against Anton Shevelev, former Chief Architect of Voronezh, has been initiated at the instigation of the FSB.
Now all the governmental officials in the Voronezh region understand how dangerous is to assist businessmen linked with the team of ex-Mayor Sergei Koliukh. Governor Aleksey Gordeev has clearly explained the possible implications of such actions: accusations of banditry (architectural, etc.), resignation, or criminal prosecution.
The control over the Voronezh construction market would bring the Governor’s team plenty of new opportunities. Companies willing to construct a facility in the regional capital would have to get a permission from associates of Aleksey Gordeev – i.e. the business community becomes even more dependent on the Governor.
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