Who tries to spoil Evtushenkov’s party on the bridge across Obi River?
The authorities in Novosibirsk are waiting for funding from Platon Electronic Toll Collection System to build the fourth bridge across the Obi River. The Governor of the Novosibirsk Region hopes that this project is awarded to Sibmost Joint Stock Company. Sergei Titov, ex-Minister of Transport of the Novosibirsk Region, who had promoted the project and produced a concession agreement maximally profitable for the investor, has already resigned from his post and became the President of Sibmost. The company now belongs to structures controlled by oligarch Vladimir Evtushenkov. But the competitors have delivered a serious blow: Titov’s son-in-law Aleksander Sakharov, a governmental servant who had earlier embezzled Platon funds, has been arrested. Who is trying to spoil Evtushenkov’s party?
On March 25, 2016, judge Arkady Koba of the Kuibyshevsky District Court of Omsk, has satisfied the motion brought by the investigation and ruled to detain Aleksander Sakharov, Director of the Regional Branch of Siberia Federal Road Administration Federal Budgetary Institution (Sibupravtodor) for two months. The 32-year-old official was arrested on suspicion of embezzlement of budget funds. A criminal case has been instituted against him under Article 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (swindling committed by a group of persons by previous concert or on an especially large scale).
According to the investigation, Sakharov has committed the crime in 2015 while being the Deputy Director of the Public Roads Administration of the Omsk Region for Legal Matters. He has deceived Sergei Pavlyuk, Head of Omskavtodor State Enterprise, into signing a contract for road works with Dmitry Faizulin, owner of Universal-Stroy-Servis Limited Liability Company. Later Sakharov has embezzled a portion of funds transferred in accordance with the signed contracts. The official has been charged with embezzlement of 2 million rubles ($35.6 thousand) out of the 63.4 million rubles ($1.1 million) allocated for the reconstruction of a section of the federal motorway from Tulumbai village to Sosnovka–Popovka automobile road in the Azovsky district. The money have been ‘laundered’ via officials of the district administration and another construction company – while the builders received a lesser sum for the reconstruction of the federal motorway.
During the court session, the defense had asked to release him on bail of 2 million rubles ($35.6 thousand). The attorneys tried to convince the judge that Sakharov should remain on the lose because he has to support two minor children and unemployed spouse. The father of the official had offered a bail of 4 million rubles ($71.3 thousand) – i.e. twice as much as the incriminated damages. But the judge has still ruled to remand Sakharov in custody.
Aleksander Sakharov, Director of Sibupravtodor Federal Budgetary Institution
The criminal case has been initiated based on the results of an inquest performed by the Regional Directorate of the Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation. In April 2016, Omsk resident Ekaterina Chernenko had complained on the terrible condition of Omsk roads on live TV during the direct line with the President of the Russian Federation. After that conversation, Putin had ordered to repair the roads by the 300th anniversary of Omsk that was celebrated in August 2016. An unprecedented sum was allocated to the Omsk region from the federal budget. As a result, the regional road fund had reached 7.7 billion rubles ($137.2 million) – half as much as in the past years. Then suspicions arose that not all the funds had been spent as intended, and the FSB launched its inquest. Ultimately, the embezzlement committed by Sakharov has been identified.
The official has attracted the attention of law enforcement authorities for the first time, but the Omsk public had plenty of questions to Sakharov long before his arrest. For example, while being a Deputy Director of the Public Roads Administration of the Omsk Region, Aleksander Sakharov was involved into a major scandal pertaining to allocation of governmental contracts to ‘right’ people. In 2014, Aleksander Zinoviev, Director of the Siberian Nonmetallic Company, had submitted a complaint against Sakharov and Aleksander Vasiliev, Deputy Director of the Public Roads Administration of the Omsk Region for Road Construction, Repair, and Usage, to the Prosecutor’s Office of Omsk and the Omsk Region. It turned out that the company of Zinoviev had participated in a tender to supply sand and broken stone for road repair and construction departments of the Omsk region. Then some people have strongly recommended the businessman to withdraw from the tender because it had been designed for a specific bidder – Omsk Fuel Company Open Joint Stock Company. Zinoviev has disregarded the threats, won the tender, and signed the contract. But it was pretty difficult to fulfil it. Many consignees had denied access to their territories for his trucks with sand and broken stone; directors of enterprises refused to sign cargo receipt documents. Zinoviev has found out that they were following direct orders from Sakharov and Vasiliev who had threatened to dismiss them for collaboration with the unwanted supplier. This sabotage has allowed the Public Roads Administration of the Omsk Region to terminate the contract with the Siberian Nonmetallic Company unilaterally. Zinoviev has filed a lawsuit with the Arbitration Court; it supported the plaintiff due to the lack of grounds for the contract termination, but dismissed the damage claims. After the publication of this story in media, the public has got lots of questions to Sakharov.
Apparently, family ties had helped Aleksander Sakharov to build a successful career in Omsk and avoid questions from the law enforcement structures: his wife Yulia is a daughter of Sergei Titov, the Minister of Transport and Road Infrastructure of the Novosibirsk Region since 2013 and until March 2017.
Sergei Titov, ex-Minister of Transport and Road Infrastructure of the Novosibirsk Region
It was not difficult for Titov to wangle his son-in-law into the Omsk Branch of Sibupravtodor. This governmental company is managed by Dmitry Tuleev, son of perpetual Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev. Titov used to be his deputy in the period of 2004–2010 and retained excellent relations with the former boss.
The only obstacle with the appointment of the son-in-law to the key – from the financial perspective – position of the Director of the Omsk Branch of Sibupravtodor was Iosif Drobotenko – the existing Director of the organization. According to CrimeRussia insiders in the local administration, Dmitry Tuleev had suggested Sergei Titov to get rid of Drobotenko on his own. To achieve this, the former Minister has asked for assistance a powerful friend – Andrei Novoselov, then-Deputy Chairman of the Government of the Republic of Khakassia.
Dmitry Tuleev, Head of Siberia Federal Road Administration Federal Budgetary Institution (Sibupravtodor)
At that time, Novoselov was waiting to be appointed to his current post – First Deputy Chairman of the Government of the Omsk Region. In anticipation of the return to his home city of Omsk, Novoselov was quietly laying hands on the profitable road industry and used his own son as a guarantor of his control over it. Valery Nikityuk, a Deputy of the Altai Legislative Assembly, has been appointed the new Head of the Public Roads Administration state company – Sergei Titov had proposed and lobbied his candidacy. Nikityuk has immediately appointed Roman Novoselov, son of the future First Deputy Chairman of the Government of the Omsk Region, his Deputy for General Affairs. Currently Roman Chibisov is the Head of the Public Roads Administration, but Roman Novoselov still remains his Deputy for General Affairs – although, according to the source, he comes to work only occasionally.
Titov has addressed Novoselov in 2015 asking for help; Novoselov has pulled his strings in the local administration and pushed Director Drobotenko out of Sibupravtodor. Drobotenko has announced in public that he had resigned from the federal structure to run for the Governor of the Omsk Region. The source, however, provides a different version: only lengthy sick leaves had allowed Drobotenko to keep his post under the pressure of Novoselov’s friends. The Director has been pensioned off immediately upon the attainment of the age of retirement. The entire operation had lasted for several months: as early as in August 2015, Titov’s son-in-law has taken the newly-vacant office.
According to the CrimeRussia sources, the powerful father-in-law is the true reason why Aleksander Sakharov has ended up in the pretrial detention facility. This is how some interested structures are trying to affect the decision to allocate funds from Platon Electronic Toll Collection System and the outcome of the tender for construction of the fourth bridge across the Obi River in Novosibirsk. This project has been ‘designed’ specifically for Titov from the very beginning – being the Minister of Transport of the Novosibirsk Region, Sergei Titov was the chief ideologue of the fourth bridge construction project as opposed to the Novosibirsk Eastern Bypass project. To build the bridge, Titov had proposed to establish a private-public partnership. It is anticipated that the federal budget would provide a portion of the funding using revenues generated by state-owned Platon System. An unprecedentedly profitable financial and economic model of the concession agreement has been developed for the future private investor under the guidance of the Minister of Transport. Upon becoming familiar with the terms of this concession agreement, members of the Commission for Liaison with Law Enforcement Authorities and Combating Corruption of the Legislative Assembly of the Novosibirsk Region have sharply criticized the document. The agreement guarantees the income of 91.6 billion rubles ($1.62 billion) to the concessionaire from the construction and further toll-based usage of the fourth bridge. The governmental budget – not the concessionaire – shall bear all the risks associated with possible income deficiency; therefore the regional treasury might fall short of dozens of billions of rubles.
When Novosibirsk residents became aware of the terms of the agreement produced by Titov, a high-profile scandal has erupted. It was even proposed to hold a referendum to determine whether the city really needs another bridge. To calm down the parliamentarians and residents of the region, Vladimir Gorodetsky, Governor of the Novosibirsk Region, had to admit in public that the document contains severe defects. The authorities had promised to reduce the guaranteed income to 49 billion rubles ($868 million) – but it turned out in March that no changes have been made and the guaranteed income remains the same. The outraged Deputies have requested Gorodetsky to punish the Ministers responsible for this – but the Governor said that he can’t find any grounds for this: “I don’t see any corruption elements there”.
Vladimir Gorodetsky, Governor of the Novosibirsk Region
In February 2016, the Governor has announced in public: he hopes that Sibmost wins a grant in the near future to build the fourth bridge across the Obi River. All the preliminary works to ensure that the proceeds of the construction project go to the ‘right people’ have already been completed by that time. In the end of the year, the controlling block of shares in Sibmost Joint Stock Company was transferred to a consortium led by SISTEMA Joint Stock Financial Corporation whose controlling block of shares belongs to oligarch Vladimir Evtushenkov.
It was also necessary to guarantee that the regional officials get the income from the new bridge construction. Therefore, on March 9, 2017, Sergei Titov has voluntarily resigned from the post of the Minister of Transport. On the next day, the new owners have elected him the President of Sibmost Joint Stock Company. Overall, Gorodetsky, Titov, and Evtushenkov have done their best to ensure that Sibmost wins the tender to build the fourth bridge.
The decision to allocate Platon funds for the construction of the fourth bridge should be made in the next few days. In that situation, the arrest of Titov’s son-in-law, who is also a civil servant, puts the provision of the grant at risk. Especially taking that Sakharov has been charged with embezzlements committed during the road construction funded from the revenues generated by Platon. Apparently, the conjunction of the arrest of Sakharov and the submission of the Novosibirsk application for Platon funding is not a coincidence.
It is hard to say who has delivered such a blow to Titov and Sibmost. Three companies had participated last summer in the tender to build the fourth bridge: Northeastern Motorway Limited Liability Company, Novosibirsk Concession Company Limited Liability Company; and Siberian Concession Company Limited Liability Company. At that time, Sibmost was behind the Siberian Concession Company – but in December 2016, Sibmost has withdrawn from its founders. Mosenergo power generating company has acquired the controlling block of shares, its Board of Directors is chaired by oligarch Igor Rotenberg who is also the concessionaire behind the entire Platon System.
Oligarch Igor Rotenberg
VTB Bank was behind the Novosibirsk Concession Company; it became interested in that project back in 2014. The founders of the Northeastern Motorway are Infrastructure Investments–2 Limited Liability Company (founded by the Russian Direct Investment Fund that had been severed from Vnesheconombank and transformed into an independent structure by the Russian Government), New Quality of Roads Limited Liability Company, and Main Road Open Joint Stock Company. The two last companies had been established by Lider (Leader) Management Company, a member of the group of companies led by St. Petersburg-based Rossia (Russia) Bank. Oligarch Yuri Kovalchuk chairs the Board of Directors in that bank.
Oligarch Yuri Kovalchuk
Apparently, one of the above persons does not want Evtushenkov to make money on the construction of the fourth bridge in Novosibirsk and delivered a blow to the President of Sibmost Joint Stock Company by initiating the arrest of his son-in-law.
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