Investigation into alleged embezzlement within Russia's Culture Ministry gains traction
MOSCOW, March 16 (RAPSI) – Senior officials from Russia’s Ministry of Culture and a range of businessmen involved in restoration of cultural heritage sites were detained on Wednesday on suspicion of embezzling state funds while searches at homes and offices of the suspects were underway.
Deputy Minister of Culture Grigory Pirumov was detained alongside other high-ranking officials, including Boris Mazo, the head of the Ministry Department of property management and investment policies, on charges of corruption and embezzling state funds. Oleg Ivanov, the head of a state unitary enterprise for restoration works supervised by the Ministry, Dmitry Sergeyev, the head of BaltStroy, and Nikita Kolesnikov, the head of Savva Corporate Group, were detained as well. The detention of Alexander Kochenov, the manager of BaltStroy, was prolonged until March 17.
Although as yet the Federal Security Service (FSB) incriminates the suspects the embezzlement of about 50 million rubles, much greater funds may be at stake, according to Kommersant newspaper.
The investigation has presumably started basing on a report by the Auditing Chamber on restoration of the Izborsk Fortress in the Pskov region presented yet in 2013; however, it may also involve such cultural heritage sites as the State Hermitage in St. Petersburg and the Novodevichy Convent in Moscow, as well as works carried out at the Ivanovsky Convent in Moscow, and a theater in Pskov. Thus, a source close to investigation confirmed to TASS news agency that Pirumov was detained over restoration works at the Novodevichy Convent, a UNESCO world heritage site. According to Kommersant newspaper, investigators believe that in Izborsk Pirumov and his accomplices could embezzle 186 million rubles and 73 million rubles in the course of works at the Pskov theater.
The scale of this corruption case is underlined by the fact that President Putin was informed about the investigation. On Tuesday the Minister of Culture Medinsky briefly discussed the matter with the President, as reported by the Putin’s press spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who though noted that it was too early to brand anybody in the Ministry as culprits before a respective court verdict.
Vladimir Medinsky told journalists that he personally and other Ministry officials were shocked by these corruption allegations. In its turn, the State Duma plans to conduct a respective parliamentary investigation and is expected to summon Medinsky for hearing his report on the matter.