ST. PETERSBURG, August 3 (RAPSI) — Russia’s Supreme Court is to rule on the proper venue in the case of fraudulent embezzlement of more than 900 million rubles (about $14.8 million) allocated for the reconstruction of the Hermitage Museum against ex-official of the Culture Ministry Boris Mazo, the joint press service of the courts of St. Petersburg informs.

Earlier it was reported that the case was registered by the Kuibyshevsky District Court of St. Petersburg. At a hearing, Mazo lawyers filed motions to forward the case to the Supreme Court to decide on the territorial jurisdiction of this criminal case. The lawyers also asked the court to consider the change of pretrial detention of the defendant to house arrest.

The court granted the petition to forward the proper venue issue to the Supreme Court; however, refused to change the measure of restraint extending Mazo's detention until January 24, 2023, according to the statement.

Investigators believe that in 2015 ex-Deputy Culture Minister Grigory Pirumov and ex-director of the Culture Ministry’s department of property management and investment policy Boris Mazo formed a criminal community to embezzle budgetary funds allocated for the reconstruction of the State Hermitage Museum and legalize the stolen property.

The gang, according to the charges, included financial director and senior engineer of the company Horizont Yulia Begeza and Valery Rogov, chairman of the Oil Alliance bank’s board Oleg Grigor, head of Rospan company Nikita Kolesnikov, and other persons.

In 2015, the Hermitage Museum and MechStroyTrans company controlled by the defendants signed a contract for construction amd reconstruction of the museum’s facilities.

In the course of execution of the contract, alleged accomplices embezzled over 900 million rubles allocated from the budget for these works. Using various financial operations and transactions the defendants legalized 800 million rubles of the embezzled money.

In 2018, as part of the "case of restorers," Mazo was arrested in absentia by the Moscow Basmanny District Court and put on the international wanted list. In December 2020, at the request of the Prosecutor General's Office, there was initiated the procedure of extradition Mazo from Austria, and in March 2021 he was transferred to Russia.