Corruption weekly: 21 - 25 August

Our weekly collection of the most important investigations in the media world

On August 21, Fontanka published an investigation about the “Wagner Group" in the Syrian Republic, which consists of 2,349 people and takes part in the fighting in Syria on the side of the Assad government. Its employees have no relation to any official security structures of Russia, but they receive military orders and medals for their work. The Defense Ministry has refused to recognize the existence of the detachment. Agency representatives said the Reuters’ reports on the group’s deceased fighters were "mockery" and just rumors about some "mysterious contractors."

Earlier, the military command, which "did not notice" the private structure on its territory, regularly supplied it with weapons, equipment and gave it fire support.

In late Spring 2016, the first misunderstanding occurred. Today, the detachment, which had never experienced any problems with financing, has virtually no ammunition, and the salaries have significantly dropped.

Fontanka believes that it had been triggered by a conflict between and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and the "Kremlin chef" Yevgeny Prigozhin, who might be behind the Wagner detachment.

On August 22, Transparency International - R reported a conflict of interests between Alexander Galushko, the Minister for the Development of the Far East, and his deputy Sergey Kachaev.

The officials have a joint business: they own the Center for Evaluation and Consulting. Also, Galushko and Kachaev went to university together (two times) working together at the Institute of Control Sciences RAS and the Russian Board of Appraisers – too much for a coincidence.

Old friendships and business partnerships tend to work very well, but according to the law "On Counteracting Corruption," this falls under the definition of close relations that can lead to a conflict of interests.

Also, on August 22, The Village published an investigation where Kirill Rukov looked into why Vorobyovy Gory, a 10 hectares plot of land, had been given for a 49-year use to a private company affiliated with the father of a State Duma deputy, without a tender.

Novaya Liga Association (or a group of companies) took advantage of loopholes in the law and rented the Vorobyovy Gory plot. Dmitry Svishchev founded the group; he is a State Duma deputy and the head of the Curling Federation of Russia. In 2007, he changed all the company shares over to his father, Alexander Svishchev. Previously the company had been controlled by Svishchev Sr.; it built Ledovy Kub (“Ice Cube”) curling arena through a "dubious contract" with no construction experience.

"From a legal point of view, the scheme is not transparent - made to avoid bidding, but formally works due to the lack of regulations on the area of ​​the land required for the facilities," Alexei Pryanishnikov, a lawyer, told The Village.

August 24 turned out to be a productive day as three excellent anti-corruption investigations were published at once.

Dozhd found the Villa Sellgren belonging to "Putin’s friends" on Lodochny Island in Vyborg. A Sherlock Holmes film was made in the villa and a mansion of ​​1,500 square meters was built nearby, as well as several buildings of 500 square meters each, a helipad and piers.

According to Rosreestr, all the buildings on the territory of the assumed residence belong to Sever company. Until 2014, it had been owned by Baltic Media Group CEO and "longtime Putin’s friend" Oleg Rudnov, and after his death in 2015, the business was inherited by his son Sergei.

Three hours later, Dozhd released another investigation. This time the journalists told about a joint business of the former head of Rosneft Eduard Khudainatov with the company associated with Ilya Traber. Khudainatov is believed to be a close ally of Igor Sechin. Traber is known as Antikvar in the criminal circles. He is wanted as a member of the Tambovskaya gang.

A journalist of Novaya Gazeta told a story about land fraud in the Krasnodar region. People would buy land plots that belonged to the forest fund, according to the documents. Despite it being legally impossible, the sellers explained that they were selling the right to lease the land. In the spring the general plan of the town of Gelendzhik will change, and it will be possible to start the construction.

More than 150 families have been left without housing as the construction was not allowed. Only the realtor, an intermediary, is being prosecuted, while the investigation has stalled. The main beneficiaries, who earned hundreds of millions of rubles on the fraudulent scheme, remain unidentified.

On August 21, Kommersant announced Defense Ministry plans to give a large piece of land in the north-west of Moscow for development, even though 40 hectares of it are located on the territory of the Losiny Ostrov National Park. This case has not been the first one in the national park’s history. On August 25, Open Russia was trying to find out as to who, and most importantly how, had managed to purchase the land in the park. Law prohibits building there, but in the end, each of those who bought the land, either received official permission or got off with a small fine.

August 25, Meduza spoke about the poetic talent of Alexander Bastrykin, the head of the Investigative Committee of Russia. According to the publication, Bastrykin, under the pseudonym Stanislav Strunevsky, publishes poems on various topics. Often he reflects on love and France, but it is the opposition leader Alexey Navalnyn who remains the key figure in his work.

Meduza is convicted: the head of the ICR is the one who has been editing his Wikipedia page, where he keeps removing all plagiarism accusations related to his book on fingerprinting.

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