The Seventh Studio Case, In Short
In mid-January 2018, the criminal investigation into the Seventh Studio was completed. It was initiated in May of 2017 after searches in the apartment of Kirill Serebrennikov, the art director of Gogol Center. The investigation believes that the theater's management stole 133 million rubles from the country's budget. Russiangate recalls how the largest “theatre case” in modern Russia unfolded and tells about its main persons of interest.
HOW ARE THE SEVENTH STUDIO, GOGOL CENTER AND THE PLATFORM PROJECT CONNECTED
In 2011, director Kirill Serebrennikov creates the project called Platform. Its main purpose is to provide young directors, composers and choreographers with a platform on which they can engage in experiments.
During its work, the Platform has prepared many theater projects, dance performances, and multi-genre events. All this hit off after the meeting of President Dmitry Medvedev with influential Russian cultural figures. The project operated on budgetary funds allocated by the Ministry of Culture. The Platform was based on the territory of Vinzavod. The project lasted until 2014.
The Seventh Studio is a theatrical troupe created in 2012 by Serebrennikov from the students of his course at the Moscow Art Theater School. The director created it for the Platform project.
In early August 2012, Kirill Serebrennikov became artistic director of the Moscow Drama Theater named after N. V. Gogol. A month later, the director announced the reform of the theater and renamed it Gogol Center. In addition to theatrical productions, the theater held discussions, exhibitions, concerts, exhibitions, lectures and film screenings.
After Serebrennikov became the head of the theater, the Seventh Studio became one of his resident groups. The project Platform also began to exist under Gogol Center.
THE INVESTIGATIVE COMMITTEE’S OPINION
In four years (2011-2014), the Ministry of Culture allocated 214 million rubles from the country's budget to the Platform. The investigation believes that the defendants deliberately overpriced the cost of the events. Then, they submitted estimates to the Ministry of Culture to confirm the funds expended by the Seventh Studio. And by doing that they siphoned off money.
The estimated amount of thefts changed several times. In the spring of 2017, the Investigative Committee reported that 200 million rubles were stolen. By the end of summer, it was 68 million rubles. In early January 2018, the investigation of the case was completed. The final version of the investigators is 133 million rubles.
DEFENDANTS AND PRE-TRIAL RESTRICTIONS
Director and art manager of Gogol Center Kirill Serebrennikov and former CEO of the Seventh Studio Yuriy Itin are under house arrest.
Director of RAMT, Sofia Apfelbaum, is also under house arrest. Earlier, she held the post of head of state support of art of the Ministry of Culture. It was she who signed a contract for financing with the Seventh Studio.
Former General Producer of the Seventh Studio Yekaterina Voronova went on vacation abroad before the case of the Seventh Studio was initiated. After the searches and detentions of her former colleagues, she decided not to return to her homeland. The court arrested her in absentia, and the Prosecutor's Office asked Interpol to put her on the wanted list. This request of the Russian department has not yet been granted.
Former Chief Accountant Nina Maslyaeva is under house arrest. Of all the defendants in the case, only Maslyaeva pleaded guilty to embezzlement, concluded a deal with the investigation and testified against other defendants in the case. She believes that the Seventh Studio was created specifically for money laundering and stealing budget funds.
The case against Maslyaeva and Voronova is severed from other charges.
General producer of the Seventh Studio Aleksei Malobrodsky is the only person who is kept in a pre-trial detention center. The prosecution believes that he can “continue to engage in criminal activities”, threaten witnesses or flee from the country.
The investigators believe that Malobrodsky did not stage the performance A Midsummer Night's Dream, which was financed from the budget. In fact, the performance took place in Gogol Center.
In late November, former general producer of the Seventh Studio Yekaterina Voronova published a letter in which she outlined her version of what happened. She believes that the former chief accountant of the Seventh Studio, Nina Maslyaeva, is to blame for everything. Texts of contracts with employees were agreed with her, she was responsible for paying bills and giving out cash for various expenses. Maslyaeva also prepared reports for the Ministry of Culture.
In 2014, auditors found violations in the accounting department of the Seventh Studio. In particular, the existence of a “black casse” was revealed. It turned out that the company had “dead souls” who received money. Among them, there was Maslyaeva's daughter.
Another significant problem found by the auditors is also connected with the bookkeeper: she indicated expenses in cash incorrectly. Maslyaeva was asked to help correct mistakes and inaccuracies revealed by the inspector. Instead, she resigned.
At the end of 2014, the Platform was being prepared for closure. All the documents with internal reporting and information on the “black casse” were destroyed by the employees. According to Voronova, they did not have place to store them. She did not suspect that someone might need these reports in the future.
It was these documents that could confirm the innocence of the defendants in the case of the Seventh Studio.