The Restorers' Case: From Monastery to Verdict
The verdict on the restorers’ case was announced. Ex-Deputy Minister of Culture Grigory Pirumov was sentenced to a year and six months in a general-regime penal colony; he was released in the courtroom, since he had already served this term. Russiangate recalls how the case of embezzlement in the Ministry of Culture unfolded.
WHAT IS THE RESTORERS’ CASE
The Federal Security Service initiated the "restorers’ case" in March 2016. At the same time, Deputy Minister of Culture Grigory Pirumov was detained. According to the investigators, in 2012, he created a criminal group to steal money allocated for the restoration of monuments. Apart from him, seven other people ended up on the dock.
Seven objects of cultural heritage were damaged: the Novodevichy and the Ioanno-Predtechensky monasteries in Moscow, the Drama Theater in Pskov, the Izborsk Fortress in the Pskov Region, the Astronautics Museum in Kaluga, the Aseyevs' Estate in Tambov and the fortress of Frederick the Great in Kaliningrad. The damage at the conclusion of contracts for their restoration amounted to about 164 million rubles.
The swindling scheme functioned as follows: officials of the Ministry of Culture gave state contracts for the restoration of monuments to 'their' companies, signed fictitious acts and transferred budget funds to them. The company called BaltStroy, owned by St. Petersburg businessman Dmitry Mikhalchenko and former deputy head of the FSB in St. Petersburg and Leningrad Nikolay Negodov, who is close to former director of FSO Dmitry Murov, won the tenders.
WHO ENDED UP ON THE RESTORERS LIST
Grigory Pirumov was arrested the first, since originally the case was related to the restoration of the Novodevichy Convent. The works began in 2015, and it was planned to spend more than 5 billion rubles on them.
Only a day later, five more people were arrested. The suspects in the case were Director of Property Management Department of the Ministry of Culture Boris Mazo, Director of the Federal State Institution Centerrestavratsiya Oleg Ivanov, Director of BaltStroy Dmitry Sergeev, BaltStroy Manager Alexander Kochenov, and Adviser to the CEO of Linnit-Consulting Nikita Kolesnikov.
Later, BaltStroy’s project manager Vladimir Svanbek and Boris Tsagaraev, the head of FSI Directorate for Construction and Restoration, were taken into custody. Against all the persons of interest, a criminal case was initiated under Art. 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (swindling committed by an organized group).
At the first court session, it was established that the criminal group under Pirumov’s leadership had entered into state contracts worth of 127 million rubles to restore the Novodevichy Convent with the company under his control. The contract was given to BaltStroy’s subsidiary, CJSC Stroyfasad. According to the investigation, Pirumov’s group forged papers about the performance of the works and overstated their value. As a result, the firm illegally received an advance in amount of 50 million rubles from the state budget.
Later, the "restorers" were accused of swindling at three other sites: the Ioanno-Predtechensky Monastery, the Pskov Drama Theater and the Cosmonautics Museum in Kaluga.
Then, the fifth episode made its way to the case: swindling during the restoration of the Izborsk Fortress. According to the investigation, in 2012, the officials of the Ministry of Culture signed acts on the acceptance of works that were not performed. The contractor was once again BaltStroy.
Grigory Pirumov was deprived of his post in the Ministry of Culture only six months after the accusation. On December 1, 2016, he asked to be dismissed at his own request. Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky earlier called the FSB’s accusations against the department ‘a real shock’ and described his deputy Pirumov as ‘a good manager.’
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE OWNER OF BLATSTROY
The damage from BaltStroy’s work cost the Russian budget even more than the crimes committed by Pirumov. The Accounting Chamber found violations that caused damage in amount of 300 million rubles during the restoration of the conservatory in St. Petersburg, which was conducted by BaltStroy and Stroyfasad. The list of damaged monuments expanded in the summer. The Hermitage also got involved in the case: the company BaltStroy voluntarily used more expensive materials when restoring the museum, and, as a result, the cost of works illegally increased by 140 million rubles.
The Forum Group, which includes BaltStroy, belongs to Dmitry Mikhalchenko, along with former deputy head of the FSB in St. Petersburg and Leningrad Region Nikolay Negodov. The company BaltStroy reconstructed the most elite objects from the first hundred Russian sights: the Admiralty, the Peter-Paul and Naval Cathedrals in St. Petersburg, the Triumphal Square and the Solovetsky Monastery.
According to The New Times, the company was affiliated with former director of the FSO Dmitry Murov and received government orders through his personal connections. The orders were distributed by the Federal State Unitary Enterprise Ateks, the decisions in which were made by Stanislav Kuner, a classmate and partner of Dmitry Sergeyev, the director of BaltStroy.
One of the owners of the company, Dmitry Mikhalchenko, was detained in March 2016. But within another case: the operatives searched the office of the company within the restorers’ case, and found evidence of Mikhalchenko's involvement in smuggling of expensive alcohol. He was accused of illegal transportation of cognac and wine under the guise of building materials. Now, the businessman is in St. Petersburg pre-trial detention center.
The interlocutors of RBC linked Dmitry Mikhalchenko’s arrest with the attack of competitors. During the last few years, the businessman invested money in a deep-sea port called Bronka in St. Petersburg – it was the thing they wanted to ‘take away’. According to another version, Mikhalchenko's persecution may be connected with the confrontation of two power structures – the FSB and FSO.
HOW THE OTHER DEFENDATS WERE PUNISHED
In August, head of BaltStroy Dmitry Sergeyev was bind over. The investigation found that out of all the episodes of the case with a total damage of 164 million rubles, Sergeyev was involved only in the disappearance of 71 million rubles, of which he received 11 million rubles. He was sentenced to four years and seven months of imprisonment on probation and a fine of 800 thousand rubles.
The court ordered to release him from custody, but FSB officers turned up in the court and detained Sergeev for another case: the embezzlement of 225 million rubles allocated for the construction and repair of the President's residence in Novo-Ogaryovo. He is suspected of creating an organized criminal group and three episodes of swindling.
The manager of BaltStroy, Alexander Kochenov, was released from custody in August on bail of 10 million rubles. The release was due to Kochenov’s state of health: he suffers from cancer and complications cause by chemotherapy.
CEO of the company Linnit-Consult Nikita Kolesnikov received a suspended sentence. The court sentenced him to five years.
Two more defendants in the case – former director of the State Center for Contemporary Art Mikhail Mindlin and businessman Andrey Kokushkin – are under a written undertaking not to leave the place.
By November 2016, all the defendants in the criminal case pleaded guilty. In the summer of 2017, "the restorers" completely paid the damage they caused to the country's budget.