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Russian corruption scandals seem to be endless

January 25, 2013, 15:10 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

The reports about the corruption cases among high-ranking officials and massive misappropriations in Russia became as regular as the weather reports recently. And as usual as the weather forecasts. The Russians already get accustomed to this phenomenon, though sometimes they began to get infuriated again, when some particularly blatant details of the corruption scandals are exposed. Meanwhile, the corruption scandals are mushrooming.

The Russian Defence Ministry remains in the focus of these scandals. In this ministry the former defence minister, Anatoly Serdyukov, was fired last autumn over massive misappropriations, which were exposed in the holding Oboronservis affiliated with the ministry. A new scandal is fanning up in the ministry.

It was reported on Thursday that the Russian Interior Ministry exposed sweeping misappropriations of the budget funds, which were allocated to the Russian Strategic Missile Troops (RVSN) for the reclamation of the lands that envisages the dismantling of the missile silo launchers, which were decommissioned over the fulfilment of the Russian-US disarmament agreements.

The Russian Defence Ministry allocated 500 million roubles for these purposes in 2008 alone.

The police detectives found that the head of a RVSN department concluded a contract with the company, which his former subordinate ruled, over the recultivation of eleven firing positions in the Orenburg Region. The cost of the deal exceeded ten million roubles. The contract was fulfilled partially and with the inferior quality, but was accepted by the RVSN department and was paid fully by the Defence Ministry. The criminal case was opened for commercial bribery, fraud and abuse of powers.

This is not the first criminal case related with the corruption in the Russian Strategic Missile Troops. For instance, it was reported in November 2012 that this company recultivated the lands of a missile formation. The Russian Investigation Committee has exposed a major misappropriation to the tune of seven million roubles in this deal.

In this scandal the name of the former defence minister Anatoly Serdyukov, who is a witness in the criminal case over corruption and budget misappropriation in the company Oboronservis, was not mentioned. In fact, he is not formally involved in multimillion kickbacks of the RVSN officials. However, Serdyukov’s reputation was spoiled once again.

Now ten criminal cases over fraud and misappropriations by the senior officials of the Defence Ministry and the chief executives of the commercial companies were merged in one criminal case in the Oboronservis fraud case. The total damages, which the defendants in this criminal case inflicted, are estimated at 4-7 billion roubles.

A new criminal case can be opened against Serdyukov’s girlfriend – the former head of the department of proprietary relations of the Russian Defence Ministry, Yevgeniya Vasilyeva, the Kommersant daily reported on Friday. This time Vasilyeva, who is accused of the fraudulent sale of military sites, is facing criminal responsibility for misappropriations and abuse of powers. Tens of millions of roubles were cashed in false contracts with the open joint stock company Oboronservis. These massive funds were particularly used for the keeping of the servicing staff for Vasilyeva then.

On Thursday, Anatoly Serdyukov was interrogated by the detectives of the Russian Investigation Committee. Serdyukov was asked about the use of labour of the servicemen for the construction of a road leading to a real estate site, which belongs to his relative. A source, which the portal cited, said that a criminal case will be opened over this offence within a few days. However, Serdyukov will not most likely be a defendant or a suspect in this criminal case.

The affair of former agriculture minister Yelena Skrynnik, a massive misappropriation of 6.5 billion roubles from the budget funds, which were allocated for the development and creation of the Russian global navigation satellite system GLONASS and a huge theft of the budget funds, which were allocated for the preparations to the APEC summit in Vladivostok are also worth mentioning among the high-profile scandals, which marked the end of the previous year. The inspections in the Ministry of Regional Development and the Ministry of Health and suspicious credits of the state-run banks should be added to these scandals.

The accusations were not brought against the most high-profile figurants, Serdyukov and Skrynnik yet.

The corruption scandals also sparked up in the Moscow authorities. On Monday, the press has just reported about the detention of the head of the Moscow district authorities in Severnoye Medvedkovo that was caught red-handed taking a 3.5-million-rouble bribe, as a new shocking report was made on Tuesday. First deputy prefect of the Southern Administrative District of Moscow Oleg Malinin together with his son and another two accomplices was detained on extortion suspicions.

The suspected extortionists were detained red-handed “in a detective experiment” when taking a bribe of two million roubles, which they had been extorting from a certain representative of the commercial company “for no cancellation of the state contract and securing of a win at the auction conducted by the authorities in the Southern Administrative District of Moscow.”

The Moscow Region also sees corruption affairs. The number of violations of the anti-corruption legislation went up by more than a third in 2012 against 2011. Moscow Regional Prosecutor Alexander Anikin cited these statistical reports.

Many experts believe that the anti-corruption struggle launched on the instructions from the Russian leadership is time-serving. The state authorities deny this fact. “This is not a campaign, this is a consistent struggle to eradicate the corruption,” Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged recently. “It is needed to struggle not only in the top echelons of power, the Defence Ministry, but also in the streets, where state officials from some state agencies are extorting money sometimes, and in the social spheres, where the extortion cases are taking place as well,” Putin noted.

The current anti-corruption measures are needed, but “lowly efficient”, the Russian Public Chamber (some kind of people’s parliament, which was formed at the Kremlin initiative) acknowledged in its report over corruption for 2012. The Public Chamber believes that there are two main reasons for this fact: first, the state-run agencies are waging the anti-corruption struggle in the same state-run agencies; secondly, people are ready to pay for the settlement of their problems. The Public Chamber recommended to make open and accessible the information about the allocations of the budget funds, the salaries of the public servants and their incomes and to introduce open contests for the appointments on the posts in the state authorities. The Public Chamber believes that a law on public control should be enacted so that the civil society could control the state authorities.