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Russian director Serebrennikov’s project cost more than budget funding, experts say

Kirill Serebrennikov is accused of embezzlement of Culture Ministry’s funds
Sofya Apfelbaum, Kirill Serebrennikov and Alexei Malobrodsky  Alexandr Sherbak/TASS
Sofya Apfelbaum, Kirill Serebrennikov and Alexei Malobrodsky
© Alexandr Sherbak/TASS

MOSCOW, August 16. /TASS/. A second probe by experts into the circumstances of the criminal case opened against stage director Kirill Serebrennikov, accused of embezzlement of Culture Ministry’s funds disbursed for the project Platform, has found that the project cost more than the funds the government provided, as follows from conclusions read out by a judge at a court in Moscow on Friday.

"The project Platform was a significant cultural event," judge Inna Akkuratova said. She cited the experts’ opinion the project’s costs were greater than the government subsidies. At the same time the experts failed to find out the way the money was spent as there were no accounting documents in the case. No other details were mentioned.

Serebrennikov’s lawyer Dmitry Kharitonov told the media the experts concluded that the theater project should have cost about 260 million rules ($3.9 mln) and even more, 300 million rubles ($4.5 mln) before the payment of taxes, while the government had provided a total of 216 million rubles ($3.2 mln).

"The experts arrived at the conclusion that the Seventh Studio saved about 80 million rubles ($1.2 mln)," the lawyer said, adding that the defense was satisfied by experts’ findings.

The lawyer of the former director of a department at the Ministry of Culture, Sofya Apfelbaum, one of the accused in the Serebrennikov case, Irina Poverinova said the experts’ conclusions were "excellent."

"Now that the experts’ opinion is available, there is no need for ordering reinvestigation. The prosecutor’s office may drop the charges," she said. The prosecutors refrained from comment.

The next hearing on the case is due on August 23, but it may be postponed because a lawyer will be on vacation.

Earlier, the court at its own initiative stopped hearings on the merits and ordered another comprehensive probe by experts into the artistic, financial and economic aspects of the case. The decision was made because the results of the previous examination made during the pre-trial investigation drew objections from the accused, whose lawyers argued that the experts lacked evidence to make conclusions and asked the court to order another probe. The lawyers believe the experts’ opinion are crucial for considering the case.

Seventh Studio affair

A court in Moscow on October 25, 2018 starting hearing on the merits the case of Kirill Serebrennikov, producers Yuri Itin, Alexei Malobrodsky and former employee of Ministry of Culture Sofia Apfelbaum. All of the accused had been released from custody in exchange for written promise not to leave town. Accountant Nina Maslyayeva pled guilty and stands trial separately. The court has returned her case to the prosecutor’s office for eliminating procedural violations.

The investigation argues that in 2011 Serebrennikov drafted a project called Platform for promoting and popularizing modern art. The Ministry of Culture in 2011-2014 provided more than 214 million rubles for the project. Serebrennikov created an autonomous non-commercial organization Seventh Studio, whose staffers drafted plans for activities within the framework of the project Platform that grossly distorted information about their number and costs. The investigators suspect that more than 130 million rubles of federal budget money was misappropriated in this way.