Tverskoy Court of Moscow began to consider the criminal case against Igor Zotov, now the former administrative manager of the famous conductor and head of charities Valery Gergiev. He is accused of embezzling 245 million rubles from the charities headed by his former boss. However, this money is just the tip of the iceberg in a series of dubious financial transactions by Gergiev's charities. In several years about half a billion rubles was transferred to firms controlled by the St. Petersburg construction magnates, 52-year-old Beslan Bersirov and 76-year-old Evgeny Rezvov. All this money was spent not on promoting the Mariinsky Theatre and helping talented children, as stated in the Charter of the charities, but for the construction of real estate. Put it bluntly, it got stolen. In fact, it is not the first time that Bersirov and Rezvov are involved in such scams, including those relating to children. And they always go unpunished, helped out by thier endless connections in law enforcement agencies of St. Petersburg and the Smolny.
St. Petersburg construction magnates con out 500 million rubles from maestro Gergiev
Igor Zotov had been the right hand of Valery Gergiev for ten years and was responsible for the funding of all projects by the maestro, including those associated with the Mariinsky Theatre. He was also the head of an independent non-profit organization Music Festival "Stars of the White Nights”, the Valery Gergiev Charitable Foundation, and Moscow Easter Festival.
The story of this major fraud begins in the mid-2000s. At that time they were looking for a contractor to reconstruct the Mariinsky Concert Hall on 20 Pisarev Street, to build a secondary facility for the storage of decorations, and to set up a storage facility of the theatre in Shushary suburban area. This issue was monitored by Zotov and Kazbek Lakuti, one of the leaders of the Valery Gergiev Charitable Foundation and a close relative of the maestro. Lakuti knew Beslan Bersirov, the co-owner of CJSC Stroitelny Tsest that specializes in the construction of residential houses in Saint-Petersburg and Leningrad region. Bersirov advised to commission MDK-Invest to construct the facilities for the Mariinsky Theatre. In fact, the company was controlled by Bersirov and Evgeny Rezvov, the other co-owner of Stroitelny Tsest. MDK-Invest was in fact a subsidiary of Petrostroykomplekt owned by businessman Efim Irzak. At the same time, Yefim Irzak is the junior partner of Bersirov and Rezvov. The three jointly own CJSC Baltstalppokat PLUS and other companies.
MDK-Invest got down to its commitments for the Mariinsky Theatre in a swift and timely manner. Meanwhile, Zotov and Lakuti received a new business proposal from Bersirov and Rezvov.
Gergiev's charities did not rush to hold costly festivals. At the same time, hundreds of millions of rubles earmarked for cultural activities and charitable purposes remained unused in their accounts. The essence of the sources the money came from is very vague. There is every reason to believe that they were allocated by the state.
Bersirov and Rezvov advised Gergiev's aides to invest charitable funds in real estate on its last stages of construction and then sell the property for a higher price. Some of the money could be used to close shortfalls on the foundation's account, and the remaining part could be left as profits for themselves. Constructors would have the investment they needed so badly, no interest rates imposed or banks to go to.
During interrogation Valery Gergiev claimed that all these financial manipulations were conducted illicitly behind his back. But it is difficult to believe that even a very art-enthusiastic person did not notice that fund accounts lacked 500 million rubles, a total that went to the constructors.
The scheme devised by Bersirov and Rezvov was very simple. Charitable foundations are not allowed to engage in commercial activities, but the law does not prohibit them to lend funds. As a result, Gergiev's charities transferred money to construction companies under the guise of loans. Constructors then allocated apartments for that sum of money and the apartments were registered as owned by third party individuals. Then Gergiev's charities issued permissions to some over-night companies to collect the loaned money for them. Most of such companies were registered in Kabardino-Balkar republic where Bersirov had long-standing well-established connections. Construction companies repaid their debts only on paper and the over-nights disappeared. But this was where the scheme went wrong. The apartments have been sold, but the real money was never put back on Gergiev's funds accounts. It is not clear where the money went after all.
For example, the Valery Gergiev Charitable Foundation allocated a 100 million rubles loan to MDK-Invest. In late 2012 LLC Petrostroykomplekt addressed the Arbitration Court and bankrupted MDK-Invest that still had that unpaid debt to Gergiev's charity. And there is no chance to get the money back as MDK-Invest has almost no assets.
The Valery Gergiev Charitable Foundation and Stars of the White Nights on the advice of Bersirov and Rezvov transferred almost 400 million rubles as a loan to another construction company, Asmato, engaged in construction of apartment blocks in Moscow. The supervisor of this project was Beslan Bersirov's son Artur. Those who attended the XII St. Petersburg International Economic Forum can still recall Artur Bersirov, Igor Zotov and Kazbek Lakuti constantly discussing how wonderful their way of appropriation of the charity money is. And they meant it. Money allocated to Asmato never made their way back into the foundation as well.
As a result, by 2011 there was a gigantic 500 million rubles gap in the charitable funds headed by Gergiev. There was no way to hide the lack of such an immense sum of money. Moreover, people familiar with the situation voiced two possible scenarios. One is that the financial transactions took place with the approval of the maestro, and then he decided to blame it all on Zotov. According to the other version, Zotov and Kazbek Lakuti along with Bersirov and Rezvov simply decided to stiff Gergiev. One way or another, in 2011 Zotov was sent to jail and now his case is about to be heard in court. However, all the other participants in the scheme escaped prosecution. In fact, it is not the first time that Bersirov and Rezvov get away with such dubious activities.
Fake Hero of Labour and a wrestler with influential friends
In 2008, many St. Petersburg mass media outlets were promoting a letter by Evgeny Georgievich Rezvov, allegedly a Leningrad siege survivor, a member of the Academy of Sciences, and Hero of Labour. In his letter he said that the St. Petersburg Committee of State Control, Use and Protection of Monuments curbs the possibility for seriously ill children to be treated in a modern building. This statement concerned Children's Hospital of bone tuberculosis on 12 Murinsky prospekt. He claimed that some investors are willing to commission a thorough renovation work at the premises and to build a new modern hospital in the northern part of the city. But the committee would not allow it, allegedly. "Sick children will continue to get sick and die," says the Hero of Labour in conclusion to his letter. In fact, he failed to mention several things. Fact is, this so-to-say remarkable project of renovation and construction was commissioned to CJSC Stroitelny Trest owned by Rezvov, who was born in 1936. The company decided to do the following: take down Olgin priyut, the monument of architecture built in 1911 in which the children's clinic is, and build a hotel and residential complex in its place in the luxury centennial garden. The children's hospital was to be send to the outskirts of the city with uncertain prospects of a new building to host it.
Evgeny Rezvov also forgot to mention many other facts. For example, that his titles of the member of the Academy of Sciences and Hero of Labour were awarded by International Academy of Social Sciences (MAON), established by Vazgen Shmavonovich Hudoyants. For a fee the Academy will award any citizen with a title and one of its orders. It looks like Rezvov bought quite of a batch of these. Within a short period of time the Academy awarded him the Order of the Revival of Russia in XXI Century, a third degree Order of Saint Demetrius of Moscow, diploma for valorous work for the glory of the Fatherland, etc. Rezvov does not hesitate to include all these regalia, especially the Hero of Labour, in his official biography.
Some Petersburgers had doubts that he was a siege survivor. That, however, is a fact. His name even appears in memoirs of Myra Samsonovna Razumovskaya, a kindergarten teacher who in 1942 accompanied a group of children during their evacuation from Leningrad to Zheleztsovo village on the banks of Unzha. Nevertheless, her impression of "the black-haired gloomy Zhenya Rezvov" is quite a bad one. Children had to take turns to keep fire in the stove in one of the rooms. Once Evgeny did not wait for the embers to have burned completely, closed the stove damper, and went to sleep in another room. As a result, a group of kids died from carbon monoxide poisoning in sleep in the room where the stove Evgeny was to watch was.
In the 1950-60s in St. Petersburg Evgeny Rezvov was a thief who went under the nickname Zhenya Rezvy (TN: Russian for “quick”). He even has a criminal record, which he tries not to mention.
Beslan Bersirov, another co-founder of CJSC Stroitelny Trest, was born in 1958 in Abkhazia, then studied in Kabardino-Balkaria where he did wrestling for sports. As a result, Beslan still keeps in touch with many former fighters from the region, some of whom have joined various criminal groups. However, Bersirov calls Adygea his homeland and there is a reason for that. According to investigators, it was Hkazrem Tliap a.k.a. Tliap, an influential crime boss from that region region assassinated in 1999, who helped Bersirov to become a businessman and assisted him in successful development of CJSC Stroitelny Trest.
Mr. Beslan has 2 sons. The first one, Anzor , who got his education in London, became the top manager of Stroytrest LLC. The second son, Arthur graduated from Saint Petersburg State University, the faculty of foreign affairs. During his studying he mixed-up with a bad company and was involved into home burglary and the burglary from the office of Stroytrest. As a result father sent him to Moscow. At first Beslan Bersirov found to his offspring a job of a specialist in the department of State Duma responsible for ethnicity affairs, then to the subsidiary structure of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation –The International Center of Scientific and Cultural Cooperation of Russia (Rossotrudnichestvo).
And there again Arthur had a finger in the pie. Alexander Gusev, the deputy director of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the head of Rossotrudnichestvo laid a tribute on all companies involved into different arrangements of the center. Arthur Bersirov was helping him to skin businessmen. As a consequence Gusev was arrested by the members the Federal Security Service; Bersirov was named in the criminal case, but he managed to escape responsibility under mysterious turn of events. And his father made him the deputy director of foreign affairs in Stroytrest. Bersirov is an active participant of the “white ribboned” group. He supports the opposition, writes at certain message boards that he “feels abused” after Putin was elected as a president, takes part in all remonstrative meetings .But he will dubiously be arrested, for instance, on Bolotnaya Square case.
All the more how can Arthur Bersirov complain on current authorities? His father has the enormous support from bureaucrats, sometimes it feels that he is an employee of state in some case. For example, Beslan Bersilov and Evgeny Rezvov junketing around Saint-Petersburg on two new cars Audi A8L with federal number plates O074MP98 and O075MP98.
All the recent years the supervising of prosperity of Stroytrest in the Administration of Saint-Petersburg was under responsibility of Alexander Ort and Igor Metelsky (the vice governor of the city), they have recently left their positions).Sometimes situations became laughable. In the beginning of September, the governor of the city Georgy Poltavchenko planted a tree in Sosnovka park and gave the public promise to the citizens that he will never admit any widespread building works. And a month later the major part of this territory (where the cycle race track is situated) was fenced and the massive deforestation started. It meant that Stroytrest began to carry out a project of building a housing estate.
What to say about the ordinary people who buy flats in these houses if even the opinion of the governor does not mean anything to Rezvov and Bersilov? For the period 2003-2009, Stroytrest llc was building a housing estate in Saint-Petersburg (building 2, 15 Kolomyazhskiy prospect).The housing scheme was formalized in the city development plan №RU78178000-952, approved by the State Committee for Urban Development and Architecture. Within the all stages of construction, including granting of permissions, implementation of building inspection and bringing certain objects into service, the violation of city building, housing and land laws which is unacceptable without the help of powerful officials can be noticeable. The majority of these violations require criminal liability.
The detailed information about the illegal measures of the managers of Stroytrest and their copartners was not only sent to law-enforcement agencies, but also to Alexander Bastrykin, the head of Investigation Committee of the Russian Federation, Andrey Lavrenko (the head of Investigation Committee of the Russian Federation in Saint –Petersburg ), Sergey Litvinenko - the Prosecutor-General of Saint Petersburg, Georgy Poltavchenko-the governor of the city , Presidential Administration and Chief Executive of the country. The replies were signed by the ordinary performers and regularly contained the expatiative answers on minor questions, without any comments on the main problems.
And every reply brought more and more understanding of the fact that the Russian legal system guarantees the compliance with laws and the punishment of legal irregularity only in case of direct interest in investigation of certain law enforcement officers. If there is no interest- nothing can get the jurisdiction machine moving.
Untouchable officials and builders
This case has been fleshed out .The numerous official documents are represented in the article by Rossiiskaya Gazeta.
And the first thing which hits the eye is the fact that no criminal investigation was opened either of the heads of Stroytrest Evgeny Rezvov and Beslan Bersirov or of state officials whose names were mentioned in the claims of the inhabitants of the house on Kolomyazhskiy prospect.
We are reading in claims: ”In housing code violations and construction norms and rules of civil engineering” Stroytrest llc built a multilevel car park ,which was not mentioned in the city development plan, on the territory of the housing estate on 15 Kolomyazhskiy prospect (building 2)”.
Is it the violation? For sure, say experts. Only the city development plan is the document which specifies the objects and their configuration on the place given to the real estate developer. It does not allow any improvisation without official updating of the City Development Plan.
Going further. ” Nevertheless in February 2008 the head of the State Construction Supervision and Expertise Department of Saint-Petersburg Alexander Ort, granted Stroytrest llc the permission to build the parking lot which does not exist in the city development plan, and in December 2009 the use permit.
Is it affordable? I open the Town-Planning Code of the Russian Federation and find the following: ”according to the articles 51 and 55 the building permission and the use permit can be granted only if the object fits in with the city development plan.
The discrepancy between the capital construction object and the requirements to the land plot of the city development plan is the reason for rejecting of granting a permission.
The parking lot is situated on the land plot which belongs to the real estate owners. And after the first flat was purchased, not Stroytrest but those who bought flats in this house became the owners of the land plot who, as we know were not asked about the granting the approval of building car park there. Whence, as lawyers consider, the violation of the interests of inhabitants of the house is obvious.
We have the illegality of this action here, the permission was granted with the violation of the articles of the Town-Planning Code. There is a public danger: having been granted the permissions illegally, the directors of Stroytrest gained the opportunity to use the other person’s property at their own discretion. And finally, Mr. Ort signed these permissions!
And he realized that he could sign only the permissions approved by the City Development Plan, and he realized the consequences of the violation of the law.
The article 286 of the Criminal Code of the Russian federation says: the comission by an official of actions which transcend the limits of his powers and which involve a substantial violation of the rights and lawful interests of individuals or organizations, or the legally-protected interests of society and the State is qualified a exceeding official powers. And if this deed has been committed out of mercenary or any other personal interests the State is qualified as 285,the abuse of official powers.
But how did law-enforcement authorities comment upon the violation of these Articles by Mr. Ort. It comes out that the claims of the house inhabitants were sent to the public prosecution office. ”The construction of the open car park does not fit with the city development plan, and the all the documents were sent by the public prosecution office of the city to the Regional Office of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for further inspections according to the Articles 144-145 of the Criminal Code of the Russian federation.
And here is a very interesting reply: “during the inspection in was stated that all the claims come down to the contestation of actions of the head of the State Construction Supervision and Expertise Department Mr. Ort, who granted the building permission.”
What does it mean? Is it just inability or unwillingness of the authorities to take processual measures to Mr.Ort?
The last question is particularly relevant, because the house on 15 Kolomiazhskiy prospect is not the only building project of Stroytrest where violations of law were detected.
What kind of difficulties do the law-enforcement authorities face? Is the position of the authority of the State Construction Supervision and Expertise Department (currently former) too high? Or is it the affluent position of the directors of Stroytrest ltd, without which it was no sense for Mr. Ort to violate the law?
There are many questions to ask, and the majority of them are to be asked aloud. Especially after reading the next reply to the bidders, where it was written that as far back as on 06.07.2012, the copies of the claims to Mr.Ort were sent to the public prosecution office of the city. But what a misfortune… “the prosecution office did not receive any materials considering the head of the State Construction Supervision and Expertise Department”.
Nonetheless the deeds of Mr. Ort-says one of the bidders Svetlana Sklyar, - is just a link in a chain of violation of law on Kolomiazhskiy prospect.
According to the Rossiiskaya Gazeta newspaper, Stroytrest ltd made a claim for the Government of Saint-Petersburg. In this claim the Government of Saint-Petersburg was to pay 144 million rubles to Stroytrest which were promised to the company because of the purchasing of the land plot which belonged to it for state needs (the building of the school).
The first instance arbitration court sustained the claim because the representatives of the Government of Saint-Petersburg, the committee on housebuilding, Saint Petersburg state establishment The Fund of Permanent Buildings and Facilities Construction did not even appear before the Court but also did not provide the statement of defense.
And the Court had to accept the cost of the land plot offered by Stroytrest ltd, because it was not litigated by the defender.
But hopefully the press interfered. The appellate appeal was sent to the Government of Saint-Petersburg and at court session on 20 .09.2011, the representative of Stroytrest ltd abandoned the claim. And the budgeting funds did not leave the treasury. But again nobody from the law-enforcement authorities took interest in it.