Cases of bribery or embezzlement are no longer a surprise to anyone. Ordinary citizens often associate them with politicians, officials and deputies, and they are not very far from the truth. The Ministry of Construction is one of the organizations that hit the news related to corruption scandals.

Chelyabinsk Activists

Last summer, the First Deputy Head of the regional Construction Ministry Ivan Belavkin was detained in Chelyabinsk. According to investigators, he received a bribe of about 1.2 million rubles ($14,922) from a representative of a commercial organization between December 2020 and March 2021. Belavkin was sent to the detention center. In December, the case was taken to court.

Law enforcers did not address the regional Ministry of Construction at once. At first, the investigation started being interested in Chelyaboblinveststroy, the “subsidiary” of the ministry. To be more precise, in the questionable contests that the organization conducted in the past few years.

Chelyaboblinveststroy was the customer which ordered the construction of medical and obstetric centers in Bredinsky, Agapovsky, and Oktyabrsky districts, as well as in the city of Kopeysk. As a result of the construction, the regional treasury lost 6 million rubles ($74,610.) The total amount of funds spent ineffectively is 11 million rubles ($136,785.)

On April 30, 2020, the Investigative Committee announced the initiation of criminal proceedings under Article 286 of the Criminal Code (abuse of power) against employees of the regional Ministry of Construction and Chelyaboblinveststroy over violations committed during the construction of the short track arena in the regional center.

In May, the Prosecutor's Office of the Chelyabinsk Region handed over documents on examination to investigators. They testified about the misappropriation of budgetary funds during the construction of two-story addition to the Chelyabinsk theater of opera and ballet. Around the same time, the regional Control and Accounts Chamber uncovered abuses during the construction of a biathlon center in Zlatoust.

Mikhail Azamatov, the manager and co-founder of the Stroitranssoyuz firm, which had been working on the construction of the regional short-track arena in Chelyabinsk and the Zlatoustinsk Biathlon Center, was detained in a criminal case.

Azamatov turned in the officials who supervised the construction: Tatiana Antonova, deputy head of the Chelyabinsk Ministry of Construction, and Konstantin Abaimov, director of Chelyablinsstroy, who were arrested on suspicion of bribery. The first was accused of receiving over 2 million rubles ($24,870) illegally, and the latter over 1 million rubles ($12,435.)

A year after their arrest, they were released from custody. “The pre-trial restriction was changed to a ban on certain actions for both of them,” said Irina Savinkova, consultant of the Traktorozavodsky District Court. “They are not allowed to visit the Ministry of Construction and Infrastructure of the Chelyabinsk region, the Ministry of Sport, certain offices and apartment buildings and communicate with certain individuals. There are more than 20 people on the list.”

Just a few days ago, another official of the Ministry of Construction of the Chelyabinsk region became a defendant in a criminal case. On January, 27 Evgeny Efimenko, the chief of the department of the state-building supervision of the ministry of construction of the Chelyabinsk region, was detained by employees of the Federal Security Service on suspicion of corruption. He was suspected of reception of a bribe according to item “c” Part 5 of article 290 of the Criminal Code. The investigating authorities of the regional Investigative Committee initiated a criminal case.

“According to investigators, in August 2021, the suspect illegally issued a conclusion to the entrepreneur on the compliance of the commercial facility with building standards,” said the department. “Moreover, there were serious violations. For this, the detainee received a bribe in the form of property services.”

According to some sources, Efimenko issued a conclusion of compliance with the norms to an entrepreneur, who was building a commercial facility on Igumenka Street, 173 (Meridian Road). Granting a discount for the purchase of the car in one of Magnitogorsk motor shows was regarded as a bribe. Efimenko's colleague, the head of the department from his department, acted as an intermediary in resolving the issue.

They are not Alone

On June 23, 2021, Yevgeny Glagolev, the head of the Department of Construction and Transport of the Belgorod region, was detained and suspected of taking a bribe of 10 million rubles ($124,350.)

The government of the Belgorod region responded to what happened to Glagolev by saying that the authorities had accumulated a lot of claims and questions to the construction sector in the region. Searches were conducted in the house and former office of the former head of the agency. He faced up to 15 years in prison, depending on the verdict of the court.

Last November, former Deputy Minister of Construction Yury Relyan was arrested in Irkutsk. He was accused of swindling in the execution of contracts for more than 100 billion rubles ($1.24 bln) for the modernization of the Baikal-Amur Mainline and Trans-Siberian Railway.

Relyan has been charged with large-scale fraud. “He was arrested and is now in pre-trial detention center-1 Irkutsk. The investigation of the criminal case is being supervised,” said a representative of the Prosecutor's Office.

A major criminal case was considered at the end of January this year in Transbaikalia. Dmitry Vatagin, Head of the region's Ministry of Construction, was found guilty of negligence in his service, due to which the budget of one of the region's urban districts received a loss of 1.6 million rubles ($ 19,896.) Vatagin's inattention cost him six months of correctional labor with a 15% deduction from his salary.

Nerchinsk’s community activists are outraged at the leniency of the sentence. “We are shocked especially because he is still a minister. When we submitted all the documentation we had collected about the violations to the investigating authorities a year ago, they thanked us and told us that the case was very serious. As a result, he got six months of corrective labor. One might be put in jail for a sack of compound animal feeding stuff or a loaf of bread stolen for two to three years. And here it is more than 1.5 million rubles ($18,652.5) damage to the district in our modest budget.”

In addition, Vatagin managed to give himself bonuses worth 16.5 million rubles ($205,177.5) for less than two years of work in the regional Gosexpertiza, a company subordinated to the Ministry of Construction. The lack of regulations for this bonus payment raised questions from the regional prosecutor's office, which demanded that the money be returned and that Vatagin be punished.

On February 4, 2022, the Kuybyshevsky District Court of Omsk imposed a pre-trial restraint for Vladimir Sychev, deputy minister of construction in the region.

“According to the investigation, the Deputy Minister of Construction, Transport and Road Management of the Omsk region Vladimir Sychev received a bribe in an especially large amount of over 1.5 million rubles ($18,652.5) from Head of a commercial organization for the patronage of the activities of a commercial organization. Currently, the suspects have been detained. Searches were conducted at their places of work and residence,” reported the press service of the Investigative Committee of the Omsk region.

He received this money from the businessman Dmitry Shestakov, who was charged with bribery. He and Sychev were arrested for two months.

Deputy Minister of Construction Vladimir Sychev was appointed on September 2, 2020. Before that, he ran the department of construction and urban planning policy of the regional Ministry of Construction.

Corruption on an especially large scale is one of the most serious problems in Russia and one of the reasons for the low standard of living in the country as a whole. In the Corruption Perception Index, the country is in 137th place in the world of 179 countries represented in the ranking. Russia shares this place with such countries as Papua New Guinea, Uganda, and Liberia. In general, it is no surprise to anyone in the country that a significant portion of public finances goes to the personal budgets of high-ranking civil servants.

Perhaps, the certainty of impunity is the main reason for corruption. When officials lose their power over the court, and it will judge them according to the law and not their contacts, then they will become much more defenseless in the fight against corruption and vulnerable to the media. In addition, without the rule of law, it will be impossible to guarantee at least some degree of punishment for bribery, since these penalties are an important additional tool for deterring corruption.

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