Sergey Kelbakh’s Case is a bit too Thin

Sergey Kelbakh’s Case is a bit too Thin

The court extended the term of house arrest of Sergey Kelbakh, the former head of Avtodor State Company. Shortly before this event, Russian President Vladimir Putin called the largest project in this area the highway which ...

... will connect the European part of the country with the Volga region, the Urals, and Western Siberia.

Ironically, it was Kelbakh who presented this project to the President in October 2014 at a meeting of the State Council. Shortly thereafter, Avtodor opened the first sections of the Moscow-St. Petersburg high-speed road to traffic, and in the same 2014, under Kelbakh's supervision, a pre-project for the Crimean bridge was made in a very short time.

How come that a man who is capable of implementing large-scale and extremely important infrastructure construction projects for our economy has not been able to work for the benefit of his country for more than six months at a difficult time for Russia? Why was the criminal case initiated against Kelbakh, who has been under house arrest since October 2021 and might be put in jail? The answers to these questions could make the trial scandalous.

Shota Gorgadze, a member of the Human Rights Council under the President of Russia, believes that the case against Kelbakh is blatantly biased. “There is “a certain ultimate beneficiary who wants to put a respectable person in prison” in the criminal prosecution of Sergey Kelbakh, former Chairman of Avtodor,” he said, commenting on the situation.

The very history of the prosecution of the former head of Avtodor is illustrative. In March 2019, when the criminal case was initiated, Kelbakh was tried to be charged with the theft of more than 2 billion rubles ($35.6 mln), but during the preliminary investigation, the charge was changed to “abuse of authority.”

The investigation pointed out Kelbakh's self-interest and place-hunting as motives for committing the crime. The self-interest allegedly consisted in his desire to receive annual bonuses based on the results of works, the legitimacy of which is not disputed by the investigation and his place-hunting in the desire to remain in the position of Chairman of the Management Board of Avtodor State Company.

According to Kelbakh's lawyer Oleg Vyshinsky, the main points of the accusation are the performance of design works on one of the sections of the Central Ring Road and giving consent to the executors of the works on the first and fifth complexes of the Central Ring Road (Crocus International and Ring Highway) to pay commissions on bank guarantees from the funds transferred for the construction.

“Payment of commissions on bank guarantees by Crocus International and Ring Highway could not cause damage to the budget of the Russian Federation, as it was made at the expense of the profit that these companies received during the construction of the Central Ring Road, without any additional compensation of these costs from the state,” says Vyshinsky.

In addition, Kelbakh was accused of abuse of office for implementing collegial decisions taken by the Supervisory Board of Avtotor State Company, which included representatives of the executive and legislative authorities, the lawyer emphasizes. He also reminds that the planning works for the territory of the Central Ring Road start-up complex № 2 were performed on the basis of the order of the Federal Road Agency, passed state expert examination, was accepted in full without any comments by the Federal Road Agency, the Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation and the Government of the Russian Federation. Based on the results of these works amendments were made to the territorial planning scheme of the Russian Federation and other regulatory documents, the lawyer emphasizes.

Senator Elena Afanasyeva, in turn, had questions to the Ministry of Transport, where Sergey Kelbah worked. “It was their strategy, which he implemented. If it was not their strategy, why did they keep him for so many years?” she asked.

“This criminal case will become a meaningful action for every official, who from now on will be afraid to show initiative in their work,” said Afanasyeva.

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