MOSCOW, July 23 (RIA Novosti) – Russia’s Investigative Committee opened two new criminal cases Tuesday into sales of Defense Ministry real estate, part of an ongoing investigation into alleged corruption at the ministry’s property service company Oboronservis that has implicated high-level government officials.
The cases relate to the sale of two Defense Ministry properties, including part of St. Petersburg’s 18th century Tauride Palace, according to a statement on the Investigative Committee’s website.
The building belonging to the Tauride Palace was sold in 2011 by the Defense Ministry’s property department for 376.5 million rubles ($11.6 million) to a “commercial structure created several months earlier and registered in Cyprus,” the Investigative Committee said. Experts estimate the property was sold for at least 75.8 million rubles ($2.3 million) less than its market value, according to the statement.
The other deal being scrutinized concerns a property sold in Moscow Region in 2011, subsequently turned into a shopping complex, for 42.8 million rubles ($1.3 million) – a price which investigators say was significantly lower than the market value of the property. The sale could have resulted in the state losing up to 50 million rubles ($1.5 million), the Investigative Committee said.
The two criminal cases are being folded into a wider investigation into alleged corruption at Oboronservis, according to the Investigative Committee.
Oboronservis, which deals with repair and maintenance of Defense Ministry installations, equipment and real estate, has been at the center of a series of high profile corruption scandals since last November, when several of its top executives were arrested on charges related to fraudulent real estate sales.
An investigation into Oboronservis' activities was the official reason given for the sacking of then Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov late last year. He has been questioned on two occasions by investigators and remains a witness in the case, the Investigative Committee said earlier this year.