Rus­sian of­fi­cial faces cor­rup­tion charges over World Cup sta­dium

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Rus­sian in­ves­ti­ga­tors are press­ing graft charges against a for­mer deputy gov­er­nor of St. Peters­burg linked to the con­struc­tion of a trou­ble-plagued sta­dium that is to host World Cup matches in 2018.

The In­ves­tiga­tive Com­mit­tee said in a state­ment yes­ter­day that Marat Oganesyan, the city's deputy gov­er­nor in 2013-2015, has been de­tained on sus­pi­cion of em­bez­zling 50 mil­lion rubles ($777,000) on a sin­gle con­tract to sup­ply dis­play screens for the new sta­dium. How­ever, it could be only part of a much larger cor­rup­tion case.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors said Oganesyan ar­ranged for a friendly sub­con­trac­tor to win the con­tract and fun­neled the money out via shell com­pa­nies. In­ves­ti­ga­tors said they have filed a mo­tion with a lo­cal court to jail Oganesyan pend­ing the probe.

One of­fi­cial in the St. Peters­burg city hall as well as three em­ploy­ees of the sub­con­trac­tor are also un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion in re­la­tion to the 69,000-seat sta­dium, pro­vi­sion­ally called the Zenit Arena.

Cur­rent deputy gov­er­nor Igor Al­bin said on Twit­ter that “the to­tal sum of dam­ages at the sta­dium ... ex­ceeds 700 mil­lion rubles ($10.7 mil­lion),” cit­ing ev­i­dence pre­sented to the city govern­ment's con­struc­tion depart­ment.

“No ex­ter­nal events will in­flu­ence the con­struc­tion of the Zenit Arena now: the bud­get for the con­struc­tion is bal­anced and ev­ery­thing that is needed has been bought,” Al­bin added.

Yes­ter­day's an­nounce­ment came amid a blitz of cor­rup­tion­re­lated ar­rests and in­ves­ti­ga­tions in Rus­sia.

Late Mon­day, Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Alexei Ulyukayev was de­tained over an al­leged $2 mil­lion bribe, while yes­ter­day also saw re­ports of in­ves­ti­ga­tions at a state tech­nol­ogy firm and a he­li­copter man­u­fac­turer.

The St. Peters­burg sta­dium has taken al­most a decade to build, prompt­ing Prime Min­is­ter Dmitry Medvedev to pub­licly call it “dis­grace­ful.” The sta­dium, which is to host a 2018 World Cup semi­fi­nal match, is set to cost more than $600 mil­lion. Un­til the ru­ble dropped sharply in value in 2014 against the back­drop of in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions and a low oil price, the same ru­ble bud­get was worth more than $1 bil­lion, mak­ing it one of the most ex­pen­sive soc­cer sta­di­ums in his­tory.

The St. Peters­burg City Hall in July fired the gen­eral con­trac­tor over re­peated de­lays and cost over­runs, also say­ing that au­thor­i­ties have gone to the po­lice be­cause it has al­lo­cated $39 mil­lion for the con­struc­tion which has been un­ac­counted-for. Later than month Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin is­sued a spe­cial de­cree, or­der­ing of­fi­cials in St. Peters­burg to speed up the con­struc­tion.

FIFA ex­pects Zenit Arena to be de­liv­ered in De­cem­ber so that it is ready to host the Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup next year.

There have also been sev­eral deaths of work­ers dur­ing con­struc­tion. In the past 12 months, three have died in ac­ci­dents, and in­ves­ti­ga­tors said Tues­day a North Korean man work­ing on the sta­dium had died of an ap­par­ent heart at­tack in a work­ers' com­mu­nal area at the sta­dium.

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