Marat Oganesian: St Petersburg appointment sponsored by by thieves-in-law and thieves-in-construction
A new vice-governor on construction to be appointed in St Petersburg. The position is about to be filled with Marat Oganesian, ex-owner of a Moscow fitness club and a good friend of two thieves-in-law, Eduard and Sergey Asatrian. Governor Sergey Poltavchenko has already submitted his candidacy for approval by the Legislative Assembly. The first task entrusted to Oganesian is to finish the most expensive never ending construction, i.e. building Zenit-Arena worth 44 billion rubles. A banquet for this occasion has already been pre-ordered by St Petersburg constructors, in particular by Beslan Bersizov and Evgeny Rezvov, the co-owners of Stroitelny Trest. The new appointment guarantees immense incomes to the two businessmen. Before taking the new job, Oganesian was responsible for reconstruction of the Bolshoi Theatre where he successfully implemented the budget of 35.4 billion rubles, some of which went to RMinvest that he is the owner of. Then he easily disposed of 19.2 billion rubles allocated for constructing new premises for Mariinsky Thatre. Both Mariinsky Theatre director Velary Gerliev and the two businessmen, Bersirov and Rezvov, got quite a profit out of this project.
Marat Oganesian and Valery Gerliev discussing construction details for Mariinsky new premises
Timeline: from a fitness club to Bolshoi Theatre
Marat Oganesian was born in 1970 in Moldavia. In the mid 1990s he came to Moscow where he worked in several companies until he met Valeria Popovskaya, a businesswoman. In 1999 the two founded Novella XXI Ltd, a company that dealt in food retail. Later Oganesian and Popovskaya established MB Club, an elite fitness club in Moscow that provided its services to government officials, businessmen (mostly those coming from Armenia), and crime bosses. Oganesian made sure he established a lot of connections. As a result, the leader of the Armenian community Ara Abramian offered Marat to become CEO in CJSC Soglasie, a construction firm that belonged to him. At the same time Oganesian began to develop a construction business of his own. A second co-owner in this entity was Aleksey Svarichevsky, an influential entrepreneur who in the 1990s, according to the Russian Ministry of the Interior, was mentioned in several criminal cases, including the one on 1995 assassination of Aleksey Kryukov, head of security in Finance-Bank.
An unprecedented leap forward for Oganesian took place when he met one of the most influential thieves-in-law, Eduard Asatrian, a.k.a. Edik Osetrina, whose son Sergey is also a crime boss. Eduard Asatrian was a long-standing business partner to the king of the criminal world Aslan Usoyan a.k.a. Ded Khasan. Osetrina gave Marat a business partner, Razmik Khachikovich Asatrian who was a relative of his. The two founded a number of companies, including Space universal stroy and PMinvest. Almost immediatelly the companies were commissioned by Moscow authorities to carry out several profitable construction projects.
Oganesian's success is largely based on assistance from thief-in-law Osetrina
For a long period of time Space universal stroy worked with State Unitary Enterprice Office for reconstruction and development of unique objects. This cooperation was carried out in a rather strange way. Space universal stroy signed contracts with the SUE or other Moscow government entities, but the money was received by some over-night companies, which was stipulated in the agreements. The city authorities were quite happy about this way of doing business. When the president entrusted Yuri Luzhkov to take personal control of the Bolshoi Theatre reconstruction, the then mayor, who was by chance a good friend of Ara Abramian, lobbied Oganesian to head Managing office for construction, renovation and restoration at the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation that monitored the Bolshoi reconstruction. As a result, all the previous sub-contractors were removed from the project and were replaced by new ones including RMinvest founded by Oganesian and relatives of a thief-in-law Osetrina. A total of 35.4 billion rubles allocated from the budget for the Bolshoi were successfully appropriated. After that both the Russian Federation Court of Accounts and the Ministry of the Interior revealed numerous cases of misuse of funds, which sometimes were outright theft. A ballet dancer Nikolai Tsiskaridze informed reporters that instead of the old moldings the theatre decorations were of plastic or papier-mache on PVA glue, and supposedly bronze door handles and candelabra were simply iron with golden coating.
But none of this bothers Oganesian. He had already been transitioned to a different project appropriating the budget money allocated for the construction of a new stage for the Mariinsky Theatre.
Stroitelny Trest comes to power
In December 2011, Oganesian was appointed head of FSBI North West Managing office for Construction, Reconstruction and Restoration that was in charge of all work on the Mariinsky. Thus Marat emerged to the construction market in St Petersburg. The first local businessmen who stroke the right note with him were Beslan Bersirov and Evgeny Rezvov, the co-owners of Stroitelny Trest. They were introduced to Oganesian by Aleksey Belousov, the vice president of St Petersburg Builders Association and member of the city Legislative Assembly, and also a longtime business partner of Bersirov and Rezvov. Quite soon companies controlled by the two businessmen, including MDK-Invest and CJSC Ascon, became sub-contractors for the construction of the stage and other facilities for Mariinsky Theatre. Moreover, all this happened with the full approval of the director of the Mariinsky Theatre, famous conductor Valery Gergiev. On the one hand, he has long been a friend of Ara Abramian who along with Osetrina oversees Oganesian's activities. On the other hand, Gergiev has a fairly-established connection with Bersirov and Rezvov. They successfully took out state-allocated 500 million rubles from the charitable foundation of Valery Gergiev to their various construction projects.
Construction dealers Beslan Bersirov and Evgeny Rezvov
In March 2012, the Russian Federation Court of Accounts announced that the funds allocated for the reconstruction of the Mariinsky had been spent inefficiently. It was found that a total of 290 million rubles cannot be properly traces, which basically means they were stolen. Also, the auditors had concerns about gigantic advances (over 1.5 billion) transferred to the accounts of contractors and still remaining there for they are not yet covered in acts on conducted work. At the same time, a well-known theatre artist Marc Bornstein described the building created by the joint efforts of Oganesian, Gergiev, Bersirov and Rezvov as "a awful monster of steel and glass taking up a block on the banks of the Kryukov Canal. The building is not aiming to pretend to be a work of architecture, not even to imitate one, as some do, such as the building on Vladimirskyay square. No, this building is merely a function, a machine to hold performances. "
By that time there was no stopping for Oganesian as the budget source could not run dry. He drew the companies controlled by Bersirov and Rezvov to the restoration of the St. Petersburg State Conservatory named after Rimsky-Korsakov, which inflated the project costs from 3 to 6 billion rubles, and the Russian State Academic Bolshoi Drama Theatre named after Tovstonogov, increasing the estimated costs of this project from 1.5 billion to 4.2 billion rubles.
Now, the owners of Stroitelny Trest are about to embark on thier most profitable prospects. Well-connected as they are in the administration of St Petersburg, Bersirov and Rezvov were able to lobby to have their buddy Oganesian appointed vice-governor of the city. Market participants say that the two construction magnates have already started preparing a grand banquet for 300 people to celebrate a cater-cousin's appointment to the office managing all city construction projects.
1.3 billion down the drain
Bersirov and Rezvov are happy with the situation and it is understandable. After all, their friendship with Oganesian is not only a guarantee for big money, but also it is protection from the law enforcement agencies. Both with the help of Ara Abramian who is a trustee of President Vladimir Putin, and through his own connections among law enforcers, Marat not only avoids close attention of the investigators, but provides solid protection for his business partners as well. In fact, Bersirov and Rezvov may need such protection in the near future. Ministry of the Interior has decided to re-examine the theft that took place during the Novy Okkervil residential district construction by Stroitelny Trest and Otdelstroy, both fully owned by Bersirov and Rezvov. Three years ago the magnates were able to fight off the intrusive police. Time will show if they are able to get away with the theft this time as well. The story about what happened to the 1.3 billion allocated to the residential district construction was covered by online newspaper Fontanka.
Fontanka journalists found that the high-profile project for the construction of Novy Okkervil had irregularities. Project documentation did not pass state examination and construction permit was revoked. Directorate for Combatting Economic Crimes conducted an examination and was considering initiation of a criminal case on the theft of 1.3 billion rubles from the budget. The twist to the story is that it was the Federal Government that was the guarantor for the project.
On 18 October 2007 an agreement was concluded between Kudrovo Grad LLC and the government of the Leningrad Region. Regional authorities promised developers to create the conditions and provide all possible assistance to solve their difficult task, i.e. to construct a residential district for 20 thousand people. Kudrovo Grad, established by Otdelstroy and Stroitelny Trest, started construction works on an area of 50 hectares in the municipality Zanevskaya Rural Settlement in Vsevolozhsk district of Leningrad region near Kudrovo, north of Okkervil River. The project was estimated at the time at $ 1.8 billion.
The idea of building a new residential area was supported at the highest level. After Rosstroy certified Novy Okkervil project, the Russian government acted as guarantor of construction of municipal infrastructure and in June 2008 allocated 1 billion 355 million rubles to build utility network.
Soon those who had bought apartments in Novy Okkervil began to express serious concerns regarding the quality of work, the legal issues related to the purchase, and the process of construction itself. Rospotrebnadzor (Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights Protection and Human Welfare) and Glavstroynadzor (Federal Service for Supervision of Construction) shared the oppinion of the public, so the project did not get a positive conclusion in the state examination. “The investor has not solved the problem with the water and sewage networks (that is, precisely those things for the construction of which 1.3 billion was allocated from the federal budget. - Ed.)”, commented Valery Novatsky, Deputy Head of Rospotrebnadzor in Leningrad region and Deputy of Leningrad region Chief Medical Officer. “The entire apartment complex is cut off from water supplies as St Petersburg municipal water supplier has refused to connect the network and provide water, and Vsevolozhsk district capacities are simply not enough. Exactly the same is going on with the sewage.”
Law enforcement agencies drew their close attention to Otdelstroy. “Last week we finished a check, the results of which will enable us to decide whether we need to initiate criminal proceedings,” says a source in the Directorate for Combatting Economic Crimes. In his view, “the likelihood that the case will be filed is 99%.” Major violation that the company may face is holding construction works contrary to the decision of state examination committee. Perhaps, the investigators will even be able to answer the question of what the money allocated from the federal budget was spent on.
Dmitry Vasilchuk, especially for Rumafia.com