Russian ministry demands $2.3 mln from defendants in high-profile embezzlement case
MOSCOW, January 16 (RAPSI) – Russia’s Ministry of Culture has filed a lawsuit seeking to recover 133 million rubles (about $2.3 million) from defendants in the Seventh Studio embezzlement case, lawyer Irina Poverinova told RAPSI on Tuesday.
According to Poverinova, the ministry was recognized as the victim. The lawsuit has been lodged after completion of the preliminary investigation into the case against the Gogol Center theater director Kirill Serebrennikov and other defendants charged with embezzling budget funds allocated for arts promotion.
On Monday, the lawyer said that investigation into the criminal case had been completed.
Serebrennikov was arrested in late August and then placed under house arrest. In early November, Moscow’s Basmanny District Court seized assets belonging to Serebrennikov including apartment, car, and money in the amount of more than 360,000 rubles ($6,000), over € 60,000, and $4,000.
Investigators believe that he was an organizer of the budget money embezzlement. The defendant denied wrongdoing.
He allegedly created Seventh Studio stage company to actualize the Platforma project for promotion of art and invited other defendants into the organization.
Investigators believe that former head of the company Yury Itin, ex- general producer Alexey Malobrodsky, and former company’s chief accountant Maslyayeva were falsifying data for the Platforma project’s plans in 2011-2014 on request of the theater director. This data was provided to the Ministry of Culture as the rationale for financing from the state budget.
Earlier, Maslyayeva has testified against Serebrennikov. She said that Serebrennikov, Malobrodsky and Itin organized embezzlement of money allocated for a cultural event. Serebrennikov and Malobrodsky cashed the money with the assistance of Maslyayeva. The woman also said that she entered falsified data in financial reports.
Former official of Russia’s Culture Ministry and current director of the Russian Academic Youth Theater Sophia Apfelbaum has been also arrested and put under house arrest on embezzlement charges. According to investigators, from 2011 to 2014, Apfelbaum signed contracts on state grants in the amount of more than 214 million rubles ($3.7 million) with Serebrennikov’s Seventh Studio stage company on behalf of the Russian Culture Ministry, and provided further agreement of received reporting documents, which contained overstated information on quantity and cost of the held events. Thus, she has abetted the embezzlement of about 68 million rubles ($1.2 million) by Serebrennikov and his alleged accomplices, investigators claim.
Apfelbaum admitted that she controlled the movement of cash but pleaded not guilty to embezzlement.
One more defendant, producer Yekaterina Voronova, has been arrested in absentia and put on the international wanted list.