Russia’s defence minister has secretly built a lavish £12 million palace outside Moscow, according to anti-corruption campaigners who specialise in exposing the greed of the regime’s elite.
Sergei Shoigu tried to conceal his ownership of the four-storey mansion, built in the style of a Chinese pagoda, according to research published by Alexei Navalny, the head of the Anti-Corruption Foundation.
Photographs of the property were released under the tongue-in-cheek headline «The Most Polite Palace». This was a reference to the «polite green men» — otherwise known as soldiers sent by Mr Shoigu — who seized the Ukrainian region of Crimea last year.
The defense ministry later adopted this term for its own slogans, including «politeness conquers cities».
The pictures show an imposing mansion with tilted roofs, ringed by generous grounds with exotic shrubbery, covering an area of about 9,000 square meters. The property is said to be located in the elite Barvikha estate near Moscow, known for being the home of billionaires and high-ranking officials.
Documents published by campaigners suggest that Mr Shoigu tried to hide his ownership of the palace by registering the property under the name of his daughter, Ksenia. In 2012, the estate was transferred to the formal ownership of one Yelena Antipina, a woman who shares the maiden name of Mr Shoigu’s wife. Campaigners believe she is Mr Shoigu’s sister-in-law.
The property is valued at about £12 million, but the Shoigu family’s total declared income for 2010-2012 was the equivalent of about £1.8 million
Georgy Alburov, the investigator who compiled the evidence, asked where Mr Shoigu could have found the money for such an expensive property. «That’s not a bad question for the Investigative Committee, is it?» he wrote.
Mr Alburov said that he was threatened while trying to conduct his inquiries. When he and his colleagues approached the home of Mr Shoigu’s sister-in-law, they were stopped and threatened by representatives of Russia’s Federal Security Service, the FSB, who accused them of plotting a burglary.
«In the police department, they immediately forgot about the ‘burglary’ and started talking about how, as it turns out, we were ‘collecting personal information on the relatives of those who are fighting in Syria to pass on to the Islamic State,’ and they described what would happen to us if we published this. I’m not joking, that’s exactly what they said,» wrote Mr Alburov.
The previous victim of these investigations was Dmitry Peskov, the official spokesman of President Vladimir Putin, who was accused of living in a mansion worth at least £4.7 million.
Russia’s military budget has risen by more than 50 per cent in the last four years, creating immense opportunities for corruption and self-enrichment. The previous defence minister, Anatoly Serdyukov, was sacked in 2012 and formally accused of fraudulently selling military property. Last year, he benefited from an official amnesty and the charges against him were dropped.
Mr Shoigu has not yet responded to the findings of the investigation.
Source: The telegraph