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Suspect Arrested in $1.65M Hermitage Museum Embezzlement

Published: January 15, 2014 (Issue # 1793)



  • The management of the Hermitage Museum denied any involvement in the embezzlement of funds for its renovations.
    Photo: George Shuklin

Police have arrested a Moscow businessman accused of helping to embezzle over 55 million rubles ($1.65 million) during the renovation of Russias most famous museum, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, the Interior Ministry said Tuesday.

Arkady Akhmechet has been charged with large-scale fraud, according to a statement posted on the ministrys website. The crime is punishable by up to 10 years in prison under Russian law.

Police said Akhmechet oversaw financial operations at construction firms that stole money after being contracted to restore buildings belonging to the Hermitage Museum Complex between 2010 and 2013.

Akhmechet is the second suspect named by police in the embezzlement scheme, uncovered by Russias Audit Chamber in July.

The Interior Ministry said Lenoid Tamarov, the director of a contracting firm involved in the restoration, fled Russia after the start of police investigations but died in Israel in September under unclear circumstances.

Russia is working with Interpol to establish the context of Tamarovs death, the ministry statement said.

An investigation into the embezzlement scheme was opened in September after Russias Audit Chamber said it had found violations in a contract worth 6.2 billion rubles ($190 million) to reconstruct the General Staff building in the Hermitage complex.

Police said the contractors, who agreed to construct glass ceilings over five courtyards on the complex grounds and equip them with anti-icing and snow removal systems, stole money by creating so-called double contracts that falsely billed money from firms that did not actually perform the work.

The management of the Hermitage Museum denied any involvement, saying it was only a client and was not involved in any financial aspect of the renovation.

Police said in September that a group of individuals were under investigation for their involvement in the case, though they have not yet publicly identified any additional suspects.

See also:

Costs Swell to $450M For Hermitage Museum Annex

Hermitage Makes Room for Manifesta





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meeting tonight at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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