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Graft kings: Top 6 Russians accused of corruption & what their stolen money COULD buy

Graft kings: Top 6 Russians accused of corruption & what their stolen money COULD buy
Corrupt government officials have stolen billions from Russians. We look at the top 6 recent corruption scandals in Russia, from a city chief with 1,700 pieces of real estate to the police colonel with apartments full of rubles.

Runaway regional finance minister Aleksey Kuznetsov ($511 million)*

How it was stolen

The former finance minister for the Moscow Region now fully accepts the accusations of embezzlement of public funds and money laundering – worth a staggering $511 million – are true. He wasn’t always so cooperative. 

Aleksey Kuznetsov fled the country in 2008, as soon as a criminal case was launched and he found himself on an international wanted list. He was eventually arrested in Paris and sent back to Russia in handcuffs after several years. His wife, US citizen Janna Bullock, had been sentenced to 11 years in prison in absentia. The property seized from them included two hotels in France, apartments in Switzerland, dozens of antique paintings and sculptures, ten luxury cars and a yacht, among other things. 

What it could buy

The $500 million, which Kuznetsov snatched all for himself, is roughly the equivalent of what Pfizer invested in a Gene Therapy Manufacturing Plant, or as much as Saudi Arabia pledged to give the UN for “tackling” the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. The leftover $11 million is equal to what one hospital in Brisbane, Australia just invested in a new state-of-the-art operating theatre.

* All sums here and below are converted to dollars at rates valid at the time of the indictment.

Russia’s youngest senator Rauf Arashukov ($466.5 million)

How it was stolen

At the age of 30, Rauf Arashukov became the youngest senator in Russia. At 32, he made history again as the first senator to be detained within the walls of parliament during an Upper House session. In early 2019, the high-flying Arashukov was accused of murdering two people, attempting to pressure a witness, and membership of an organized crime group.

Investigators believe that the senator and his father, Gazprom adviser Raul Arashukov – along with accomplices in their home Republic of Karachay-Cherkessia in southern Russia – stole $466.5 million in gas from the state-owned company, using rogue firms. The former senator has denied any wrongdoing.

What it could buy

This week, the Getty Trust said it would invest $100 million to conserve at-risk antiquities around the world from things like climate change and sectarian violence. The amount allegedly embezzled by the Arashukovs would be enough to fund such a project four and a half times over, with plenty to spare.

‘Golden Colonel’ Kirill Cherkalin ($284.5 million)

How it was stolen

The media didn’t brand him the “Golden Colonel” for nothing, as stashes of cash worth $186.6 million in various currencies were allegedly found at the apartments belonging to Kirill Cherkalin and his two accomplices when he was arrested this April. 

The Federal Security Service (FSB) colonel stands accused of bribery and large-scale fraud. Prosecutors are also asking the court to seize a luxurious three-story mansion, as well as several apartments and land parcels valued at $97.7 million, which Cherkalin’s relatives allegedly purchased with illegally obtained funds.

What it could buy

With this amount of money, Cherkalin could have modernized 240 McDonald’s restaurants in Florida, or covered more than half the budget of “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” the seventh most expensive movie in history. Then again, stashing cash in apartments was a better deal, since the $275 million picture was a major flop. 

‘Real estate collector’ Aleksandr Postrigan ($140 million)

How it was stolen

A movie theatre, a boating station, a shopping mall, a children’s clinic, a public bathhouse, a kindergarten and a recreation center were among the impressive 1,700 pieces of real estate confiscated from Aleksandr Postrigan and his relatives on Tuesday. 

As a district chief in the Moscow Region, he had been using his high-ranking position to help his son’s business prosper for almost 15 years. During this time, the family obtained $140 million in property, but the long-running fairytale turned into a nightmare when Postrigan was detained in June 2018.

What it could buy

With his allegedly-stolen cash, Postrigan could have easily helped CNN pay the $70 million fine to settle a long-running labor dispute, as well as paying top anchor Anderson Cooper’s annual salary for seven years.

Corruption fighter Dmitry Zakharchenko ($140 million)

How it was stolen

He was tasked with fighting corruption, but it turned out that Dmitry Zakharchenko knew the subject a bit too well. The Moscow police colonel made headlines in 2016, when $140 million in various currencies was discovered at his sister’s apartment. 

The law enforcer struggled to explain the origins of the cash and Muscovites couldn’t figure it out either. There was even a joke circulating: “If the colonel has $140 million, then how much should a general have?” The court found Zakharchenko guilty of several cases of bribery and sentenced him to 13 years behind bars. 

What it could buy

If Zakharchenko had emigrated to the US, the $140 million could have paid for California Governor Gavin Newsom's new "vaping awareness" campaign seven times over.

Open Government Minister Mikhail Abyzov ($62.2 million)

How it was stolen

Just over a year ago, Mikhail Abyzov was a minister in the Russian government, overseeing the Open Government project aimed at making the Russian state more transparent. Now the designated do-gooder is in custody, awaiting trial. Abyzov faces charges of organizing a criminal group that embezzled $62.2 million from shareholders of two energy companies in Russia’s Novosibirsk Region in 2011.

The alleged crimes were committed before the businessman joined the cabinet. His lawyers offered the court a hefty 1 billion rubles ($15.5 million) for their client to be released on bail, but the judge declined the offer.

What it could buy

If he had really wanted to help out the government, Abyzov could have coughed up the cash to pay for (almost) two new Su-57 fighter jets, which go for $34 million a pop. He could have covered the rest from his personal wealth, which Forbes estimated at $600 million last year.

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