Ex-Saint Petersburg official admits guilt in stadium scandal

AP, SAINT PETERSBURG, Russia

Fri, Nov 10, 2017 - Page 16

A Russian court on Wednesday said that a former deputy governor of Saint Petersburg has admitted to a fraud charge related to the construction of the city’s 2018 FIFA World Cup stadium.

The city court said that Marat Oganesyan, who was deputy governor from 2013 to 2015, admitted to helping to arrange the fraudulent payment of 50.4 million rubles (US$850,491 at the current exchange rate) for a display screen contract at the stadium.

Oganesyan was accused of arranging for a friendly subcontractor to win the contract, while knowing the subcontractor had no intention of using that payment to provide the screens.

Investigators on Wednesday said that Oganesyan admitted to his involvement as part a pretrial deal.

“He completely admitted his guilt in the acts in which he was incriminated, gave exhaustive evidence about other crimes and took steps to remedy the damage he had caused,” the Investigative Committee of Russia said in a statement.

Proceedings are continuing against Oganesyan and other people connected to the subcontractor, investigators added.

The 69,000-seat stadium, which is to host a semi-final of next year’s soccer World Cup, was plagued by cost overruns and delays before opening this year.

It took almost a decade to build, with progress so slow at one point that Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev branded the project “disgraceful.”

There have been a string of financial scandals, with city officials last year saying that millions of dollars could be unaccounted for.

The stadium also saw several workers die during construction.

Also on Wednesday, PSO Kazan, a company overseeing the construction of a World Cup stadium in Samara, Russia, criticized the behavior of a subcontractor in comments reported by the R-Sport news agency.

PSO Kazan accused the subcontractor of receiving 2.6 billion rubles in payments, but only doing a fraction of the work before declaring bankruptcy.