MOSCOW (AP) Russian investigators are pressing graft charges against a former deputy governor of St. Petersburg linked to the construction of a trouble-plagued stadium that is to host World Cup matches in 2018.
The Investigative Committee said in a statement on Wednesday that Marat Oganesyan, the city’s deputy governor in 2013-2015, has been detained on suspicion of embezzling 50 million rubles ($777,000) on a single contract to supply display screens for the new stadium. It said Oganesyan arranged for a friendly subcontractor to win the contract and funneled the money out via shell companies.
Investigators said they have filed a motion with a local court to jail Oganesyan pending the probe.
One official in the St. Petersburg city hall as well as three employees of the subcontractor are also under investigation.
The stadium, provisionally called Zenit Arena, has taken almost a decade to build, prompting Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to publicly call it “disgraceful.” The stadium, which is to host the 2018 World Cup semifinal match, is set to cost more than $600 million. Until the ruble dropped sharply in value in 2014 against the backdrop of international sanctions and a low oil price, the same ruble budget was worth more than $1 billion, making it one of the most expensive soccer stadiums in history.
The St. Petersburg City Hall in July fired the general contractor over repeated delays and cost overruns, also saying that authorities have gone to the police because it has allocated $39 million for the construction which has been unaccounted-for. Later than month President Vladimir Putin issued a special decree, ordering officials in St. Petersburg to speed up the construction.
FIFA expects Zenit Arena to be delivered in December so that it is ready to host the Confederations Cup next year.