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CORRUPTION

Special-purpose stewardess. How Shoigu's mistress made billions on government contracts

Former Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov resigned amid a corruption scandal involving his mistress Yevgenia Vasilyeva (both ended up getting off easy). The Insider has learned that the current minister, Sergei Shoigu, is not much different from his predecessor. After getting into an affair with Shoigu, stewardess Elena Shebunova suddenly became a billionaire and earned a mansion on Rublevka next door to the Rotenberg Palace on contracts with the Ministry of Emergency Situations and the Ministry of Defense.

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  • Flight attendant taking off. How the minister's mistress came to success

  • Sewing, food and construction billions from the Defense Ministry

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Flight attendant taking off. How the minister's mistress came to success

In 2006, the Express-gazeta tabloid published an article that did not get much resonance at the time, entitled «Shoigu's illegitimate son. Daniil, 6, was conceived in an airplane of the Ministry of Emergency Situations.» Specifically, the article stated:

«According to a venerable elder, a neighbor of the noble family in the elite cottage community - Alexander Ivanovich, a certain Elena Sh-va worked as a stewardess on the plane of the Ministry of Emergency Situations and accompanied the best minister of Russia on all his cumbersome business trips. And once, during the return from the hardest expedition, full of courage and heroism, dead-tired Shoigu (because he works as hard as a red commissar) could not resist the charms of the beautiful blonde. Soon after, a charming baby boy was born, whom Sergey and Elena named with the beautiful name of Daniil.»

Photo from the Express-gazeta
Photo from the Express-gazeta

The article was about Elena Shebunova. In 1999 (when she was 26) she got a job at the State Unitary Enterprise Pishchevik within the system of the Ministry of Emergency Situations. «We deliver meals anywhere in the world where Russian rescuers operate,» the organization said on its website. Pishchevik is part of the ministry's air unit. Danila (not Daniil) Sergeevich was born to Elena Shebunova on March 6, 2001. The minister's official biography has no mention of such an episode, he only admits to having children by his wife Irina, with whom he's been married since his college years and has two daughters, one of whom - Ksenia - bought two land plots on Rublevka worth about $9 million at the age of 18.

The relationship between Elena Shebunova and Sergei Shoigu is confirmed by two sources within the Ministry of Emergency Situations system. According to them, their love affair lasted until 2017.

Danila turned 18 this spring, and there is no information about the minor's property in the Defense Minister's tax declarations for the past years. If Shoigu had officially become the father, he would have been required to declare his child's apartment as the property of a member of Shoigu's family: Danila Shebunov, according to an extract from the Rossreestr, available to The Insider, owns real estate in Zelenograd. He inherited the property from his grandmother, Galina Shebunova.

Danila (left)
Danila (left)

Danila's social media page is hidden, but The Insider found his teenage photos in other users' accounts. The resemblance between Danila and Sergei Shoigu is striking.

Last year he graduated from the CSKA sports school. Danila plays soccer as a forward. Now he is declared as a player of the Tula Arsenal youth team in the Russian Premier League. The club is sponsored by defense enterprises.

The young man studied at the President private school in Zhukovka and even directed a film called «The Weapon of Power» shown at a festival of «non-adult cinema.» Shebunova's 11-year-old daughter Dasha now studies at the same school, The Insider has learned. She also looks like Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. Dasha is also a gifted child, she was the winner of the Moscow International Children's and Youth Arts Festival Orpheus.

Dasha Shebunova (photo from the school's website)
Dasha Shebunova (photo from the school's website)

After the birth of her first child (since her affair with Shoigu began), Danila, things went uphill for Elena Shebunova. One can tell just by looking at what cars she buys. If before Danila's birth she used to drive a VAZ 21083 and an old Honda, almost immediately after she bought a Mercedes-Benz and a golden Lexus RX 330. Then she bought a BMW i3, a Toyota Land Cruiser and other cars. Her latest acquisition is a Mercedes-Benz GLS 350D 4MATIS (priced at nearly 6 million rubles). Judging by the fines found by The Insider, the Minister's mistress often violates traffic rules on Kutuzovsky Prospekt on the way to her apartment on Akademika Pavlova Street. An interesting coincidence - the 181 m² apartment was inherited by Shebunova from Andrei Chizhik, co-owner of JSC Specialized Builder MKSM, a contractor of the Ministry of Emergency Situations.

Shebunova's main acquisition was a gigantic estate worth 1.5 billion rubles in the elite village of Zhukovka, next door to the oligarchs Rotenbergs. On the plot of woodland, there are several houses – the mistress's mansion, a servants' house and a garage with multiple cars. It is easy to get there from the apartment Shebunova owns near the Rublevskoe highway.

Shebunova's mansion
Shebunova's mansion

She inherited the land from Mikhail Kochetkov, one of the major contractors of the Russian Defense Ministry. Kochetkov owns LLC Holding OSK Group, which receives contracts from the Defense Ministry's Main Military-Construction Directorate #4. All in all, that company and two others, also controlled by Kochetkov, have ingested more than half a billion rubles in government contracts. According to Open Media, the market value of the land plot alone must be at least 600 million rubles. Together with the house and all the infrastructure, the market value of the properties must exceed one billion rubles. Besides, Shebunova became the owner of an expensive restaurant (she had been responsible for catering back in the day!) on Minskaya Street. However, the restaurant was not popular and when The Insider's correspondent visited it, he was the only customer. Perhaps, it was due to a very peculiar interior design.

Restaurant at 10 Minskaya Street
Restaurant at 10 Minskaya Street

The prices at that place with exquisite interiors matched the pompous atmosphere. A salad cost 720 rubles, two hash browns cost the same amount, and a pitcher of fruit drink cost 500 rubles. <The Insider treacherously refused to compensate the correspondent for the lunch>. But the food tasted really good.

«It's a very strange place. Luxury cars are always parked nearby, but there're no customers inside,» says one of the few reviewers on TripAdvisor. Nor will there be any - on June 12, the day after The Insider's visit, the restaurant closed.

Where did the money come from? It's not hard to guess.

Sewing, food and construction billions from the Defense Ministry

Shebunova earned her billions from deals with Shoigu's entities. For example, her company absorbed 3 billion rubles to construct military camps. In 2014, Shebunova became a co-owner of the St. Petersburg company Spetsstroikonstruktsiya LLC. That same year the company leased production lines for light steel structures from Spetsstroi-Leasing CJSC. (Spetsstroi-Leasing is a subsidiary of GVSU #14, a company within the Ministry of Defense system). Thereafter Shebunova's firm began to supply finishing materials to the Defense Ministry (albeit via another company, GVSU №12) for the construction of military camps, acting as an intermediary between the two military enterprises. Later, the Arbitration Court found that the company did not even make payments due under the lease contracts with the Ministry of Defense companies. But by that time Shebunova had already ceased to be the LLC's founder. At the moment, 100% of the company, which stopped paying the rent for its office, is registered in the name of Sherzod Meliev. A man with that name works as a cab driver in St. Petersburg. Other companies affiliated with Shebunova have also won government contracts. Until August 2018, she owned a 30% stake in Lift Innovations LLC. It earned 60 million rubles from services rendered to the Moscow City Property Management Center and other government agencies. Shebunova also founded (and liquidated last fall) Phoenixconsultgroup LLC. Its director was Natalya Bondarenko, who through her firm AFK provided cleaning services in and around the dormitories of the Administration Academy of the Russian Internal Affairs Ministry (342,000 rubles).

Elena Shebunova
Elena Shebunova

Another business partner of Shebunova is Vladimir Pavlov. Together with him, they opened the Grossbeef restaurant. Last October, Pavlov headed the joint-stock company Voentorg JSC, which provides catering services and saws military uniforms for the Ministry of Defense. Voentorg is also responsible for the operation of barber shops, ateliers, laundries and bathhouses in garrisons. People and companies associated with the mother of Shoigu's illegitimate son are not only responsible for food deliveries to the Ministry of Emergency Situations and the army but also for their laundry and haircuts. Until 2016, Shebunova was a co-founder of Lega-Pishchevik LLC; until recently the company's formal owner was 81-year-old Galina Akhmetova, who also runs a state-owned entity called Pishchevik. Akhmetova and Elena Shebunova have been closely connected for many years, almost like family. In addition to running a deserted restaurant on 10 Minskaya Street, Lega-Pishchevik was also engaged in government procurements. The company earned more than 120 million rubles on catering contracts with entities within the Defense Ministry and the Ministry of Emergency Situations systems. Moreover, in the case of the Ministry of Emergency Situations, the firm acted in violation of the law: the Ministry's contractors were also in the company's employ. As for the Defense Ministry, it awarded contracts to Akhmetova's/Shebunova's firm without competition. For example, the contract for purchasing food for the Troops Accommodation Main Directorate was concluded with Lega-Pishchevik as purportedly the sole supplier. Calls to Shebunova's and Akhmetova's phone numbers known to The Insider were forwarded to a man's phone number. In a conversation with a reporter, he inquired about the matter regarding which Akhmetova and Shebunova were to be contacted. When he heard a request for commenting on the journalists' findings, he replied he could not help. Galina Akhmetova acted as a confidante of Shoigu's girlfriend for many years. They traveled together to St. Petersburg, according to a source with access to the airline ticket booking system. The two families also traveled to the Kivach health clinic (one treatment course costs about 300,000 rubles), vacationed in Italy at a spa resort, and rented a house in Turkey. Shebunova also hired a relative of Akhmetova's as a driver.

Shebunova's property marked in red, Akhmetova's property marked in yellow, Rotenbergs' property marked in blue
Shebunova's property marked in red, Akhmetova's property marked in yellow, Rotenbergs' property marked in blue

The Insider learned that in 2012 Shebunova issued a power of attorney granting Nikita Fedorovich Astakhov, Galina Akhmetova's grandson, the right to drive her Toyota Land Cruiser (license plate s884uo199). In 2010 (when Shoigu was still in the Emergencies Ministry) Astakhov's company, Avial, supplied the Emergencies Ministry with clocks, and then, when Shoigu moved on to the Defense Ministry, Astakhov began working with Voentorg - the firm Miraline LLC, where he was employed as director until summer 2018, supplied travel kits with the Russian Army's logo. Akhmetova's husband (or his full namesake), Vladimir Vasilievich Trofimov, is also connected with the Defense Ministry. He founded the Ost-West trading and construction company, which was a contractor for the Military Construction Main Directorate No. 1.

Shoigu followed in Serdyukov's footsteps (photo by A. Nikolsky / RIA Novosti)
Shoigu followed in Serdyukov's footsteps (photo by A. Nikolsky / RIA Novosti)

In addition to the companies whose official beneficiary was Yelena Shebunova herself, The Insider has found other army contractors she de facto controlled. For example, PO Tekstilsnabprom, which was liquidated in March of this year, had made almost one billion rubles from contracts with Voentorg. The firm supplied clothing items for the needs of the Defense Ministry: raincoats for military personnel, caps, suits, etc. Textilsnabprom's products were purchased without competition, no competitor could have offered a lower price. The company, for which such favorable conditions were created, was headed by Natalia Brykina, who also ended up owning Lega-Pishchevik LLC on Minskaya Street in late June. Brykina comes from the Krasnoyarsk Krai, similar to Galina Akhmetova, Shebunova's business companion. In addition, Brykina's is listed as ex-CEO of the firm Wilson, which back in 2011 participated in bids for supplying macaroni products to the state-owned company Agentstvo Emercom, an entity within the Ministry of Emergency Situations system, responsible for ensuring Russia's participation in international humanitarian operations conducted under the auspices of the UN. At the time, Shoigu was the head of the Ministry of Emergency Situations. According to The Insider's estimates, during the time of her relationship with Shoigu, Elena Shebunova's affiliated firms made at least 6.5 billion rubles on deals with the Defense Ministry and the Ministry of Emergency Situations. Thus, Shoigu's girlfriend broke the record set by Serdyukov's mistress: the damage from Vassilieva's actions was estimated at «only» 3 billion.

Written with the participation of SOFIA ADAMOVA

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