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Monday, October 24, 2016

Embezzlement of cultural dimensions: Russia mass transportation rarities

No sooner had the Ministry of culture to recover from a scandal (recall that Deputy Vladimir Medinsky Grigory Pirumov now in jail “Lefortovo” on charge in corruption during the restoration) as above it is facing a new threat. The investigative Committee and the Prosecutor General’s office to investigate cases of illegal export abroad of paintings, icons, armor and other cultural values.

photo: Alex geldings

Many rarities have disappeared, the other was sold at auction Sotheby’s at fantastic prices (a hundred times higher than were evaluated by the experts of the Ministry of culture of the Russian Federation).

Some of the missing in the space exhibits and all proved to be invaluable, and move them outside of Russia for the law was simply impossible.

In each case, the resolution of the Ministry of culture for the export of rarities was given, and they were evaluated by the same certified experts.

“The cultural Department of the country” seems very uncivilized mislead law enforcement. And it professionals who have to control the import and export of curiosities, were brought to court on the case of… smuggling!

What’s going on in the bowels of the Ministry of culture, why values of Russians answered by the people with shady past and sullied biography, where you take out the historical heritage of Russia — in our investigation.

Paintings for Sotheby’s

“Unreasonably permission for export of cultural values on individuals, the icau employees who are not owners of paintings, for their personal use, which resulted in the illegal movement of works of art across the border and selling on the auction house Sothebys in the UK.”

This is a quote from an official letter of submission of the first Deputy Prosecutor General Alexander Buksman addressed to the Minister of culture of Russia Vladimir Medinsky. Dated 21 March 2016.

But briefly the essence of the story. Its main actors — workers of the International Confederation of Union of artists”. Some of these employees (including, for example, are named in prosecution documents G. Fatkulin and Akhunov) in 2014 had taken out of Russia pictures and sell them abroad. And for crazy money. At the world famous auctions of the type “Sotheby’s” these paintings went several million pounds each.

As this became known to the authorities — still a secret. But the Prosecutor’s office conducted a serious inspection — and scandal. Prosecutors pointed out that, first, works of art these people do not belong ever, and, accordingly, to dispose of them they had no right. Second, the management of the Ministry of culture in the Central Federal district had no right to give them permission to export these art works.

So how could this happen?

In many licensing documents is the expert on cultural values, an employee of the Tretyakov gallery Tatyana Ermakova. The Prosecutor explained that she often determine the possibility of export of a work at the time of its creation (if it is less than 100 years — gave “good”). I.e. without evaluation of the cultural and artistic values. Sometimes Madam Ermakova has not indicated even the title of the work and the time of its creation. Mandatory in such cases, the photo did not attached. And even when the assessment of works was underestimated their cost. Just one example: the painting “Over the snow” artist Georgy Nissky, Russia is estimated at 800 thousand rubles, went at auction for 1.4 million pounds.


In may last year at the Tretyakov gallery in the office Ermakova were searched in the criminal case of smuggling of cultural values. The main defendant is the collector, Director of the art gallery “the Kremlin” Sergei Stepanov, according to the investigators, wanted to take out from Russia 4 patterns cost about two million rubles. Expert of the Ministry of culture Ermakova, they were estimated at 180 thousand rubles… Stepanov was recently convicted, got 3.5 years probation.

By results of check the Prosecutor General’s office concluded (and I quote): “the Lack of control on the part of the Ministry of culture of Russia creates conditions for illegal export of cultural values abroad, abuse by experts who are owners or posing as owners of rarities select themselves by themselves and pay them for the services they review.

A month later first Deputy Minister of culture Vladimir Aristarkhov by O. Spiridonova, which in 2010 allowed export of unique aircraft of the great Patriotic war) has prepared a response to the Deputy attorney General.

If, again, in a nutshell, the officer laments the imperfection of legislation which have allowed to happen what happened. Cultural Agency acknowledged that the management of the Ministry of culture for the CFA did not the chief — not found out who the owner of the paintings, and despite it not issued the export permit individuals, and not the icau. But Aristarkhov reports: all the perpetrators, they say, punished.

“Officials Sergei Bogatyrev (was the head office of the Ministry of culture. — Approx. ed.), Zaitsev (his Deputy. — Approx. ed.) and others who committed violations to date have been dismissed,” — said in reply, Deputy Minister. But Aristarkhov disingenuous.

Know what happened to these officials? Now Bogatyrev, Director of the Directorate of the Museum Fund of the State Museum and exhibition centre ROSIZO, Yury Zaitsev, his Deputy. And by the way: ROSIZO organizes exhibitions around the world, and the possibilities for unhindered export of paintings from its leaders well, just enormous.

How do you mean “punishment” for officials of the Ministry of culture?!

The company arrested the Deputy Minister of culture Gregory Pirumov probably soon will be other high-ranking officials of the Ministry.

The missing armor

In December 2013 the threshold of a major insurance company first crossed a Vladimir Krivenko. Respectable Mr. he said that is a scientist-biologist, a collector and wants to insure the cultural values, which are intended temporarily to take out from Russia to France for the exhibition. In 2014, he insured 33 archaeological subject, and in 2015 — 7 paintings by Russian artists.

Any documents of title to archaeological objects he had not even given. Was just a copy of the expert report of the State historical Museum employee, and a description 33 of insurable items, estimated at 7 million 700 thousand rubles. Read the documents: “the Collection of military ammunition, weapons and armor III-I centuries BC, represents a significant cultural and historical value and may be exported only temporarily.”

Me full list of 33 items with the cost estimation for each. Tell me, how can cost a bronze helmet of the VI century BC (!) only 200 thousand rubles? Thing a total of 26 centuries (just think!) priced the same as a normal mink coat? Don’t believe it. Or this sword is dated to the “early iron age”, is it possible to rate some 150 thousand roubles? Some items of ancient ammunition, according to the documents, even pull on 20-30 thousand roubles… And in the papers on every one of them is the record: “has cultural, historical, artistic and Museum value”.

— Of course, these items cost so much can not, — says a leading Russian expert on collectible weapons Alexey Pastukhov. — Generally all these items are either copies or… from the category of fiction. As a rule, such ancient ammunition found in the flattened condition, it is difficult to put in order. Because there is a huge amount of fakes. But if all these items are originals, they cost a small fortune. I cannot give even approximate figures. But it is more orders, than a couple of hundred thousand.

Why you need to reduce the cost? It is possible to collection of less attention paid to border guards and customs officers. Well, the insurance (and it is obligatory at least for transportation) depends on the declared value of the property. Krivenko insured these values for the period of carriage by rail from Moscow to France from 1 July to 21 July 2014. Insurers somehow not alerted that the return journey of his collection he does not insure. I thought — perhaps he was not identified with the date of return from France.

And here is a collection of seven paintings Krivenko insured over three years, showing the value of 21 million 700 thousand rubles. In proof of ownership he had given the contract of purchase and sale. The document says that the painting Krivenko bought from the citizen of Moldova of just over 150 thousand rubles. And the picture are listed there, even without names, and as the identifying features are the only sizes!

Do you know why insurers again began to strain? Because Krivenko was the conclusion of the examination, made by direction of the management of the Ministry of culture. Who do you think acted as expert? We already know the employee of Tretyakov gallery Tatiana Ermakova (and again!).

photo: pixabay.com
Armour I–VI centuries BC and did not return to Russia that allegedly was stolen in France.

And armor, and paintings quietly crossed the border and appeared in France, where… gone. And Russia lost a piece of their cultural heritage.

— Krivenko said that it’s all stolen from his private apartments, — told in the insurance company. In confirmation, we presented a document drawn up by the police officers of the city of Antibes. But there’s just a statement of fact: man went to the police, saying the theft. Was looking around the house? Was there a test? Whether a criminal case? None of this is not known.

In the kidnapping of many strange things: for some reason no alarm went off in the apartment, the master values are not particularly interested in the investigation…

The fate of the rarities today, like anyone, except insurers are not interested. And if Krivenko not contacted the company with a message about the theft, no one (!) would not know where the 33 unique ancient objects which may not belong to a private person, a government, that is to you. All appeals to the insurance company remain unanswered. The Prosecutor General’s office “pulled” a statement by the interior Ministry, the Ministry of culture. The interior Ministry has forwarded the materials at the place of residence of the citizen, in the city of Troitsk in Moscow region. But the Ministry of culture for this reason nobody not even sad. It turns out that the Agency has issued a permit for temporary export of cultural values, but is not interested: and whether it was taken in principle, a person returned back to a country where they do? Quite a strange indifference, isn’t it?

Experts understate the value of ancient rarities.

“Descent into hell” of Russian icons

In 2010, one Museum of Russian icons received the permission of the Ministry of culture at temporary export of 11 icons of the exhibits of the exhibition “From Russia with love”. The value of each of these icons is confirmed by numerous examinations and beyond doubt. But their cost is…

— Icon of St. mark, dated to the end of the XVII century, with traces of gilding, made in a rare style, — tells our source in the customs authorities, is only valued at 50 thousand rubles. “Paraskeva Friday” of the XVII century — 15 thousand rubles. A number of icons of XIX and XX centuries, and all are, according to the documents, 7 and 9 thousand rubles.

Among such almost penny — icon “Transfiguration,” “Christ, Emmanuel”, “the Nativity”. They are perfectly preserved and is a living testimony of the skill of Orthodox artists. But then why so cheap?

One of the icons is called the “Harrowing of hell” in the title though lies a hidden meaning of the path the entire collection. So 11 icons were taken to the United States in 2010. The term of the permit for temporary import for up to 15 October 2012. Still, none of them in Russia, apparently, never came back.

The unknown fate of 5 icons which were exported to America in the same Museum for display for the period up to 15 September 2013. Their total value is estimated only 73 thousand rubles.

In the editorial office, several letters of the Ministry of culture, in which it informs the customs about the extension of the period of temporary export icons. But the final renewal date to November 2015. It has passed almost year from the moment when the legal basis for the stay of the icons in the U.S. is over.

— Customs Declaration on the return of icons in Russia no one passed, ” says our source. — So they never returned to Russia.

Customs initiated a criminal case on suspicion of smuggling at the end of April 2016 detained the Director of the Museum. Investigation jointly by several law enforcement agencies. But what the Ministry of culture? Still silence. What is going on?

If you go to the website of the Ministry of culture, you will see a list of employees, strategically important division of the Department of state control over the export and import of cultural values. On September 2, 2016, the head of Department is Dmitriy Lucianin, legal assistant — Michael Lauve.

In the cultural Department of the country, as it turned out, people work with a dubious past.

About individual staff members can say this: at the time they were defendants in criminal cases under article “forging of documents”. Others deserve a separate story.

For example, on the website of the Moscow interregional transport Prosecutor’s office will find interesting press release from 1 July 2015. It was about how an employee of one of departments of management of the Ministry of culture of the Russian Federation on TSFO Lauva, in fact, was smuggling, but not of artistic values, and the birds listed in the Red book.

He suggested that the employee luvd at the airport “Sheremetyevo” to carry four Sokolov-Krechetov, bypassing customs inspection, in the departures area of the airport “Sheremetyevo” and hand them to the courier, waiting for the flight to UAE. I quote: “the Khimki city court has pronounced a sentence on criminal case. Michael Lauve found guilty of committing crimes under HH. 4, 5 of article 33, part 1 of article 286 of the criminal code (Incitement and complicity in abuse of office”). The court appointed Louva the penalty of imprisonment for 1 year 6 months with punishment serving in a colony-settlement.” However, according to “MK”, was pardoned.

The main British expert on Russian art James Battery once told the media: “We see in each auction of the mountain paintings, which were once exported from Russia illegally. But why there is no scandal?” I think now you know the answer to this question.

– It’s no secret that the smuggling of cultural property has become one of the most common ways to get rich quick, ” says the Director of “Registry of cultural values” Vladimir Roshchin. — It is impossible really to imagine the scale of it all purchased. Hundreds of millions of dollars a year. And the Ministry of culture wittingly or unwittingly, this does not prevent. What has happened over the last year or two? Not yet subsided disputes around the package of amendments to the law on the import and export of cultural property. The Ministry of culture gave (and, in my opinion, illegally) their public functions on examination to be of import-export of cultural goods private organizations.

We appealed to the Prosecutor General. Answer until not received. There is reason to believe that the Ministry of culture of Russia illegally gave exclusive rights to the implementation of examination of cultural values declared for export. Why is it dangerous?

Powers transferred to the private company, forcing the citizen against his will to inform the commercial organization confidential information which he is willing to disclose only to the public authorities.

Moreover, will not secure the safety, confidentiality of information about cultural values, storage locations, quantity, cost, owners, values, access to which can get a person with the interest of a criminal nature.

A private company has neither the obligation nor the possibility of using secure communication channels and data centers to transmit and store information about cultural values, no subscription about nondisclosure of information. All these issues must be dealt with by the state, and not a commercial organization.

We are far from being able to accuse anyone of corruption. But in the case of the restoration of the Ministry of culture in jail is already sitting several people, including the Deputy Minister Grigory Pirumov. Is history of illegal export of cultural property will be a continuation? And yet… All these scandals with the individual characters — not the main thing. The main thing is that the laws in the field of preservation of cultural values not sufficiently elaborated. All blurry, no clear rules, and these are all, absolutely all the officials, con artists, and art dealers, and others.


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