Former flight attendant with reportedly intimate ties to Russia’s defense minister owns a $23.5-million mansion, say investigative journalists
A former flight attendant with Russia’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (MChS) made billions of rubles on contracts with her employer and the Defense Ministry, according to a new investigative report by The Insider. The website’s sources close to the agency say Elena Shebunova has long and close personal ties to Sergey Shoigu, Russia’s former MChS minister and current defense minister.
According to The Insider, Shebunova officially served as an executive at enterprises that earned billions of rubles building military camps, and her business partners were also hired to supply food and uniforms to soldiers. Shebunova is also linked to other contracts who provided the military with clothing equipment, and many of these deals were signed on non-market terms, without rival bids. The Insider estimates that the total value of all MChS and Defense Ministry contracts signed with firms tied to Shebunova is at least 6.5 billion rubles ($101.9 million).
The news website Open Media previously reported that Shebunova started her first business in 2009, when she opened two restaurants together with Vladimir Pavlov, the current director of “Voentorg” (Army Surplus).
Shebunova owns a home in the town of Zhukovka, outside Moscow, which she bought from one of the Defense Ministry’s biggest contractors. According to The Insider, the house is worth roughly 1.5 billion rubles ($23.5 million), and it neighbors a mansion owned by the Rotenberg family. Shebunova also owns a 181-square-meter (1,948-square-foot) apartment on Ulitsa Akademika Pavlova in Moscow, which he acquired from the co-owner of an MChS contractor, and she owns an expensive restaurant on Minskaya Ulitsa in Moscow. The Insider says this establishment closed suddenly on June 12, a day after its correspondent visited.
In its investigation, The Insider also mentions a report by the newspaper Express-Gazeta from 2006 that claims Shebunova (identified in the story as “Elena Sh-va”) is the mother of one of Shoigu’s children.
Shoigu’s predecessor in the Defense Ministry, Anatoly Serdyukov, stepped down in 2012, amid a corruption scandal involving Evgeniya Vasilyeva, the head of the ministry’s Property Relations Department. Journalists have written repeatedly that Serdyukov and Vasilyeva were also involved intimately. Vasilyeva was the main defendant in the case against “Oboronservis” (the company controlled by the Defense Ministry where multi-billion-ruble embezzlement was discovered). Prosecutors estimated that Vasilyeva caused 3 billion rubles ($47 million) in damages. In 2015, she was sentenced to five years in prison for fraud, but she was quickly granted early parole. In 2018, reporters learned that Serdyukov and Vasilyeva had recently married.
Translation by Kevin Rothrock