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Not up to snuff Forbes Russia source reveals new details of fraud case against Marina Rakova and Sergey Zuyev

Source: Meduza
Alexander Kazakov / Kommersant

Thanks to a source familiar with the case materials, Forbes Russia published a scoop on the high-profile investigation targeting Marina Rakova, Russia’s ex-deputy education minister, and Sergey Zuyev, the rector of the Moscow School for the Social and Economic Sciences (“Shaninka”). The two defendants stand accused of fraud and embezzlement of state funds that the Education Ministry’s Foundation for New Forms of Education Development (FNFRO) — formerly headed by Rakova — paid to Shaninka as a subcontractor under two separate contracts. 

As it turns out, there’s only one injured party in the case — the foundation itself. The FNFRO’s acting director general Yulia Ponomareva filed a police complaint on August 3. In the statement, Ponomareva didn’t accuse anyone specifically, but she asked law enforcement to look into two of the foundation’s contracts with Shaninka, the Forbes source said.

About a month before Ponomareva filed her complaint, Moscow police independently ordered a review of these two contracts from the Russian Academy of Education (RAO). What caused the police to take interest remains unknown. The RAO presented its findings in late July. The investigation referred to the review during the arraignment hearings for the defendants in the case, Forbes writes. However, according to the publication’s source, it wasn’t mentioned in the indictment. 

Having studied the review, Forbes says that it was conducted by three RAO employees. The 37-page report concludes that the results of the work that Shaninka did for the FNFRO didn’t meet the terms of references and couldn’t be implemented in practice. Investigators showed Ponomareva the review’s findings and she agreed with its conclusions, the Forbes source said.

Meduza reported previously that, according to a source close to the investigation, the fraud case against Rakova was based on contract analysis conducted by the RAO. Currently, the RAO is headed by none other than Russia’s ex-education minister Olga Vasilieva — Marina Rakova’s former boss. Another source told Meduza that Vasilieva and Rakova had a falling out while working together at the Education Ministry.

News of the criminal case against Marina Rakova broke at the end of September. At the time, she was still working as a vice president at Sberbank (the company announced that Rakova was no longer with Sberbank shortly after the authorities pressed charges against her). Shaninka rector Sergey Zuyev was arrested as a suspect in the fraud case about two weeks later. Four other people stand accused, as well: ex-FNFRO director Maxim Inkin and his former deputy Evgeny Zak, former Shaninka executive director Kristina Kryuchkova, and Marina Rakova’s common-law husband Artur Stetsenko (according to the investigation, Stetsenko was fictitiously employed the foundation and collected millions of rubles in “wages”). 

All of the suspects, with the exception of Sergey Zuyev, were jailed pending trial. The Shaninka rector was placed under house arrest, but state prosecutors have filed an appeal to have him transferred to pre-trial detention. Zuyev maintains his innocence. Shaninka also maintains that all of the work outlined in the contracts with the FNFRO was completed. Instructors, students, and alumni from the university even launched a petition in defense of Zuyev. State Duma lawmaker Alexey Nechayev, who heads the New People party’s faction, also expressed support for Zuyev during a parliamentary plenary session on October 14. 

On Wednesday, October 20, Zuyev’s wife Elizaveta Fokina said that her husband had been hospitalized due to high blood pressure. “[Sergey] was taken to the hospital overnight with another hypertensive crisis, at present that’s all I can say,” she wrote on Facebook. Zuyev’s lawyer Sergey Sevruk told Interfax that his client was also feeling unwell during a meeting with an investigator the night before. An ambulance was called, but the hospital didn’t admit Zuyev at that time. According to Sevruk, Zuyev has undergone several operations and suffers from a number of illnesses, including stage III hypertension.

Summary by Olga Korelina

Translation by Eilish Hart

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