Russian Prison Official Steals Highway
In an outrageous story of alleged theft, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) arrested National Prison Service Acting Deputy Chief Alexander Protopopov and his accomplices this week for (literal) highway robbery, reported Kommersant.
His accomplices Valery Ivanov, chief of a penal colony in the region, Roman Korzhov, another local official, and business representative Ramala Jabbarly have also been arrested, according to a statement by the Russian Investigative Committee.
Protopopov allegedly stole 50 km (31 miles) of road worth 6 million roubles (US $79,000) in the northern Komi region of Russia. The highway was located near the area of the district of Vozhskaya Udorsky, reported Russian newspaper Gazeta.
Road construction is one of the most corrupt infrastructure sectors in Russia costing much more than others, according to Agence-France Presse (AFP). Russia’s roads have some of the poorest conditions in the world, reported online industry journal World Highways.
The Russian Investigative Committee alleged he conspired with accomplices, Ivanov, Korzhov, and Jabbarly to dismantle the highway and profit from selling it.
Protopopov ostensibly oversaw the dismantling of the road into 7,000 reinforced concrete slabs between 2014 and 2015 and struck a deal with Jabbarly’s company, Esthete LLC which sold them. The slabs were removed under the guise of recycling by Esthete LLC, added Kommersant.
Russian authorities have charged Protopopov with embezzlement of public property, organized crime by prior conspiracy and abuse of his official position which could land him 10 years in prison, according to AFP.
Protopopov and his accomplices argue, however, that the road was not public property, reported Kommersant.
Their lawyers claim local residents had in the past tried to take the concrete slabs and were arrested but failed to be prosecuted because it was impossible to identity “the owner of the property.”
According to Kommersant, Protopopov headed Komi region's prison service from 2010 to 2015 and has had a prestigious career winning awards, including a medal for creating “spiritual unity.”