Gold pipe in the Field of Wonders
21.03.2011 — Analysis
Most of the kids know the fairy tale about Buratino-Pinocchio. The little wooden boy's dream was to bury five gold coins near the City of Simple Simons and grow a tree loaded with gold pieces. However, it is a fairy tale; in real life there are no fields of wonders. Of course, except for the Sverdlovsk Region. Here, one can dig out "gold" pipes of the Soviet period. The trove is appraised in millions of rubles. The "RusBusinessNews" columnist has found it out that "fields of wonders" are excavated by dummy companies that serve as a cover for business big shots of federal caliber.
In May 2010, at the height of the spring sowing, agricultural land of the Sverdlovsk Region went through extensive excavation. Fields were trenched by TekhnoStroy, an unrenowned company, which was interested in the pipes of the melioration system. The "outsiders" showed the farmers, who leased the plough land, the agreements they had entered into with municipal authorities to purchase underground systems. That particular fact agitated the farmers most of all, as the local government bore no relation to the melioration systems.
The irrigation network was built in the time of the USSR. The reforms gave an opportunity to private entrepreneurs to lease the land, but the irrigation systems remained publicly owned due to the ban on their privatization. Very soon they actually became abandoned, having no owner at all. The farmers are sure that the authorities intentionally tried to wreck the melioration systems. In 2004 - when the Federal Agency for State Property Management was established - the systems were not included in the register of state-owned property. Leaving aside how it could happen, we face another puzzle: none of the government institutions had filed a lawsuit, trying to regain the right for the lost property. Furthermore, federal officials made no attempt to apply to law enforcement authorities when municipalities, without preliminary permission, started selling through auction the buried property they did not own.
Head of the Revda urban district Andrei Semyonov notified the farmer Andrei Savchenko that the remnants of the melioration system would be extracted from the land leased by the farmer. Herewith, the farmer will receive no compensation for the intrusion of the uninvited guests. The pipes will be dug out by their new owner that will be selected through the tender by the city administration. The letter from the district head went down like a bomb for the farmer: besides that the systems are a priori the state-owned property, the land where the tenant grows potatoes was not duly delimitated and, consequently, remains in the federal ownership.
The arguments given by A. Savchenko did not embarrass the municipal officials who did not lose time to arrange an auction. The participants were TekhnoStroy LLC and Soyuztekhnostal LLC. The winner (TekhnoStroy LLC) was awarded a purchase and sale agreement. The wording of the document was quite artful: the administration sold the pipes without indicating their location - probably, to prevent any risk of criminal prosecution. On behalf of TekhnoStroy, the agreement was signed by the representative of the General Director Ivan Labzeyev, acting under power of attorney. As it was found out later, the power of attorney was fake, i.e., de jure, TekhnoStroy did not buy anything. However, it did not prevent the company, which even did not have a compulsory excavation plan, from starting operations on extracting of the pipes.
At first, the municipal police brought the excavation to a halt, threatening the TekhnoStroy representatives with arrest for arbitrary behavior; however, on the next day the police tempered justice with mercy. Andrei Savchenko filed a lawsuit, after which the bailiffs suspended the trenching operations. However, later, they also admitted their powerlessness: it turned out that the party in fault was the buyer who performed excavation rather than the municipality that illegally sold the property it did not own.
Then the plough land tenant applied to public prosecution that judicially tried to declare the agreement, under which the irrigation system was sold to TekhnoStroy, null and void. The "triumph" of the law looked as follows. The judges managed to declare that the pipes buried in the field were movable property (!), because "the complex of hydro-technical facilities was not operating". During the court proceedings, the TekhnoStroy representative informed that 70% of the extracted pipes had been scrapped due to their non-serviceability. The court judgment - the contested transaction did not violate anyone's rights, therefore, TekhnoStroy may proceed with its excavation.
In the meantime, experts deny that the irrigation system in the fields of the former state farm Revdinsky had decayed and had been scrapped. According to specialists of the Sverdlovskmeliovodkhoz Federal Department, the pipes were coated with bituminous layer, whereas the walls were 8-12 millimeters wide, thus being able to operate during 70 years. Those who were present during the excavation state that after the pipes had been extracted from the ground, the TekhnoStroy employees treated them with solution and burnt. The bitumen-free pipes were transported to the factory where through sandblasting they were returned to the marketable condition. By the way, experts assert that it is extremely difficult to arrange for old pipes being treated at the Pervouralsk Restoration Pipe Plant: far from all orders are accepted. The owners of this enterprise are individuals who represent interests of the leading Russian pipe manufacturers, and the "admission" ticket is given only with their approval.
TekhnoStroy LLC is a classic example of a dummy company. Its registered office is located in the boiler house of one of the Ekaterinburg saunas. The attorneys from the Skolot Group representing interests of TekhnoStroy offered to forward subpoenas to the office of Soyuztekhnostal. This company participated, along with TekhnoStroy, in the auction that was held in Revda. Furthermore, Oleg Shutrov, the owner of Soyuztekhnostal, being in charge of the excavation on the land leased by A. Savchenko, introduced himself to the bailiffs as the head of the Procurement Department of TekhnoStroy LLC.
Soyuztekhnostal LLC deals with trading of drill and rehabilitated pipes. The participants of the pipe market assume that the actual owners of this company are affiliated with the owners of the Pipe Metallurgical Company OJSC, specializing in pipes for the oil and gas complex.
It appears that TekhnoStroy LLC was set up in June 2009 specifically for the project of "privatization" of state-owned melioration networks. The game was worth the candle. Nadezhda Ilinykh, Deputy of the Bailkalovo District Duma, states that in the former collective farm Krasnaya Zvezda alone, TekhnoStroy dug out about 6 kilometers of pipes, which can be appraised at more than 6 million rubles. The farmer Andrei Savchenko thinks that the total earnings received by the businessmen from the pipes amount to at least 45 million rubles.
The farmers who incurred damaged due to vandal excavations intend to request assistance from the Prime Minister of the country. The authorities of the Sverdlovsk Region cannot help them: apparently, the "fields of wonders" came to hand of top-level businessmen. In Russia, only Vladimir Putin is able to clip their wings. This process is called "manual control".
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