Putin “Friends” Accused Of Embezzling $30 Billion From Winter Olympics Funds

May 30, 2013Russiaby EW News Desk Team

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Officials and businessmen close to Russian president Vladimir Putin have embezzled as much as $30 billion from funds allocated for next year's Winter Olympics in Sochi, alleged opposition figures on Thursday, arguing that the most expensive construction projects went to “Putin’s friends” for inflated price tags, with contracts given without proper competition or public tenders.

Presenting a report to journalists in Moscow, opposition leader and former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov described the games as "a monstrous scam" and said that he would be pushing for a thorough investigation into the matter by Russian prosecutors.

Nemtsov, who is the co-chairman of the opposition Republican Party of Russia – Peopl 's Freedom Party (RPR-Parnas), also said that his party has officially asked the chief of Russia's Investigative Committee, Aleksandr Bastrykin, to declassify all materials regarding the Sochi Olympics budget; while demanding the chairman of Russia's Accounts Chamber, Sergei Stepashin, to give detailed information of all spending.

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"It is obvious that Putin's friends are running the preparations for the [2014 Sochi] Olympic Games," Nemtsov said, as cited by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. "It is also obvious that one is reluctant to put his own friends behind bars.

“However, we cannot look at all this passively because the scale [of their activities] will only grow bigger. The embezzlement they are presiding over is not just some kind of children's game but a real threat to Russia's national security."

"We suggest establishing a civic committee in charge of the investigation of the crimes committed around the Olympic project [in Sochi]…. We believe that it is our duty to bring the most scandalous instances of the embezzlement in connection with the Sochi Olympics to court. We very much hope in the public support,” Nemtsov added.

At a budget of $51 billion, the 2014 Winter Olympics is set to be the most expensive Games in history. Comparatively, the 2010 edition in Vancouver cost just $6 billion, while the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and 2012 London Games cost $45 billion and $30 billion respectively.

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State auditors at Russia's Audit Chamber have repeatedly voiced concerns about the skyrocketing overruns at Sochi, especially as the original costing, announced in 2007, was just $12 billion. According to Russia Beyond The Headlines, the bulk of the investment had gone into building transportation infrastructure, at a price tag of around $20.9 billion.

Nemtsov also questioned the wisdom of staging a winter games in a city with a subtropical climate on the Black Sea coast.

But Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak, who is responsible for bringing the games to Sochi, was quoted as saying: "In spite of envious people, the Russian Winter Olympic Games will be held in the southern capital – subtropical Sochi,” according to the BBC.

"The expenses for the Winter Olympics in Sochi turned out to be more than all expenses for all the sports structures at the previous 21 Winter Olympics put together," wrote Nemtsov’s report.

"An absence of fair competition, clan politics and the strictest censorship about anything related to the Olympic Games have led to a sharp increase in costs and a low quality of work," the report added.

"The Olympic Games are Putin's personal project and it is clear who stole this money – those who are close to that same Putin," the report claims.

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