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The Sad Fate of Multimillionaire Marriages in Russian Officialdom

Alexey Navalny and his amazing netizen deductions. Images mixed by Kevin Rothrock.

Alexey Navalny and his amazing netizen deductions. Navalny depicted as Sherlock Holmes, left, and Maxim Liksutov, right. Images mixed by Kevin Rothrock.

Russia’s leading anti-corruption blogger, Alexey Navalny, is making waves again with his latest online work [ru], a series of allegations against Maxim Liksutov [ru], the multimillionaire head of Moscow’s department of transportation and traffic. Navalny surfaced shareholder records indicating that Liksutov sold his stocks to his wife in an attempt to circumvent a federal law against owning foreign assets. Navalny also alleges that some of the Liksutovs’ assets, such as Transgroup Invest AS, are the parent companies of several transportation-related interests, creating a conflict of interest. Liksutov denies violating any laws, pointing out that he and his wife divorced on June 26, 2013, which the Moscow mayor’s office now confirms.

Maxim Katz, a transportation guru and frequent consultant for the city of Moscow, has responded [ru] with some hostility to Navalny’s accusations against Liksutov. Curiously, Katz was also Navalny’s mayoral campaign manager last autumn, giving him work experience with both men. In a LiveJournal post on January 16, 2014, Katz denied any loyalty to Liksutov, but said he wasn’t yet convinced of Navalny’s allegations. Insisting that the law in question is “idiotic,” Katz dismissed the Liksutovs’ various stockholder maneuvers.

Alexander Vinokurov, another wealthy Russian entrepreneur and the owner of liberal media outlets like TV Rain, Slon.ru, and Bolshoi Gorod magazine, echoed this sentiment on Twitter:

If I’m being honest, I don’t see anything wrong in our state officials owning foreign accounts, stocks, or houses. Liksutov’s problem is only with conflicts of interest. And there’s a problem in the Duma, which adopts these laws that force people to divorce.

On the question of conflicts of interest (which Navalny now emphasizes, too, given the revelation about the divorce), Katz acknowledges that such corruption would be grounds for Liksutov’s dismissal, but says the record shows Liksutov has not awarded his own firms any suspicious contracts. Indeed, one of Liksutov’s assets, Transmashholding, did submit a tender [ru] to produce streetcars for the city of Moscow in December 2012, but it lost to another bidder.

While Navalny and his LiveJournal account are certainly responsible for putting Liksutov in the news this week (possibly leading to his future termination in the transportation department), trouble for the multimillionaire has been brewing for months. In late September 2013, Estonian journalists named Liksutov’s wife, Tatiana, the richest woman in Estonia, where Transgroup Invest AS is based. The incident drew some attention to the couple’s stock transfer, when no one at the time claimed the two had divorced. In fact, on September 30, 2013, Russian political analyst Alexander Pozhalov even observed in a Facebook post [ru] that the Estonians’ announcement should press Russian journalists to study whether Liksutov had broken any laws.

Until this week, Liksutov had slipped under the radar. But, as anyone in Russia knows, where the media fails to report on corrupt state officials, Alexey Navalny is bound to go.

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