Investigators working for Russian anticorruption crusader Aleksei Navalny have uncovered two luxury Miami apartments allegedly belonging to the mayor of Russia's fifth-largest city.
The findings, published in a December 21 report, were the latest in a series of investigations by Navalny, a lawyer, opposition leader, and now, presidential candidate who has become a thorn in the Kremlin’s side.
Using Florida real estate records and the Russian federal database of official income declarations, Navalny’s team discovered the beachfront properties, whose value they estimated at more than $2 million.
Navalny’s organization, known as the Anti-Corruption Foundation, said the apartments were acquired in December 2013 and July 2014. One was listed as belonging to Albina Karnilina, the wife of Nizhny Novgorod Mayor Ivan Karnilin. The other was under his daughter’s name, Irina Ovchinnikova.
The investigators also obtained Karnilin’s income declaration, something required of all Russian officials. The declaration makes no mention of American real estate, they said.
Moreover, the report found U.S. records showing property taxes of $26,281 were paid on the Miami properties in 2015, nearly a third of Karnilin’s official salary of 4.7 million rubles ($77,000).
But the Mayor's income statement does not mention his U.S. real estate holdings or his wife's income. Karnilin's official income for 2015 was stated as 4.7 million rubles, despite his having paid nearly 5 million rubles in U.S. taxes between 2014 and 2016.
Karnilin, who was chairman of the city council before becoming mayor in 2015, defended the purchase of the real estate, saying it was a smart investment at the time, because the dollar was weak relative to the ruble.
He told local media that he and his wife divorced in March 2015, though Navalny’s investigators pointed to interviews Karnilin gave after that date in which he said he was still married.
The group’s investigators also discovered photographs and other descriptions of the property on Ovchinnikova's Russian social-media account, but those materials disappeared after the report was published.
Karnilin is a member of United Russia, the political party that dominates Russian politics and is widely considered to be beholden to the Kremlin.
In 2011, as he rallied opposition to national elections, Navalny dubbed United Russia the "party of crooks and thieves," a label that was enthusiastically embraced by many Russians.
Navalny has been the subject of multiple criminal investigations, which his supporters view as retribution for his outspoken criticism and embarrassing exposés. A retrial was recently ordered in the Kirov regional court on alleged financial crimes.
Earlier this month, he declared his intention to run for president.
Past exposés by Navalny’s team have documented a secret weekend home linked to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, luxury wristwatches owned by the Kremlin’s chief spokesman, and a $18 million mansion tied to Russia’s defense minister.