The saga of a multimillion-dollar, pagoda-style mansion allegedly tied to Russia Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has taken a new twist, with activists accusing the federal government’s main real estate registry of altering documents linking the property to his immediate family.
Opposition leader Aleksei Navalny’s anticorruption organization last month published copies of documents from the registry showing that Shoigu’s daughter, Ksenia, became the owner of the property in a prestigious village on Moscow's western outskirts in 2009, when she was 18.
But a funny thing happened to those documents retrieved from the database of Rosreestr, the federal agency tasked with maintaining Russian real estate records. According to the same activists who posted the records, they’ve now disappeared.
Navalny’s chief investigator, Georgy Alburov, wrote in a November 10 blog post that documents showing Ksenia Shoigu’s links to the property have been excised from the Rosreestr database.
“All of the owners have disappeared from the records other than the current one -- the sister of Shoigu’s wife,” Alburov wrote.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu
The current Rosreestr records on the property show that its owner is a woman named Yelena Antipina, whom Alburov claims is Shoigu’s sister-in-law. (Her last name is the same as the maiden name of Shoigu’s wife, Irina, and both women have the same patronymic -- Aleksandrovna.)
Alburov published before-and-after scans of the Rosreester documents showing that references to Ksenia Shoigu had been deleted.
He said he plans to sue Rosreestr over the purportedly doctored documents and that Navalny’s anticorruption group has asked the federal Investigative Committee -- Russia's analog of the FBI -- to look into possible criminal manipulation of government documents.
“We will strive to bring criminal liability for everyone who decided to alter government databases in order to defend fraudsters,” Alburov wrote.
The expensive tastes of Russian government officials and their families have proven to be populist kindling for Kremlin opponents’ fiery exposes of their lavish lifestyles, both inside Russia and abroad.
Recent reports published by Navalny’s organization, called the Fund To Fight Corruption, alleged that the Kremlin’s chief spokesman owns an astronomically expensive watch and honeymooned on a yacht that costs 350,000 euros per week to rent.
Alburov estimated the mansion purportedly owned by Shoigu to be worth “at least” $18 million, far beyond the minister’s spending power, judging by federally mandated disclosures of his and his family’s income and assets.
The allegedly amended records now show no ownership of the property’s main plot of land until its acquisition by Antipina in 2012, though Google Earth images published by Alburov show that construction of the home began as early as 2010.
Alburov’s blog post came after the Rosreestr website’s function allowing users to search property records went back online after being down for several days due to “technical reasons.”
WATCH: Russians Weigh In On Reports Of Shoigu's Mansion
The Russian news agency RBC also previously published scans of Rosreestr documents mentioning Ksenia Shoigu’s links to the property.
Reached by RBC on November 10, Rosreestr did not immediately comment on the purported removal of documents showing that Ksenia Shoigu became the owner of the real estate in question in 2009.
Shoigu has not publicly commented on the claims. RBC quoted his daughter’s spokesman as saying on November 3 that information that she owned the property “does not correspond with reality.”
A week later, that indeed seems to be the case. At least on paper.