Think you can't afford a fighter jet? This Russian official sold 4 MiG-31s at $2 each & avoided prison for years
4 Jul, 2020 06:23 / Updated 3 hours ago
MiG-31 waiting on a tarmac © Sputnik / Vitaly Ankov
Several MiG-31 jets were written off the state balance sheet at a price of an ice-cream cone and then resold for millions to the same firm that already owned them, via a mind-boggling scheme by a double-dealing Russian official.
The details of the brazen fraud, which took place in the late 2000s, have been revealed only now, a month after law enforcers were finally able to detain the man behind it.
A former civil servant in a branch of Russia’s Federal Agency for State Reserves (Rosrezerv) in Nizhny Novgorod, Andrey Silyakov, was arrested at his country house outside the city on the Volga River in late May.
He had been sentenced in absentia to 11 years in prison almost a decade ago but remained at large for years and was even put on an international wanted list. The man returned to Russia from abroad after apparently feeling homesick or deciding that police and prosecutors had already forgotten about him.
But the scheme, involving the pride of the Soviet and Russian Airforce – MiG-31 supersonic fighter jets – that Silyakov invented and implemented was seemingly really hard to forget.
The industrious official and the unique warplanes, which have been in service since the early 1980s, first crossed paths back in 2007. At the time, Rosrezerv decided to auction off some disused spare parts it had stockpiled, including iron rods and pieces of metal.
Shortly after the bidding, some new lots were unexpectedly put up for sale by the agency. They were described as 'Assembly Kit 306-002,' 'Assembly Kit 306-003' and so on, in order to avoid unnecessary attention, the Komsomolskaya Pravda tabloid revealed, citing a public prosecutor who dealt with the case.
The prosecutor said that Silyakov was the only one who actually knew that the mystery ‘assembly kits’ weren’t scrap metal but whole MiG-31 planes. The four aircraft were stored at – and at the time owned by – the local Sokol aviation factory, which has been producing an array of jets, including the MiG-31s and the newer 4++ generation MiG-35s.
The planes in question – which only lacked their engines – were then sold to a local contractor firm that happened to be owned by Silyakov’s close friend at the unimaginably low price of 153 rubles ($2.14 at the current exchange rate).
One wonders what that firm was going to do with the MiG-31s – sell them to a foreign country or organize its own private Air Force? – and how it was going to move the ‘assembly kits’ from the plant without everyone noticing they were actual warplanes.
But this wasn’t Silyakov’s plan. After passing through a long chain of stalking horses, the jets were re-sold to Sokol, but this time, at a market price worth millions of rubles.
So, not a single aircraft was moved from the plant’s premises. Each jet remained grounded in Sokol’s backyard, because the fraud scheme was about ownership rights only.
Investigators believe the government lost as much as a billion rubles (close to $14 million) on account of Silyakov’s ingenuity.
And the MiG-31s weren’t the only state-owned commodity the swindler used for profit. Two years later, he managed to write off as much as 35,000 tons of fuel oil, also owned by Rosrezerv. Claiming it was low quality, he then resold it – again, at the market price – pocketing the bulk of the sum.
In a final twist, Silyakov’s family says they’re going to appeal his sentence, with the former official’s wife insisting that the whole case against her husband was forged.