The Ministry of Digital Development announced that it would suspend the issuance of grants to IT specialists and check previously issued ones. This was the result of the detention of the deputy head of the department, Maxim Parshin. The history of the allocation of grants by the leadership of the Ministry of Digital Development promises to be a fertile topic for the investigation, especially since the inspectors have had questions on this part for a long time. However, Minister Maksut Shadayev will not be left behind.
Maxim Parshin supervised several large-scale areas in the Ministry of Digital Development. Among them are the activities of the Russian Foundation for the Development of Information Technologies (RFRIT), the Skolkovo Foundation, the Internet Initiatives Development Foundation (IIDF), the Bortnik Foundation to support the development and implementation of Russian software, as well as the Center for Expertise and Coordination of Informatization (CEKI), Research Institute “Voskhod” and Research Institute “Integral”. Multibillion-dollar financial flows are associated with each of these organizations.
Maxim Parshin has been working in the Ministry of Digital Development since 2018, being a protege of the former minister Konstantin Noskovin connection with which his arrest can hardly be called a blow to the current head of the department Maksut Shadayev. It is also worth noting that Parshin and Shadayev come from different clans. Rather, this is how Maksut Shadayev is attributed to an influential clan. His patrons are called the Moscow region governor Andrey Vorobyov and deputy head of the presidential administration, Sergei Kiriyenko. Also, Shadayev’s career was previously associated with Rostelecom and the Rosinfokominvest fund, which is important in the context of the current scandal.
But Maxim Parshin has not been noticed in relations with influential people in the state apparatus. He began his bureaucratic career at the Ministry of Economic Development in the early 2000s. Then he left the Ministry of Economic Development to work at the Russian Post. Maxim Parshin was appointed to the Ministry of Digital Transformation in 2018, when the ministry was headed by Konstantin Noskov, and the government – Dmitry Medvedev. However, after 2020, neither Medvedev nor Noskov found a place in the Cabinet. Noskov completely left the civil service. For several months he led the St. Petersburg Currency Exchange, and then disappeared from the radar.
Now it seems that the career of 47-year-old Maxim Parshin has come to a standstill. In mid-July, he was detained in one of the Moscow restaurants along with the head of Budget and Financial Technologies LLC (BFT) Alexander Monosov. Presumably, at the time of his arrest, Monosov handed over 3.5 million rubles to Parshin. The investigation considers this a bribe for assistance in allocating a grant from the Russian Foundation for the Development of Information Technologies (RFRIT).
At first, the Basmanny Court placed the detainees under house arrest, which gave them some chance to get away with it. But at the end of July, the investigation achieved in the Moscow City Court the transfer of the defendants to the pre-trial detention center. Connoisseurs of criminal incidents call this a bad sign: being placed in solitary confinement usually means that the verdict will clearly be guilty.
Greedy investment fund
It is clear that now the investigators will study in detail all the state contracts of the BFT. And there are a lot of them. Among those that are in sight are the creation and modernization of the digital platforms “Social Treasury”, “Work in Russia”, as well as information systems of the National Data Management System and the Social Insurance Fund. Last year, BFT-Holding won and completed 81 state contracts, and this year – 23, worth 1.6 billion rubles. There is evidence that in the near future the BFT expected to receive another major contract, but now it has fallen through. Therefore, it is possible that one of the competitors drew the attention of the investigators to the connection between Monosov and Parshin. According to rumors, the materials of telephone wiretapping of the defendants became the reason for initiating a criminal case.
However, in addition to the CFT, there is another side to this story – RFRIT. So far, the fund remains aloof from the criminal case. But the topic of allocating state grants for the development of IT products has long raised questions. And in order to fully reveal it, it is worth first considering the history of another fund – Rosinfokominvest.
Rosinfokominvest was created in 2007 as a result of the lobbying efforts of the then Minister of Communications Leonid Reiman and with the participation of the head of the presidential administration Sergei Naryshkin. The purpose of this structure is to support exports and invest in Russian IT startups. For this, the fund received 1.45 billion rubles from the state. In fact, it was something like Chubais’ Rusnano, but in the IT sector. Subsequently, Leonid Reiman lost his ministerial portfolio and focused on his own business – the production of Angstrem-T processors. True, the business of the former Soviet functionary failed: having incurred debts of 815 million euros, the company went bankrupt. But Rosinfokominvest continued its controversial activities under the leadership of the team formed by Reiman. Supervisory and regulatory authorities have repeatedly expressed their claims to the fund. In 2015, the Prosecutor General’s Office asked to liquidate it. The money received from the state was placed on bank deposits and spent on the purchase of securities, the supervisory agency reported. In some cases, this led to losses. According to one of these transactions, they amounted to 184 million rubles. At the same time, 200 million rubles were spent on the maintenance of the organization itself with an average payroll of five people.
The stakes are rising
There was also a criminal case. It concerned the management company “Capital” and JSC “Armada”. The fact is that Rosinfokominvest entrusted the management of 1.3 billion rubles to Capital Management Company, and she invested 413 million rubles in the shares of Armada JSC, the managers of which “withdrew the amount received from the business with the help of affiliated legal entities. After that, the shares of “Armada” collapsed, and the fund received a loss. The managers of “Armada” then went for interrogations for several years, but so far no one has heard of landings in this case. But the bribes from the management of the fund turned out to be smooth.
In 2019, the fund was criticized by the Accounts Chamber.
And the only investment (in JSC Roboinvest) ended up with 148 million rubles being transferred to a shell company in the Cayman Islands. The Russian legal entity “Roboinvest” reported losses.
All these scandals led to the fact that Rosinfokominvest began to be called among the “development institutions” that the government Mikhail Mishustin plans to eliminate as ineffective. There was also an idea to transfer the assets of Rosinfokominvest to the Russian Fund for the Development of Information Technologies (RFRIT). One of the justifications is that the functions of the two funds are, in fact, duplicated. The corresponding presidential decree appeared in February 2022. However, it turns out that this did not prevent the employees of Rosinfokominvest from continuing to eat up money. They spent 500,000 rubles on taxis alone last year.
And RFRIT, meanwhile, was active, remaining quite independent from the ministries. This is understandable: the fund was created back in 1996 and its charter reflects the desire for democratization at the time. Some time ago, it seemed that RFRIT was in the orbit of influence of the Ministry of Industry and Trade. But as IT developed, it began to actively enter this sector and turned into a tool for distributing large state investments.
And now the story of the bribe has served as a pretext for the fact that the Ministry of Digital Development has organized a commission that is going to check the activities of RFRIT. In particular, there will be an “audit of the competence of its employees.” It was Maksut Shadayev who set out to take RFRIT under his full control before it absorbs the money of Rosinfokominvest. And the game is worth the candle: the infamous “Rosinfokominvest” “twisted” a miserable 1.3 billion in its accounts, but RFRIT disposes of hundreds of billions of rubles.
By the way
While still under house arrest, Maxim Parshin resigned from the Ministry of Digital Development of his own free will, his powers were transferred to another deputy of Maksut Shadayev, Andrey Zarenin. It is noteworthy that Zarenin at one time worked as an adviser in the presidential administration, and therefore he can be considered a person from the team of Sergei Kiriyenko. Andrey Zarenin and Maksut Shadayev in different years appeared in the leadership of the Voskhod Research Institute (one of the largest suppliers of IT products for the public sector). Yes, and it was Maksut Shadayev who took Zarenin to work in the Ministry of Digital Development. So he, apparently, is much closer to the current minister than Maxim Parshin.