New York Penthouse Back on Market

VedomostiVavilov, pictured above, claimed that the $53.5 million price tag on a Central Park penthouse was too expensive.
Federation Council Senator Andrei Vavilov has reached a settlement with the developer of a New York penthouse apartment that he bought for $53.5 million, a price he later said was too high given the oppressive ceilings and terrible view.

Vavilov, who has represented the Penza region in the parliament's upper house since 2002, escaped charges in a decade-old embezzlement case last summer after the statute of limitations expired.

Y. David Scharf, who represented Vavilov in the real estate dispute, said the two sides had reached an agreement last week, but he declined to elaborate on the settlement.

Representatives for developer El-Ad Properties and broker Stribling & Associates were not available for comment.

In a breach of contract lawsuit filed last year against El-Ad and Stribling, Vavilov said he expected more for the price he paid.

Vavilov has said he had only seen a video recording of the apartments when he made his deposit, because construction was still ongoing, Newsru.com reported.

He complained that the apartment was "attic-like," with small windows, low ceilings, obstructed views and ugly drainage grates. He demanded the return of his $10.7 million deposit and $30 million in damages and alleged that the developers had made changes to the design without informing him, the web site reported.

In a countersuit, El-Ad accused Vavilov of libel and demanded $36 million in damages.

The Plaza overlooks Central Park and has inspired writers such as Kay Thompson, author of the "Eloise" stories about a 6-year-old girl who lived at the hotel, and Neil Simon, who wrote the Broadway play and hit film "Plaza Suite."

The hotel, opened in 1907, has been owned by moguls such as Conrad Hilton and Donald Trump.

After $400 million worth of renovations, the Plaza reopened in March 2008 as a mixture of hotel rooms and condominiums. The penthouses for sale were advertised as magnificent "one-of-a-kind" properties.

In January 2007, authorities reopened a criminal case against Vavilov after the Supreme Court ruled that his involvement in a $231 million MiG-29 fighter jet deal with India entailed wide-scale fraud and gross abuse of office.

Each of the charges carries sentences of up to 10 years behind bars.

In July 2008, the Investigative Committee permanently closed the investigation, however, saying that although Vavilov's guilt had been fully established, he would not face charges because the statute of limitations had expired.

Vavilov has called the accusations "total nonsense."

The missing millions ended up in offshore accounts in Antigua and Latvia, Kommersant reported in July, citing case materials.

He was also charged in 2001 of involvement in a separate $330 million embezzlement case.

That case, which involved gas sales to Ukraine and the Defense Ministry, was eventually dropped.

(Reuters, MT)