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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kirov Ballet Director Arrested for Graft

ST. PETERSBURG -- The director and the chief choreographer of the world-famous Kirov Ballet have been arrested for allegedly taking bribes totaling millions of dollars, officials said Monday.


Anatoly Malkov, the director of the 212-year old theater, was arrested in his offices Friday while accepting a $10,000 bribe from a Canadian impresario for the right to organize the company's foreign tour.


The businessman had tipped the police, who marked the money intended for the bribe, said an official with St. Petersburg prosecutor's office, who asked not to be identified.


Police found $150,000 in cash during the search in Malkov's office and called for an audit of the theater. Russia's Independent Television showed neat stacks of bank-wrapped $100 bills piled on Malkov's table.


Oleg Vinogradov, the ballet's chief choreographer for the last 18 years, was also arrested over the weekend.


The case appeared to be one of the most scandalous instances of bribery in recent years, although corruption has become rampant after the Soviet collapse, fueled by economic chaos, backward legislation and police weakness.


Investigators said the company's leaders allegedly made bribe-taking their everyday practice while dealing with foreign partners. They usually asked for bribes for organizing a tour, and then would get more by threatening to cancel the performances.


"According to our information, the amount of bribes totaled millions of dollars," said Nikolai Danilov, head of the economic crimes section for the St. Petersburg police.


Danilov said police plan to contact foreign law-enforcement bodies and to recover the money Malkov and Vinogradov kept abroad.


Police have failed to receive the prosecutor's office's sanction for the arrest and could only hold the suspects for three days. Malkov was released from jail Monday and Vinogradov is to follow him on and other prized property in Russia and abroad, officials said.


The theater, opened in 1783 during the reign of Catherine the Great as the Stone Theater, moved to its present building in 1860 and was named the Mariinsky Theater.


Many renowned performers, including the opera singer Fyodor Chaliapin and the prima ballerina Anna Pavlova, were regularly seen on its stage.


Now officially called the Mariinsky Opera and Ballet, the theater has kept the recognized Soviet-era name of the Kirov Ballet for foreign tours.