Belarus corruption watch: The Belarusian government elites' EU vacations

Belarus corruption watch: The Belarusian government elites' EU vacations
A document detailing the purchase of Belarusian government official Dzmitry Parton's appartment in Bulgaria. /
By bne IntelliNews September 25, 2022

Today, the “official Minsk” maintains a hostile position against Western powers. However, before the 2020 presidential elections in Belarus, many public service officials who are today bombarding Western Powers with negative comments were praising the EU and its various member states.

These same Belarusians government officials, who are today pushing a hostile propaganda narrative against the West, were apparently even buying real estate in EU member states before 2020, and they frequently went (and are still going) on holidays to the EU. This was discovered by the Belarusian Investigative Centre (BIC) and the Belarusian Cyber Partisans in their latest investigation into corruption among the Belarusian elite.

Dzmitry Parton

Starting out in the Belarusian Armed Forces’ media and radio services, Parton later went to head the press service of Belarus’ Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD), before studying at the Presidential Management Academy and ending up with various senior positions in state media. Between 2012-2017, Parton was the deputy editor-in-chief of the paper Белорусь Сегодня (Belarus today). After this, he became the director of the Internet Broadcasting Directorate STV, and since 2018, he has been the deputy general director of Minsk-Novosti, a Belarusian state news agency.

As part of his work, Parton naturally pushes whatever official propaganda narratives he’s presented with, or that he thinks will please the security forces and the presidential administration. He often criticises the morals of the “adulterated and depraved Western Europe”, saying that “pink scarf-wearing French police officers” have lost touch with reality and calling “European liberalism” a ticking bomb.

Before he came to hold these senior positions in the state media Parton bought an apartment in Sunny Beach, a famous holiday resort in Bulgaria located just 500 metres from the beach, and which also has a pool, restaurant and sunbathing area.

As recently as May 2022, Parton took his family for one of their traditional vacations to the resort, and over the past 10 years, Parton and his wife have frequently visited several European capitals, posting pictures of their visits on social media.

According to data acquired by the Belarusian Cyber Partisans, the official public service salary is an average $20,000 a year. The apartment which Parton bought in 2011 cost as much as $26,000, well above the yearly average salary for a public service official, and way before he even held any senior positions.

Stansilau Iodzis

Beginning his career in the law enforcement, Iodzis worked as a prosecutor in the Minsk court before becoming a businessman. Iodzis was the director of the Minsk food-court chain Lido as well as Minsk’s largest market Kamarouka. After this, Iodzis obtained a managerial position at the Presidential Property Management Directorate and was later even entrusted with the Director’s position of Belarus’ largest alcoholic beverage company, Minsk Kristall.

While overseeing the Kamarouka market, Iodzis bought an apartment in central Minsk. Three years later, his family also became the owner of a two-story 130-square metre house in a Minsk satellite town. Being a car enthusiast, Iodzis also bought a 2014 Land Rover worth tens of thousands of dollars, and in 2016, he bought an apartment in the Pomorie resort area in Bulgaria.

At the time of purchase, the starting price for apartments in the Pomorie resort area was €29,000 but according to the data from the Cyber Partians, the average annual salary at Minsk Kristall was only $20,000.

In October 2019, Iodzis got himself into a scandal and was removed as the head of Minsk Kristall as the Belarusian Security Service KGB uncovered a large-scale corruption scheme at the company. According to the KGB, some of Iodzis’ colleagues had taken as much as $17,000 in bribes between 2018-2019. For this, many were given prison sentences, but Iodzis somehow managed to avoid any charges by the prosecution. Instead, he quietly left for Latvia in 2019 and kept up frequent visits to both Poland and Bulgaria.

Aliaksandr Kadyshau

Kadyshau has been working in the state justice system since 2008 and headed the Centre for Forensic Examinations for five years. Since 2016, he’s been the General Director of the Belarusian Unitary Enterprise BelYurObespechenie, an enterprise under the Ministry of Justice which organises auctions of seized property.

In 2017, Kadyshau bought an apartment in central Minsk with an estimated value of $70,000. At the same time, he also bought real estate in Bulgaria, a small apartment located in Sveti Vlas, a popular tourist destination.

According to data from the Cyber Partisans, Kadyshau received an average salary of $20,000 a year at BelYurObespechenie. This salary is almost six times the annual salary of a rank-and-file employee at the company. While this high salary could have been due to his successful management of the enterprise, BIC’s sources say that the company regularly receives complaints, and in 2021 its profits halved.

According to Kadyshau himself, he bought the house before he started to work at BelYurObespechenie, which is contradicted by the documents retrieved by investigative journalists.

While working at the Grodno City Executive Committee as the head of accounting, finance, pricing, and trade and services regulation section, Liudmila Volvach purchased a 48-sq metre apartment not far from Kadyshau’s at an estimated value of $23,000.

According to Volvach: "working at the City Executive Committee, you’re not only unable to buy an apartment, but you also can’t even afford to enjoy it.” Somehow, Volvach evidently still managed to do both.

Belarusian officials’ holiday resorts

How the above-mentioned government officials managed to acquire all their real estate despite officially earning either far less than necessary to buy them, how Kadyshau managed to maintain his high salary despite the halving of his company’s profits and how Iodzis managed to avoid prosecution are all good questions with no clear answers.

The officials themselves have either declined to comment or given strange and contradictory answers such as those from Kadyshau and Volvach.

This resent investigation made by BIC and the Cyber Partisans shows that Belarusian officials enjoy vacationing in the EU just as much as Russian officials, even when they’re busy pushing anti-EU propaganda narratives for their respective regimes.

Furthermore, these findings further highlight the need for Western powers to focus more on sanctioning Belarusian (and Russian) government officials rather than the citizens of these countries. Today, Russia’s who don’t want to partake in Putin’s mobilisation can’t flee to the Baltic countries, and there's even been calls for a general EU visa-ban against Belarusians. What they could do first is to focus on sanctioning the wide range of government officials from Belarus and Russia who regularly go on holidays and buy real estate in EU countries.

Earlier, bne IntelliNews reported on BIC’s and the Cyber Partisan’s investigation into how Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s former lover received illegal state funding for her private school.