Russia recently arrested an official for highway robbery. It wasn’t any prized commodity or an expensive vehicle the person stole. He was arrested on suspicion of literally robbing a highway.
A Russian official was detained on suspicion of stealing a 30-mile (50-kilometer) stretch of highway. The official is accused of making a profit from the dismantled pieces of the road. The Russian official, identified as Aleksandr Protopopov, allegedly orchestrated the odd crime of systematically breaking down a stretch of public road and then selling off the slabs of concrete for an as-yet undeclared profit.
Confirming the crime, the investigative committee appointed to find out about the mysterious disappearance of a 30-mile stretch of perfectly drivable road said Protopopov oversaw the entire operation of cutting off large slabs of concrete that made up the road. Incidentally, the accused was the prison service chief in the far northern Komi region during the time.
The road, consisting of more than 7,000 reinforced concrete panels, was “dismantled and driven away” over the course of more than a year, between 2014 and 2015, reported Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty.
During his tenure as the head of the Komi region’s prison service from 2010-15, Protopovov was felicitated with multiple awards, including a medal for creating “spiritual unity.” Protopopov is currently an acting deputy chief of the national prison service.
Why steal a highway? While asphalt is the common choice across the world to construct roads, especially when good traction is a must, many countries regularly build roads out of concrete. A concrete road is built quite similar to building a slab of a apartment complex. A section of road is first cleared of any undulations. Thereafter, a crude but even foundation is laid. A mesh of “rebars” (a steel bar or mesh of steel wires used as a tension device) is then carefully laid. Finally, concrete is poured and allowed to harden. While the concerete roads have poor traction, they have excellent service life and, unlike asphalt roads, do not need regular maintenance. Additionally, concrete roads, if constructed well, are relatively immune to the forces of nature and are pothole resistant as well.
The highway, which Alexander Protopopov robbed, was made up of over 7,000 reinforced concrete slabs. Apparently, he sold the systematically-cut concrete slabs to a commercial company that made a profit by selling the pieces of highway. It appears the highway may have been sold as “prefabricated” slabs of concrete, which is ready to deploy. Prefabricated components, such as concrete slabs, are a popular feature in construction today because they save a lot of time and significantly shorten the construction activity.
A highway robbery certainly isn’t easy and can’t be done without the assistance of many people. Many other prison officials are believed to have colluded with Protopovov. According to prosecutors, who have another suspect in custody, prison service officials managed to move the slabs under the pretext of disposing of waste, reported Channel News Asia.
Protopopov, who was arrested Wednesday, is facing charges of misappropriating state property. Investigators have estimated that the highway robbery cost the Russian federation more than six million rubles (approximately $79,000). Besides Protopopov, there are two others who are under investigation. Although the prosecutors have withheld their names, the Examiner reports that one of them is a head of a penal colony, while the other is a Russian businessman. If convicted, Protopopov faces 10 years behind bars.
Committing frauds that hurt the government is quite rampant in Russia, reported the Telegraph. According to BBC News, road and highway construction is the department that suffers the most. Many of the infrastructure projects in Russia end up costing far higher than similar projects in other countries. One of the prime examples is the construction of a mountain road that was meant for the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014. The 48-kilometer highway ended up costing about $8 billion. This is, of course, another type of highway robbery.
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