Over a Year, Russian Official Quietly Stole a 30-Mile Road

He then sold off the slabs for profit: cops
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 14, 2016 11:13 AM CST
Over a Year, Russian Official Quietly Stole a 30-Mile Road
A section of highway is seen in Voronezh region, Russia, Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014.   (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

Jokes about highway robbery abound after a Russian prison chief was arrested and charged with the unlikely crime of having stolen a 30-mile stretch of public road. Russia's Investigative Committee says Alexander Protopopov directed the deconstruction of a concrete highway in the sparsely populated Komi region, where he was serving as prison service chief, between 2014 and 2015, reports AFP. Some 7,000 slabs of reinforced concrete were "dismantled and driven away" over more than a year, delivered to a commercial company, and then sold, police allege, per the New York Times. The road theft cost the government about $79,000.

Protopopov, who won awards as prison chief for promoting "spiritual unity"—though the Times notes it's not clear "whether the unity was with the crews doing the illicit road work"—was promoted to acting deputy chief of the national prison service last year. He faces up to 10 years in jail on charges of stealing state property. At least one other prison service official has been arrested, prosecutors say, noting more are believed to have participated. The head of a penal colony and a businessman are under investigation, reports the BBC. Corruption is known to riddle road construction in Russia, where a 30-mile road built for the Sochi Olympics cost $8 billion. At the time, local media reported it would have been cheaper to construct a road made of caviar. (Thieves in Florida stole a driveway.)

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