Valery Gergiev has embezzled millions of euros from his own charity, the Valery Gergiev Charity Foundation, to build an extensive property portfolio, according to the Moscow-based Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), founded by Alexei Navalny, the imprisoned opposition leader, lawyer, and anti-corruption activist.
The charitable foundation was created in 2003 to “support creative and touring projects of the Mariinsky Theatre, to enhance regional clusters in terms of social or cultural development and to support young performing musicians” but FBK investigators have received bank statements showing that Gergiev used the money to buy luxury properties, charter private jets and pay his household bills.
On 23 February Valery Gergiev conducted the first performance of Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades at La Scala in Milan as Russian soldiers were preparing to cross the Ukrainian border. He was replaced from conducting the rest of the run of performances after he refused to condemn the invasion when asked to do so by the mayor of Milan. Similar cancellations followed the world over. Previously, many blind eyes were turned from his pro-Putin activities such as conducting victory concerts in South Ossetia in 2008 and Syria in 2016. He was a vocal supporter of Putin's re-election and after Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea he praised Putin's “deep and penetrating logic” about Ukraine.
In a 45-minute documentary, the FBK states that Gergiev constructed a dacha with a miniature concert hall in St Petersburg using money from the foundation, and two years ago it bought three flats worth €3.5 million in Art View House, which is a luxury development near the Mariinsky Theatre where the 68-year-old conductor is artistic director. The investigators also say that he transferred about €4 million from the foundation to his personal account between 2018 and 2020.
FBK investigators Maria Pevchikh and Georgy Alburov said,
Valery Gergiev may be the most brilliant musician on the planet but, unfortunately, that does not change the fact that he is a fraud and a thief. To the accompaniment of Gergiev's orchestra, rockets are exploding, and civilians are being shot. Gergiev's talent now serves war, death, and destruction.
The FBK was shut down last year shut down by the Kremlin after being labelled an “extremist organisation”. It was responsible for the well-known two-hour documentary in 2021 about the vast Black Sea palace said to belong to President Putin.
Gergiev's foundation's donors are Russian state-owned bodies or oligarchs close to Putin: VTB Bank donated €19 million, and Alisher Usmanov (former shareholder in Arsenal football club) gave €5.5 million.
Gergiev has an important overseas property portfolio too, which is estimated to be worth more than €95 million and includes the 16th-century Palazzo Barbarigo on the Grand Canal in Venice, and in 2004 he bought an apartment in Manhattan for more than €2 million.
As head of the Mariinsky, Gergiev is required by law to disclose his foreign assets, which he has not.
At this point, Valery Gergiev has not been the target of western sanctions.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.