00:00 About the film 00:53 Announcement 04:29 List and types of residences 06:55 Secret government communications line 08:10 Independence Palace - Temple of Vanity 14:44 "A couple of heifers are sitting in the back seat", or a car fleet worth € 4 million 21:26 Smuggling and seizure of cars at customs 23:24 Does Europe sponsor the regime? 29:31 Blue light: who entertains the dictator and for how much? 32:01 The closest oligarch to Lukashenka 34:25 How did the 17th residence burn down? 37:28 China allocated a loan to Belarus, but not to Belarusians 40:51 Secrets of the (un) state aircraft fleet 46:15 The most popular president in the world 49:12 Little things in life: personalized gold pens and expensive clothes 54:09 Devils from the snuff box: Topuzidis, Aleksin and company 1:00:19 Special harem for Lukashenka 1:05:54 An unpleasant fact for Kolya Lukashenko 1:08:07 Where does the family live now? 1:10:34 Something from the insides: the plan of the bath and the Vostok residential complex 1:15:56 Why is everyone silent? 1:20:36 I almost forgot ...
Ukrainian legislator Viktor Medvedchuk is a nearby partner of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and a solid Kremlin partner. Another examination uncovers how a deal energy bargain in Russia has gotten him and an accomplice a huge number of dollars.
Through an organization of shell organizations, Viktor Medvedchuk and a long-lasting colleague acquired a rewarding stake in a Russian petroleum processing plant for simply more than $40,000.
This stake created a huge number of dollars in profits. Medvedchuk has since assisted set with increasing and money Ukraine’s greatest supportive of Russia party.
Organizations associated with the two men additionally paid just around $1,000 for a controlling interest in an organization holding rights to build up an almost one-billion-barrel Russian oil field.
In the early long stretches of February 27, 2014, many shooters in plain Russian military uniform raged the parliament of Ukraine’s Crimean landmass, lifted Russian banners, and stood monitor as officials casted a ballot to arrange a choice to split away and turn out to be essential for Russia.
The appearance of the “little green men,” as they were brought in Ukraine, denoted a defining moment in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s endeavors to handle Ukraine after fights overturned his partner President Viktor Yanukovych. However, it was by all account not the only occasion that would help concrete Russian impact in Ukraine that day.
A large portion of a landmass away, in the radiant European seaward sanctuary of Cyprus, a cryptic arrangement was being struck: An enormous stake in Yug Energo, proprietor of a worthwhile Russian petroleum treatment facility, was sold at deal rates to organizations connected to Ukraine’s driving supportive of Russia resistance lawmaker Viktor Medvedchuk and his long-term colleague, individual from parliament Taras Kozak.
An examination by the Ukrainian RFE/RL program Schemes and OCCRP has tracked down that the organizations connected to Medvedchuk and Kozak had the option to get a 42-percent stake in Yug Energo from Russian extremely rich person Sergey Kislov for scarcely more than $40,000 — a little part of what the men would make from the arrangement throughout the next few years.
The Yug Energo stake qualified Medvedchuk and Kozak for a huge part of the benefits from the Novoshakhtinsky petroleum processing plant, a half-billion-dollar office finished a couple of years sooner in Russia’s southern Rostov locale. These profits would add up to a huge number of dollars, reinforcing Medvedchuk’s funds as he organized a political rebound and assisted set with increasing and money Ukraine’s greatest favorable to Russian ideological group, Opposition Platform — For Life.
In 2018, Medvedchuk and Kozak developed their contribution in Yug Energo, expanding their joined stake to 93 percent. Plans originally uncovered Medvedchuk’s association with the processing plant that very year. However, the price tag of the underlying stake has at no other time been unveiled.
Journalists have additionally now uncovered another clear Russian darling arrangement dating to 2016, whereby organizations constrained by both Medvedchuk and Kozak paid about $1,000 for a controlling interest in an organization that holds rights to build up a very nearly one billion – barrel Russian oil field.
The two arrangements were helped out through a perplexing arrangement of offer exchanges and credit arrangements including shell organizations in Cyprus that seemed to bode well, said Graham Barrow, a UK-based monetary violations expert who checked on the records. The organizations included regularly had confusingly comparable names, with stakes changing hands for what have all the earmarks of being undeniably not exactly their genuine worth, he added.
“There is no getting away from that it would seem that a significant resource has changed hands and that, as indicated by the documentation that you’ve seen and I’ve seen, the installment for that is by all accounts fiercely unbalanced to the worth that was moved,” Barrow said.
Medvedchuk and Kozak didn’t answer to questions sent by correspondents. Kislov’s organization, Yug Rusi, additionally didn’t react to questions.
At the point when a columnist for Schemes endeavored to get some information about the arrangement outside of parliament toward the beginning of March, Medvedchuk left.
Medvedchuk, the deal’s main beneficiary, has a long history in Ukrainian politics and enjoys close personal ties to Russia’s leadership.
Putin has told Russian media that he first met Medvedchuk, who is now 66, in the early 2000s when Medvedchuk was serving as chief of staff for former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma. In 2004, Medvedchuk and his wife, Oksana Marchenko, honored Putin by making him godfather to their daughter, Daryna. Svetlana Medvedeva — the wife of former Russian President and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev — was named the girl’s godmother.
Following Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution, which brought in a pro-European administration, Medvedchuk attempted to muster pro-Russian political forces into a parliamentary bloc, but they failed to win any seats in the 2006 elections. He surfaced again after Yanukovych came to power in 2010, running an organization that campaigned for closer economic ties with Russia.
Following Yanukovych’s overthrow in 2014, Medvedchuk was sanctioned by the U.S. for “violating Ukrainian sovereignty” and by Canada due to his alleged “political responsibility” for Ukraine’s crisis. He spent some time in the political wilderness before emerging once more as an opposition politician, still pushing to realign Ukraine with Moscow.
Medvedchuk’s business partner Kozak, who is often seen as Medvedchuk’s proxy, purchased the 112, Zik, and NewsOne television channels in 2018 and 2019 and promptly transformed them into pro-Russian outlets. He also became a key member of the newly created pro-Moscow party Opposition Platform — For Life, which won 44 seats in parliament the following year.
Both Medvedchuk and Kozak were sanctioned earlier this year by President Volodymyr Zelensky’s administration on suspicions of “financing terrorism,” a move Medvedchuk’s party said brought Ukraine “one step closer to becoming a dictatorship.” Their television channels were also taken off the air.
Eugene Magda, director of the Institute of World Policy (Ukraine) think tank, said that Medvedchuk appeared to be a “key instrument of influence” for Moscow in Ukraine and a “man whom Putin directly trusts.”
“Medvedchuk’s long-standing cooperation with the Kremlin shows that he is ready to defend Putin’s interests… quite consistently,” Magda said.
Medvedchuk and Kozak’s control of the newly built Novoshakhtinsky refinery would prove highly lucrative.
The oil refinery was first opened in 2009 in Russia’s Rostov region by Sergey Kislov’s Yug Rusi holding company. Kislov, who made his fortune in agriculture, said in an interview at the time that it cost roughly 15 billion roubles ($500 million) to build.
The facility became the centerpiece of Kislov’s Yug Energo, which also owned subsidiaries used to ship and sell products from the refinery including diesel fuel, straight-run gasoline, and fuel oil. But the refinery almost immediately ran into trouble. Shortly after its launch, its operating license was reportedly suspended for safety violations by Russian regulators after then-Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin ordered a probe into a number of refineries. Sechin, a close Putin confidante, now heads state oil company Rosneft. The refinery also soon faced debt repayment demands from Russia’s majority-state-owned Sberbank, which financed about half the construction costs.
According to local media reports, Kislov was already looking for a buyer by 2011, citing difficulties competing with large state companies and major private-sector producers. Early potential buyers included a Russian state company, Zarubezhneft. But for unclear reasons, the deal never went through.
Despite its troubles, Yug Energo remained a solid earner. Company financial reports show the company was consistently in the black, earning $73 million in profits in 2013.
The profits did not stop Kislov from moving to offload the asset. By the end of 2013, he had initiated a series of opaque and complicated transactions between companies registered in Cyprus that ended with Medvedchuk and Kozak taking a large stake in the refinery.
In December 2013 — as protests against Yanukovych raged in Kyiv’s Maidan Nezalezhnosti square — Kislov set up two companies in Cyprus: Ventolor Investments on December 6, and Teteos Global on December 9. He then transferred a 42-percent stake in Yug Energo to these companies, saying that the shares had been pledged as collateral on a loan from another one of his companies. However, reporters were unable to find any documents proving the loan’s existence. Audit documents show that the shares were valued at just over $1.1 million.
Then, in January 2014, Kislov transferred the two companies’ shares to two other Cyprus shell firms with similar names: The shares of Ventolor Investments were transferred to a company called Ventolor Holding, while the Teteos Global shares were transferred to a company called Teteos Holding.
The handover to Medvedchuk and Kozak took place the following month. On February 27 — the day Crimean parliament was stormed — two Cyprus companies connected to Medvedchuk and Kozak, Kranatoco Trading and Bifilessa Development, took ownership of Ventolor Holding and Teteos Holding, respectively. Inexplicably, the value of the combined 42 percent share in Yug Energo was declared at just $40,989 — nearly 27 times less than they had been worth on the previous transfer.
For financial crimes analyst Barrow, such a deal makes no sense for a legitimate business transaction.
“Normally when you sell a business it’s done very straightforwardly: you have a seller and a buyer, and the buyer buys the shares for the value of the company,” he said. He pointed to how this sale had instead been completed through multiple offshore companies for diminishing returns for subsequent sales. “That doesn’t look like a sensible way of disposing of an asset” that was making tens of millions of dollars in profits, he said. “It’s a bit like giving your bank balance away for nothing.”
Kozak and Medvedchuk can be connected to the Cyprus-based companies Kranatoco Trading and Bifilessa Development through their wives and a network of known proxies. Both men’s wives are fixtures in the men’s business holdings, previous investigations have shown.
At the time of the share acquisition on February 27, 2014, Kranatoco Trading was owned and controlled on paper by two Cypriot citizens named Anna Korelidou and Christina Antoniadou, who have also played roles in several other companies that Medvedchuk has claimed on his government asset declaration. In July 2017, Kranatoco came under the direct ownership of a company ultimately owned by Medvedchuk’s wife, Oksana Marchenko. Medvedchuk has previously stated that his wife has represented his ownership interest in companies in order to avoid U.S. sanctions.
At the time of the oil refinery purchase, the other Cyprus company, Bifilessa, was under the control of two Cypriot proxies. By July 2020, however, ownership was transferred to Kozak’s common-law wife, Nataliia Lavreniuk.
With 42 percent of Yug Energo now under their control, the companies linked to Medvedchuk and Kozak began raking in tens of millions of dollars in dividends.
Company audits show that Ventolor Investments, the company ultimately tied to Medvedchuk, received $31.77 million in dividends in 2014. Teteos Global, the company linked to Kozak, received $13.08 million over the same time period. In 2015, Ventolor received $8.93 million in dividends, while Teteos received $3.68 million. Neither company received dividends in 2016.
Documents after that date are patchy, but the information available indicates that the stakes have remained extremely lucrative. An audit of Teteos shows that the company earned 8.68 million euros ($9.8 million) in 2017. Audits for Ventolor are not available, but documents for Yug Energo show it paid out $80 million in dividends that year — meaning the share flowing to the Medvedchuk-linked company was likely just shy of $23.8 million.
Documents show that the shell companies boosted their combined stake in Yug Energo to 93 percent in February 2018. The details of this deal remain unclear.
Having profited mightily from a Russian oil refinery, Medvedchuk and Kozak also turned their sights on the state-owned Gavrikovsky oil field in the Khanty-Mansi region in the western Siberian plain — an asset also linked to Kislov.
In June 2015, Russia’s Federal Subsoil Resources Management Agency awarded the rights to develop the 136.7-million-ton field to NZNP Trade LLC, a company ultimately owned by Kislov’s Yug Energo and whose main previous function had been to sell products from the Novoshakhtinsky refinery.
The original tender conditions for the field had raised eyebrows at the time. A Rosneft subsidiary had been considered a leading contender. But, according to Russian business media outlets, authorities had made it a requirement that the winner would need to refine oil in Rostov, some 3,500 kilometers away from the deposits. Rosneft’s subsidiary even tried to sue the state institution behind the tender, but later simply recalled its tender application for unknown reasons.
The following year, the Ukrainians took majority control of NZNP Trade and its oil rights. Documents from Cyprus show that the Kozak-linked Teteos Holding acquired a 14.9-percent stake in NZNP Trade for just 202 euros ($224), while the Medvedchuk-linked Ventolor Holding obtained 50.1 percent of the company for $758.
There is no indication that the Gavrikovsky field is online yet. Company documents from 2019 show that the new owners invested just $177,800 in its development that year.
The Novoshakhtinsky refinery, meanwhile, is getting an upgrade. On March 12, a construction company connected to the refinery signed a deal to expand and modernize the facility for an estimated $2.5 billion.
The work, which is due to finish in 2030, will allow for the production of Euro-5 grade gasoline. It will also boost the refinery’s capacity by about 40 percent — and with it, almost certainly, the profits of its owners.
Ján Kuciak, a youthful Slovak insightful columnist who was killed three years prior, never made quick work of what might have been the greatest story of his life.
Since quite a while ago receptive to monetary misrepresentation and defilement, he was intently following the doings of Marian Kočner, a reckless money manager who much of the time showed up on TV and in the sensationalist newspapers to boast about his manors and sports vehicles.
In 2017, Kuciak had gone over Kočner’s most recent plan: an endeavor to get an adjudicator to grant him almost 70 million euros from the coffers of a mainstream TV slot on the rear of deceitful archives.
Kuciak just had conditional proof to go on, yet in May 2017 he distributed an article portraying how an adjudicator had overlooked key proof to administer in support of Kočner. After nine months, the youthful writer was killed.
The incredible finance manager was very much aware of Kuciak’s detailing and had undermined him previously. In March 2019, he was accused of getting sorted out the homicide of Kuciak and his fiancee, dispatching a fight in court that grasped Slovakia’s consideration for quite a long time.
Unexpectedly, however Kočner was absolved of that charge (a decision investigators are engaging), he wound up accepting a heavy jail sentence for the fake plan Kuciak had been attempting to uncover.
The youthful correspondent could never recount that full story himself. Yet, utilizing court records, a huge number of instant messages, and meetings with police agents, OCCRP and its Czech part community, investigace.cz, would now be able to show precisely what Kočner did — and how he nearly pulled off it.
The plan was basic, even “unsophisticated,” as the possible liable decision put it. What Kočner depended on was not splendor, but rather his associations inside Slovakia’s legal framework. Utilizing pay-offs, terrorizing, and an amazing delegate, he directed the results for this situation and others that were essential to him.
“What he was doing was made conceivable by the framework,” said Jaroslav Láska, the police specialist who drove the criminal examination concerning Kočner’s phony reports. “The framework and the political pioneers that were here. It was his association with legislative issues, to equity, to everything — that is the thing that made him so solid.”
In a previous examination, OCCRP showed how, for quite a long time, Kočner utilized money and kompromat to twist the country’s legal framework to his will.
It was solely after Slovaks shouted out for equity in the wake of Kuciak’s homicide that Kočner confronted lawful results after numerous long stretches of exemption.
What’s more, it wasn’t just him. Following up on proof from Kočner’s held onto wireless, the police have done a few significant debasement examinations that have captured above and beyond twelve adjudicators, investigators, and police authorities. Presently, only three years after his demise, the string that Kuciak began pulling has disentangled, uncovering a framework that was no good.
In light of solicitations for input, Kočner’s attorney Marek Para said that his legitimate group would claim the conviction, and called a portion of the proof against his customer “not real and controlled.”
To extricate 70 million euros from TV Markiza, a mainstream TV channel, Kočner went to Pavol Rusko, a desperate youth colleague who likewise turned out to be the station’s long-lasting co-proprietor and chief.
In 2005 Rusko unexpectedly sold his keep going offers for next to nothing and thusly experienced monetary challenges, bowing out of all financial obligations in 2012. Kočner assisted his old associate by purchasing the bank’s case on his home and allowing him to continue to live there. In a matter of seconds a short time later, their conspiring started.
Kočner got tightly to a printer and paper made around the year 2000. He utilized them to make bogus promissory notes showing that he had lent Rusko almost 70 million euros that year. The notes said the obligation was “ensured” by TV Markiza.
As the station’s previous chief, Rusko marked the notes and vouched for their veracity. But since he was bankrupt and had no reserve funds, the commitment to follow through on the phony obligation would tumble to TV Markíza. Kočner sued the station in 2016 for declining to pay.
His case didn’t appear to be solid. Kočner was requesting the reimbursement of a gigantic advance that had probably been given without anybody yet him and Rusko truly thinking about it. Television Markíza’s overall chief affirmed that its bookkeepers had discovered no proof of any arrangement having been made with Kočner. The station’s legal counselors likewise called attention to that Rusko’s mark on the promissory notes was altogether different from the one he utilized on different reports in 2000.
Police examiners would later discover at any rate six master experts who affirmed that the promissory notes were phony.
Kočner expected to guarantee that such proof would not be heard in court. He went to Monika Jankovská, a previous appointed authority who had ascended to the situation of agent equity serve. With her senior position, broad associations, and love of extravagance extras, she was the ideal switch.
Jankovská would later deny any relationship with Kočner. “I don’t know him, I did not communicate with him, neither directly nor indirectly,” she said at a press conference. “Not in person, nor through a middleman. In no way.”
But the evidence says otherwise. Encrypted text messages extracted by the police from an app used by Kočner show that Jankovská was an invaluable ally and intermediary. In the ten months leading up to Kočner’s arrest in June 2018, he and Jankovská exchanged over 6,000 calls and messages.
Jankovská also happened to be the mentor and former supervisor of Zuzana Maruniaková, a new and inexperienced judge at Bratislava’s fifth district court who had just been assigned to hear one of Kočner’s suits against TV Markiza.
Later, after being detained by police, Judge Maruniaková described Jankovská’s insistent campaign to pressure her to rule in Kočner’s favor.
“She helped me many times, especially when she found doctors for my seriously ill mother,” Maruniaková said. “I always respected her instructions, though I sometimes disagreed.”
Maruniaková said Jankovská first approached her shortly after she was assigned the Kočner suit. The case was easy, her former boss assured her, and the promissory notes genuine. “I won’t trick you into some bullshit,” Maruniaková recalled her saying.
Kočner’s messages show that Jankovská was acting on his instructions.
JZuza [Zuzana Maruniaková] isn’t replying. Might be working.Jankovska02.11.2017 13:45:21KOK. Hopefully she’ll reply. I guess she won’t work until tonight. Try to manage it before you leave [on holiday].Kočner02.11.2017 14:09:13JSure.Jankovska02.11.2017 14:43:39
Fearing a less auspicious hearing for his claims after the 2020 parliamentary elections, he wanted to rush the trial.KWe need to push hard with Zuza to achieve at least something, because this won’t be possible after the elections.Kočner5.11.2017 09:48:01
Kočner believed he had everything ready, including bulletproof evidence.KToday, there was an expert analysis done by the department of chemical and alimentary technology of [Slovak Technical University]. … They made an analysis of the [promissory notes] papers. … So far the result is the promissory note is AT LEAST 15 YEARS OLD!Kočner27.09.2017 15:02:32KThis might convince Zuzka to move! What do you think?Kočner27.09.2017 15:10:11
“Jankovská urged me to set a hearing date as soon as possible, preferably for September 2017, and to make the ruling at this first hearing,” Maruniaková later testified. “I didn’t feel ready, so we agreed to set up the first hearing on February 8.”
Three days before the hearing, Kočner wrote Jankovská again.KSHE MUST NOT POSTPONE.Kočner05.02.2018 18:50:34JNo, or I will fuck her myself 👊👊👊👊. She promised. Multiple times. I made her what she is, so it is time to pay the debt!!!!!Jankovská05.02.2018 18:51:19
Jankovská then paid a visit to Maruniaková’s office. “She was very upset and unpleasant,” Maruniaková said. “She said that she always helped me and my family. And that, depending on what I do on February 8, she’ll decide whether she’ll turn the page and forget about my ‘misbehavior.’”
“I told her that I was scared. And she answered that I should be scared only after [the ruling].”
Jankovská’s messages to Kočner confirm that the two were waging a campaign of intimidation.JYesterday she [Maruniaková] was sitting in a cafe and saw you in a car. She almost shit herself, thinking that you were following her.Jankovská31.01.2018 16:50:38JShe can shit or pee herself for what I care!!! She’s supposed to do what she promised! Otherwise I will end [things] with her.Jankovská06.02.2018 15:44:43
But despite the pressure, Maruniaková did not issue a ruling at the first hearing on February 8, later explaining that it was not her “normal practice” to do so. Kočner had to wait until the next hearing, which was scheduled for Thursday, February 22.
That morning, an anonymous bomb threat forced all the courts in Bratislava to be evacuated. TV cameras captured Kočner pacing in front of the building and talking on his cell phone.
Prosecutors would later establish that, by that time, he’d known for several hours what the rest of the country would not learn until the following week: The previous evening, Ján Kuciak, the young investigative reporter who had been hot on his trail, had been murdered along with his fiancée, Martina Kušnírová.
When their bodies were found four days later, the news made international headlines. Growing protests would eventually lead to the resignation of the prime minister and other officials.
But Kočner was still thinking of his promissory notes.KHello. Is Zuza ok?Kočner26.2.2018 21:07:45JFor now, she is. A bit scared after today 😂😂😂Jankovská26.2.2018 21:10:39KShe should do what she is required to do. Or she will end up like Kuciak 😜😜😜.Kočner26.2.2018 21:15:19
In the end, his case took four more hearings to conclude. But on April 26, Maruniaková finally ruled in Kočner’s favor, declaring the promissory notes genuine.
The businessman was elated.JHurrayyyy we got rid of oneJankovská26.04.2018 13:28:15KFinally some success, I believe the tables have turned.Kočner26.04.2018 13:28:20
But TV Markiza’s defense team was adamant that the trial had been conducted unfairly, pointing to Maruniaková’s failure to admit key witnesses and expert testimony that would have contradicted Kočner and Rusko’s claims. Instead, she had relied on the analysis of a single forensic expert provided by Kočner himself.
Maruniaková later conceded that she had caved. “I do admit that during the trial, I was influenced by Dr. Jankovska, I was acting under her pressure,” she told police.
“As a young new judge, I didn’t handle the situation well. I succumbed to pressure and wasn’t acting rationally,” she said. But Maruniaková was adamant that her decisions had not been influenced by the promise of financial reward.
Messages between Kočner and Jankovská suggest otherwise.KI suppose you’re going to split Zuza’s reward also with Denisa.Kočner21.02.2018 18:46:24JNo, Deni will get part of mine. I promised that cunt something and now I must keep it.Jankovská21.02.2018 18:46:50“Denisa” is another judge, Denisa Cviková, who allegedly helped Maruniaková write her judgement.
In an appeal to the Regional Court in Bratislava, the TV Markiza team challenged the fairness of the trial. They also filed a criminal complaint against Kočner and Rusko. The case was assigned to an experienced investigator, Jaroslav Láska.
He had little idea what he was getting into.
On a freezing February morning, Láska met an OCCRP reporter in a park in the historic central Slovak town of Banská Bystrica to recount his experience. The tall, thin man was animated, his eyes sparkling, as he spoke about the Kočner case, which he says changed his life. But he’s glad that difficult period is over.
As he set to work, methodically collecting evidence to expose Kočner’s forgery, he realized he was being targeted himself.
“It happened to my son that he was followed by a car all the way from school to home,” he said. “He called me [when I was] in Bratislava, and he was alone there at home.”
Kočner had hired private detectives to track his family.
“I was just telling myself, you idiot, you put him in danger!”
Láska said that Kočner also hatched a plot to compromise him. “I was asked to meet someone,” he said. “This someone came with Para [Kočner’s lawyer].” Láska understood that the idea was for someone to publish a photo of the two men together to suggest that he was leaking information to Kočner. “I immediately turned and walked away,” he said. “That probably saved me.”
“I underestimated his influence and how far he was willing to go,” Láska said.
But he continued his work. On June 20, 2018, Rusko and Kočner were charged with counterfeiting, falsification, unauthorized production of money and securities, and obstruction of justice.
“We got intel that he was planning an escape, had a boat ready in Croatia,” Láska said. “We needed to act immediately.”
Commandos tracked Kočner down and handcuffed him as he was eating with friends at a Caribbean-themed bar on the shores of a lake outside Bratislava.
“Was he surprised? Well, you never know with Kočner. He has this poker face,” Láska said.
At their criminal trial, Kočner and Rusko’s legal teams continued arguing that the promissory notes were genuine, and had been confirmed as such by expert analysis.
Jankovská, arrested on March 11, 2020, along with Maruniaková and 11 other judges, denied intimidating her former subordinate. But Maruniaková started cooperating with police, admitting that she had made her decision under Jankovská’s influence.Credit: David Ištok/Aktuality.skZuzana Maruniaková is brought in for questioning by National Crime Agency officers on March 11, 2020.
Jankovská’s lawyer, Peter Erdős, declined to comment for this article, citing the ongoing court case. However, he noted that his client was not serving as a public official at the time of the promissory notes case.
In early 2020, Kočner was found guilty and sentenced to 19 years in prison. The sentence was confirmed by the Supreme Court on January 12, marking the first time the businessman had faced consequences in his long years of pulling the strings. His co-conspirator, Rusko, was sentenced to 19 years in prison.
Though Kočner is now sitting in a Bratislava prison, he has more court appearances in his future. He faces four more criminal and corruption charges, including ordering the murder of Kuciak and Kušnírová. (He was acquitted of that charge in September 2020, but prosecutors have appealed.)
Meanwhile, his arrest had a ripple effect across Slovakia’s judicial system. Police found text messages on his phone that went far beyond his exchanges with Jankovská. They led investigators to another senior judge, Vladimír Sklenka, whose communications with Kočner reveal the extent of his connections within Slovakia’s judicial system. After his office was searched, Sklenka decided to cooperate — and his testimony led to that network’s unraveling.
As the deputy president of the Bratislava’s First District Court, Sklenka was useful to Kočner because he could influence a number of business disputes in which Kočner was embroiled. In 2019, Kočner’s phone contained over 9,000 messages he’d exchanged with Sklenka.
The judge was introduced to Kočner by an acquaintance, a businessman named Ladislav Mojžíš who promised him an informal meeting with the influential operator. Sklenka agreed.Credit: TASRVladimír Sklenka.
The two men met in an empty conference room of a hotel in the forested outskirts of Bratislava. As they chatted about politics, Kočner gave Sklenka a scrap of paper with four case numbers on it. As a favor, he asked Sklenka to check on the status of the proceedings. Sklenka agreed, and was rewarded for his trouble — to the tune of 5,000 euros in cash.
“See, I told you he’s cool,” Mojžíš said of Kočner.
In another meeting at the same hotel, Kočner proposed a solution for secure communication.
“He asked me what kind of telephone I have, so I showed him my old Nokia,” Sklenka told investigators. “And he told me I need a different phone.” In short order, Kočner brought a used silver iPhone 6 from his car and helped Sklenka install Threema, his preferred secure text messaging application. From that point on, it was the only way the two men communicated, Sklenka said.
Early in his useful new friendship, Kočner asked only for small favors. Sometimes he wanted to know which judge would be in charge of which case, or check on the status of court filings.
Sklenka seemed happy to oblige. In fact, he was such a font of information that Kočner sometimes felt overwhelmed.KSlow down! I am fucking losing the thread of conversation!!!Kočner17.11.2017 19:43:45
Requests for larger favors soon followed, such as ruling in Kočner’s favor or asking other judges to do so. Soon Kočner was not just telling Sklenka how to rule, but bringing him the reasoning he should use, already written and saved on USB sticks.
“I was very busy and the reasoning was well written, so I took it and let it upload it into the judicial software,” Sklenka confessed.
In exchange, Sklenka received payments ranging from a few thousand to 100,000 euros per ruling, part of which was laundered through a company belonging to Sklenka’s wife.
“Unlike other judges, I had no fixed rate,” he said. “I never asked about the money in advance.” In total, he admitted to accepting around 170,000 euros from Kočner.
Sklenka was also the one who distributed Kočner’s bribes to other judges — not just cash, but also luxury items such as perfumes and handbags. And since his usefulness to Kočner was proportional to his popularity, Kočner came up with the idea of having him distribute gift boxes to his colleagues on Christmas.KHow many women do you have in the office who should get a gift? I’ll have Christmas boxes made. As if they were from you.Kočner07.12.2017 18:05:13KThe box: a bit of tea, chocolate, candy, small sweet wine, cookie. … I want you to have an unshakeable position there [at the court].Kočner07.12.2017 18:15:01
The boxes were well received and Sklenka informed Kočner that his colleagues were grateful.
In his testimony, Sklenka exposed not only himself, but also 14 other judges whose decisions Kočner attempted to influence. But it went further than Kočner.
In 2020, the police launched three major operations — “Storm,” “Thunderstorm,” and “Weed” — in which they arrested 21 prominent judges, including the deputy head of the Supreme Court. They were accused of corruption and infringement on the independence of the courts, charges which in some cases also involved dealings with Kočner. Another constitutional judge resigned as a result of public pressure.Credit: David Ištok/Aktuality.skNational Crime Agency officers conduct a mass operation to arrest allegedly corrupt judges on March 11, 2020.
It wasn’t only the judges and courts. In November and December 2020, two former police presidents were also charged with heading an organized criminal group, abuse of power, extortion, and corruption. One later committed suicide in his jail cell.
The head and deputy head of the financial crime unit within the Financial Administration were also slapped with serious charges, including abuse of power, extortion, and support of a criminal group. Top prosecutor Dušan Kováčik, who earned the nickname “61:0” for failing to issue any indictments in the 61 cases he was assigned, was charged with organized criminal activity, corruption, and failing to prosecute men who were plotting the assassination of a police investigator.
These revelations took place in a Slovakia that had radically transformed. After the outrage caused by Kuciak’s murder, those who had once made Kočner untouchable started to turn away from him. By failing to keep his encrypted conversations with judges and prosecutors hidden, Kočner took down some of the most influential people in the country’s judiciary.
Meanwhile, Láska has moved on from the police force and is now working for Slovakia’s Judicial Council as an investigator of judicial corruption. Asked whether he thought the anti-corruption crackdown would continue, he said he didn’t know.
“But I hope it will,” Láska said. “I still have a few tips.”
Very rich person and long-lasting Putin partner Arkady Rotenberg has approached as the authority proprietor of the Russian president’s “castle.” soon, another enormous development adventure will start close to the home — 119 hectares (around 294 sections of land) has been dispensed for a chasing lodge. The “Divnomorskoye” domain is found close by — a 323-hectare (798-section of land) property that incorporates a spa unpredictable, a winery, and a “tasting house.” A private water park is set to be worked there soon. The entirety of this has a place with Putin-connected extremely rich person Gennady Timchenko and financial specialist Vladimir Kolbin (the child of Putin’s cherished companion Petr Kolbin). Farther away is the home of the top of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill. Worked as a profound and social focus, the property incorporates an indoor pool, 70 hectares (around 173 sections of land) of grape plantations, and a winery — costing roughly 22 billion rubles ($298 million) altogether. Through the woodland interfacing with “Putin’s royal residence” there are two camping areas having a place with very rich person Oleg Deripaska esteemed at 7 billion rubles (almost $95 million), alongside a huge number of hectares of leased chasing grounds, the expense of which specialists wouldn’t endeavor to gauge. The neighbor nearest to “Putin’s royal residence” is the “Parus” office having a place with finance manager Sergey Shishkarev. This plot of land itself costs about 1.2 billion rubles ( $16.2 million) — that is without adding the estimation of the structures on the property, since nothing is thought about them. The close by resort town of Gelendzhik is home to the home of “Putin’s own financier” Yuri Kovalchuk — a 70 hectare property esteemed at 11 billion rubles (more than $148 million). The property’s principle building is 6,752 square meters (72,678 feet), and incorporates a roof pool and all encompassing glass dividers.
Most recently, investigative reporters at Sobesednik, Proekt, The Bell, and other outlets have linked the infamous “palace” to Yuri Kovalchuk, the principal shareholder of Rossiya Bank and one of Vladimir Putin’s oldest friends.
The corporate email address listed for the St.-Petersburg-based firm “Binom” (the registered owner of Vladimir Putin’s alleged “palace” on the Black Sea coast) is hosted on the domain “llcinvest.ru.” According to the website Sobesednik, this domain belongs to the company “Standart,” which is in turn affiliated with Yuri Kovalchuk.
“Standart” is registered at the same address as “Igora Drive” and several other assets owned by Kovalchuk, says the news site The Bell. In fact, some of these businesses also use the llcinvest.ru domain. Spokespeople for Binom confirmed to Sobesednik that these firms all belong to a single conglomerate.
Binom also verified that it employs Denis Matyunin, whose name appears in documents as the legal representative for the owner of the “Shellest” yacht, which Sobesednik says periodically “ferries up” to the coastline near Gelendzhik, where Vladimir Putin’s alleged “palace” is located. The yacht itself is registered to the “Revival of Maritime Traditions” nonprofit partnership, which is also reportedly tied to Yuri Kovalchuk, according to both Sobesednik and the anti-corruption initiative Scanner Project.
Navalny’s investigation into “Putin’s palace” also mentioned Yuri Kovalchuk.
Rumors and reports about a mansion for Vladimir Putin outside Gelendzhik have circulated since 2010. The public’s interest reawakened in January 2021 when Alexey Navalny released an investigative report describing the construction (and perpetual remodeling) of the seaside compound. In his report, Navalny mentions Yuri Kovalchuk as one of the businessmen who allegedly helped finance both the palace and several adjacent vineyards and wineries.
After Navalny’s investigation became an international sensation, Alexander Ponomarenko announced that he cut ties with the property back in 2016 (though federal records still list him as the sole owner), and the billionaire Arkady Rotenberg publicly claimed to own the constriction site, which he says is the future home of an “apartment hotel” complex. But Rotenberg and Ponomarenko are old business partners, and open sources alone make it “difficult, to say the least,” to verify the palace’s true owner, says The Bell.
‘I loved this country’ Meduza talks to the architect behind ‘Putin’s palace’ about his career in Russia — and how it came to a sad end
It’s good to be the president Meduza spoke to contractors who helped build Vladimir Putin’s alleged seaside palace. Also, new blueprints reveal a subterranean fortress, multiple ‘aqua-discos,’ and more.
Kovalchuk might also have helped Putin buy a dacha complex near Yalta that was a famous retreat for Soviet leaders
The “Wisteria” dacha complex outside Yalta was originally built for Nikita Khrushchev, but his successor Leonid Brezhnev enjoyed more time there than any Soviet leader. After the USSR’s collapse, the compound became a vacation resort. In 2004, the Russian state bank VTB (then “Vneshtorgbank”) bought the facility, but the Ukrainian government canceled the sale a year later. According to Leonid Kuchma, who was Ukraine’s president at the time, Russia wanted Wisteria as a residence for Vladimir Putin.
After Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the authorities seized Wisteria and then privatized it in 2019, selling the property for 1.2 billion rubles ($16.3 million). The Crimean government has not disclosed the buyers’ names, but the news outlet Krym Realii (designated by the Russian Justice Ministry as a “foreign agent”) reported that a firm called “Oreanda-12,” owned by someone named Janis Ermanis, ultimately bought the dacha complex — a remarkable acquisition for a company with just 10,000 rubles ($135) in charter capital, no profits, and no website or contacts listed publicly.
Journalists at Proekt tracked down Ermanis in Moscow and learned that he’s a trained economist who offers private lessons in Wing Chun kung fu. Speaking to Proekt, he neither confirmed nor denied his role in buying Wisteria. Colleagues and relatives say he lives a modest life.
Ermanis is listed as Oreanda-12’s director and sole shareholder, says Proekt. The company’s shareholder register, moreover, is a St.-Petersburg-based firm called “Accounting and Registration Center,” which formally belongs to five individuals with known ties to Kovalchuk’s Rossiya Bank. The same firm in St. Petersburg acts as the shareholder register for Rossiya Bank, the National Media Group, and almost all Kovalchuk’s assets in Crimea.
Wisteria hasn’t welcomed any new guests in more than five years, locals told Proekt. An employee working at the neighboring Kremlin-run “Nizhnyaya Oreanda” retreat told journalists that construction work is underway at the vacant compound. Including Wisteria, President Putin may have more than 20 official and unofficial residences across Russia and Crimea, writes Proekt.
The shadow of Stanko Subotić has long stalked Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić. Allegations of links between the businessman with ties to organized crime and the country’s top politician have often been levelled, but never proven.
Subotić, convicted of large-scale cigarette smuggling in 2011 and handed six years in prison, before being controversially cleared a few years later, has insisted he only ever backed Vučić at the ballot box, never financially.
While opposition politicians and media allege there are deeper ties between the politician and businessman, always without proof, the two steadfastly deny any connection. Such ties would be problematic for the president because of Subotić’s former convictions (since reversed) for criminal activities, and evidence of ties between Subotić and regional drug lord Darko Sarić.
In Serbia and several other Balkan nations, the “best man,” or kum, is an important social role with no real equivalent in English. A kum might literally be a groomsman at a wedding, but it also refers to someone who is as close as family, like a blood brother.
But despite Vučić’s moves to distance himself from Subotić, OCCRP and its Serbian member center KRIK have found that Nikola Petrović — a man known to be very close to the president who describes himself as Vučić’s “best man,” or kum in Serbian — has in fact done business with Subotić.
Petrović established a shell company in Luxembourg in early 2019 through which he ran various Serbian business ventures, including interests in air transport, solar energy, and pharmaceuticals. A closer look into some of these holdings by OCCRP’s Serbian member center KRIK offers the first documented evidence tying Subotić’s network to the president’s inner circle.
“I am not a public figure,” Petrović told reporters when asked about his business dealings. “I do not need to answer your questions and you absolutely don’t have the right to ask me questions. I will report you for harassing me.”
Petrović is, despite these protestations, a well-known and influential figure in Serbia.
So important is his role that he was named in a letter sent by five U.S. members of Congress to then-Vice President Joseph Biden in September 2015, days before Vučić visited the U.S. The legislators were concerned, they wrote, that a small group led by Vučić’s brother Andrej, and including Petrović, had “consolidated their influence and interest in energy, telecommunications, infrastructure and all major businesses in Serbia.”
In October 2018, Subotić moved his holding company, Emerging Markets Investments (EMI), from Denmark to Luxembourg. Initially, he based the company in the capital city, Luxembourg, at the address of Auditex, a tax consulting firm. When Auditex later moved to Leudelange, a small town in the southwestern part of the country, EMI moved with them.Credit: Stevan Dojcinovic/KRIKDrug trafficker Darko Sarić is seen at a hearing.
Petrović established his own company, Fabergé Advisors, months later in January 2019. Although its structure is complex — Fabergé Advisors was founded by a company based in the U.K., with its last known main shareholder a Cyprus-registered company — Petrović is listed as the beneficial owner.
Fabergé Advisors, as it turns out, uses the same directors and the same address as Subotić’s holding company, EMI. That address is the offices of the parent company of Auditex, the tax consulting company used by Subotić.
The connection is not definitive because more than 400 additional companies are also registered at the same address, indicating it may be in use by a registration agent. The shared directors are likely proxies — individuals from France and Belgium who appear as managers in numerous companies in Luxembourg.
But there are more direct business relationships. Petrović and Subotić share an interest in aviation.
In October 2020, Petrović branched into the sector by using Fabergé Advisors to buy the air transport firm Air Posh for what appears to be a knockdown price of 100,000 euros, a contract shows. The seller was Subotić, using a subsidiary of EMI. Subotić had established Air Posh through a series of companies just a year and a half earlier, in April 2019.
While under Subotić’s ownership, Air Posh had bought a Cessna 550 aircraft from a New York company. The airplane alone is worth between 700,000 and 1.3 million euros, according to websites that advertise such prices, indicating that for 100,000 euros, Petrović may have bought Air Posh at a huge discount. (Neither Subotić nor Petrović would respond to questions on the sale from OCCRP and KRIK, and it is possible there were additional terms of the deal not known to reporters.)
The plane at one point was used by Air Pink, an air transport company co-owned by media magnate Željko Mitrović, who had close ties to the former regime of Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosević. Mitrović’s TV Pink is considered by Serbian media analysts to be the strongest vehicle for what they say is Vučić’s propaganda.
Under Petrović, Air Posh kept its registered office in a building where Subotić owns several apartments in Belgrade, and the airline continued to use the Cessna, according to information from the Civil Aviation Directorate of the Republic of Serbia. Borislav Radić, a pilot who, according to his LinkedIn profile, previously worked for Air Pink, was named director of Air Posh after Petrović took over the company. The Cessna is still listed on the Air Pink website as part of its fleet.Credit: KRIKThe headquarters of Air Posh is seen in Belgrade.
Under Petrović’s ownership, Air Posh flies clients from its Serbian base mostly to Vienna, but also to Brussels, Rome, Amsterdam, Moscow, Kyiv, Bodrum, Beirut, Tel Aviv, Sharm El Sheikh and Dubai, according to websites that record flight information.
After President Vučić’s party came to power in 2012, Petrović was made director of a state-owned company controlling electrical transmission. Leaving this role in late 2016, he went on to thrive in the private sector, producing electricity via mini-hydropower plants — electricity he sold to the Serbian state for millions of euros.
When buying companies in Serbia, Petrović took pains not to expose himself. Indeed, some of his new business partners told reporters they didn’t know he was the one behind the company with which they had signed contracts.Credit: StorenergyA Storenergy solar concentrator.
Again through the Luxembourg-based Fabergé Advisors, he expanded his portfolio in August 2019, by purchasing a 50-percent stake in Serbian company Storenergy, a solar energy company which filed a patent application for a “solar concentrator, receiver and thermal storage,” records show.
His new partner in this business, Marko Vuksanović, told OCCRP/KRIK he didn’t realize that the buyer was the Serbian president’s “best man.” Asked with whom he negotiated when he sold part-ownership, he said he dealt “with a few people who are representatives of that [Fabergé Advisors] investment fund. … They are some French people.”
The solar contract was signed on Petrović’s behalf by Vladimir Krkobabić, a director in many companies owned by Subotić. Petrović paid 50,000 euros to Vuksanović for his half-share of Storenergy, according to a contract seen by OCCRP and KRIK.
Storenergy has installed one small solar concentrator on Avala mountain, near Belgrade, and a bigger one near the town of Kragujevac in central Serbia, according to the company’s website.
With the Serbian government investing millions of euros into renewable energy in the coming years, those involved in this business, including Petrović, could be poised to book large profits.
Third among Petrović’s new business interests is pharmaceuticals.
In September 2020, once more via Fabergé Advisors, he took majority ownership of Serbian company Krasius, which one year earlier had received permission to import drugs for clinical trials, according to documents obtained from the Serbian Ministry of Health by OCCRP/KRIK. The ministry is run by Zlatibor Lončar, one of a handful of Vučić associates with alleged ties to organized crime.
Just a month before Petrović took ownership, this company received another permit, from Medicines and Medical Devices Agency of Serbia, to import 960 vials of CIMAher, a drug produced by the Center for Molecular Immunology in Cuba. Data from the agency shows that the CIMAher was for use by a private Belgrade clinic called Vesalius. CIMAher is a non-registered medicine in Serbia, but some websites advertise it as an anti-cancer treatment.
According to a Cuban medical services company contacted by KRIK, the price for one vial is $400, meaning that the retail value of the shipment would be $380,000. Yet according to the contract paperwork, Petrović paid just 51 dinars (50 U.S. cents) for a 51-percent controlling share of Krasius from Ivan Krasić, an ex-basketball player for the French club Cholet. Krasić told reporters he didn’t originally know Petrović was the one buying a stake in his company.
Much like Vuksanović, Krasić insisted he had initially been completely in the dark as to who his new partner was.
“I don’t know Petrović,” he said. “Some lawyers called me and asked me to sell part of the company. I was in need of money.” Krasić said he had only heard that Petrović was behind the deal when they were “finishing” it.
But if Krasić badly needed cash, the selling price of 51 dinars wouldn’t have been of much use to him. When asked by reporters how much he had really been paid, Krasić replied that it was “a trade secret.”
“I don’t have anything to do with politics,” he said. “That is not my world. They are big players. I am a modest man. I play basketball.”
A 33-year-old Russian man who runs no known profitable businesses secretly owns European real estate and other assets worth at least 50 million euros, corporate records from Luxembourg show.
The findings of this story are based on corporate records that are current as of 2019 in the case of Toni’s Luxembourg companies, and 2018 in the case of his investment fund.
Sergey Toni’s properties, which he holds through seven companies registered in the tiny European country, include a 19th-century neo-Gothic palace near Paris; an apartment between the Louvre and the Arc de Triomphe; two villas on the French Riviera; three houses, three apartments, a villa, and land on Spain’s Mediterranean coast; a depot in Germany; and even, apparently, a hotel in Switzerland.
An investment fund registered in Luxembourg — of which Toni is registered as a director — holds an additional 40 million euros of commercial real estate that almost all once belonged to his family, as well as 60 million euros in other assets. The fund’s current owners are unknown, as is any other role the Toni family may play in its investments.
Because Luxembourg records show only a company’s current owner, it is unknown when Toni became associated with these companies and their assets. He was just 15 years old when the first of the properties were purchased. The virtually unknown Toni, who does not have a visible internet presence, did not respond to questions about how he came to possess such wealth.
But his great fortune may have something to do with the fact that his father, Oleg Toni, is a deputy managing director of Russian Railways.
The state monopoly, one of the largest transport companies in the world, is also Russia’s largest employer, with over 700,000 workers and net profits of $829 million. But this pillar of Russian state capitalism is famously corrupt.
In 2014, for example, Reuters reported that Russian Railways granted contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars to shell companies allegedly controlled by an old friend and “unpaid adviser” of its longtime head, Vladimir Yakunin.
Yakunin and the elder Toni appear to have had a warm relationship. The Russian Railways boss contributed an introduction to a book Toni wrote about “the fate of modern Russia.” Yakunin also wrote a laudatory blog post (since deleted) in which he praised his subordinate for his work on the 2014 Winter Olympics.Wringing Profits From Russian RailwaysNovaya Gazeta and OCCRP found that Yakunin’s friend’s son earned millions as an intermediary between Russian Railways and Bombardier, the international transport giant. He also received millions of uncertain origin through a money laundering scheme known as the Russian Laundromat.Read more
“Toni was the key leader who organized the construction of all of Russian Railways’ Olympic facilities in Sochi,” Yakunin wrote. “Building what we built in just five years from nothing — few could shoulder it.”
In 2010, it was reported two of Toni’s former business partners at a private construction firm received massive contracts from Russian Railways to build Olympics facilities. At the time, Russian Railways said no laws had been violated. Toni did not respond to OCCRP’s questions about this possible conflict of interest.
No specific evidence has emerged linking the Toni family’s real estate to any illicit activity at Russian Railways. But the opaque corporate structures used to acquire the properties, their registration, en masse, to the younger Toni, and the mysterious origins of much of the financing raise questions about what may be happening behind the scenes.
Like his son, Oleg Toni did not respond to requests for comment.
Flats and Villas, Villas and Flats
In total, the Tonis acquired about 7 million euros’ worth of property in 2003 and 2004, the year Oleg Toni joined Russian Railways.
Among their earliest possessions is their most extravagant: the Chateau de Montapot near Paris.
This three-story neo-Gothic palace, built in 1850, has a total area of 990 square meters and 19 bedrooms. The house has an office with a fireplace, a dining room, a billiard room, and two more living rooms with fireplaces.Credit: Cec ElectThe Chateau de Montapot.
Тhe property was bought in 2003 by a company registered in the British Virgin Islands whose owners cannot be identified, but whose director was Irina Toni, the elder Toni’s wife and Sergei’s mother. Several years later, the BVI company gave this property to one of the seven Luxembourg companies that now belong to the young Sergey Toni. At the time of purchase, an independent appraiser estimated the palace’s value at 2.5 million euros.
The same scheme was used to acquire three other French properties: A Paris apartment on the glamorous Rue du Faubourg just a quick walk from the Elysee Palace; a small house in the fashionable village of Mougins; and a 3-million-euro villa in the French Riviera town of Le Cannet. By 2007, the value of this last purchase had risen to 4.6 million euros, suggesting that the family had invested further funds to improve it.
At least one of these French properties appears to be used by the Tonis themselves: A photograph posted on Instagram by Toni’s wife in 2016 shows a Russian-style lunch being served in the yard of the Chateau de Montapot: potato, herring, and raw onion garnished with a sprig of dill. (Her Instagram page was made private shortly after a version of this story was published in Russian.)
It is unknown whether the family uses the other properties personally. They do not appear on popular rental sites such as Airbnb or booking.com, and Google Maps images show no indication that they are being rented out. The accounts of Lansan Investments, the Luxembourg company that owns them, show steadily accumulating debt, suggesting that the properties do not bring in any income.
Meanwhile, the family moved on to Spain, establishing a separate Luxembourg company, Romal SA, for this purpose. Between 2010 and 2018, Romal purchased a villa, three apartments, three houses, and land in the province of Alicante worth a total of 7.4 million euros. It also registered the right to use a spot in the city’s port. Judging by company records, these properties also bring in no income.
The Toni family used a third Luxembourg-registered company, Slova SA, for commercial real estate investments. Between 2012 and 2013, this firm acquired three properties worth 24 million euros: the Hotel Courtyard Seestern by Mariott in Dusseldorf, the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Maastricht, and a shopping center called Porte di Moncalieri near Turin.
Over the next years, however, the young Sergey Toni sold these assets to an investment fund that was registered in Luxembourg in 2014. The fund is managed by United Financial Group, a wealth management company working in the Russian market since 2005. By the end of 2018, its Luxembourg affiliate had collected assets around Europe worth 100 million euros, of which about 40 million represent real estate formerly owned by or connected to the Toni family.
The names of the fund’s investors are unknown, but Sergey Toni is one of its directors. Neither he nor his father responded when asked about the nature of their involvement. The fund paid out 58 million euros in dividends in 2018 and 2019.
These properties represent just a portion of a business empire that now belongs to the 33-year-old Sergey.
In 2017, another of his Luxembourg companies acquired a 4.9 million-euro property in Germany described in documents only as a “depot.” Still another owns almost 17 million euros in Swiss assets, though the records don’t reveal what they are. A sixth Luxembourg company recently sold an office building in France it had held since 2008.
Luxembourg is not the only place where the Toni family has secretive assets. Reporters found a Toni company registered in the British Virgin Islands that owns an apartment in the upscale London district of Knightsbridge. The family also owns a large house in Prague through a Czech company, according to registry documents.
The Mysterious Money
Before joining Russian Railways in 2004, Oleg Toni was a businessman and held shares in a large private construction firm, Baltic Construction Company (BSK). He sold these shares between 2003 and 2006. Almost 15 years later, it’s difficult to estimate how much his share could have been worth or how much he could have earned there. Judging by the only information available — the net value of BSK’s assets — Toni’s share might be estimated as roughly 3 million dollars at the time. This figure is just a fraction of what his family spent on French real estate alone.
Though Oleg Toni’s position at Russian Railways does not require him to disclose his salary or assets, the company publishes consolidated information about how much its executives are compensated. If Toni receives a proportionate share of the total, his annual salary could be about 1 million euros. By Russian standards, this is an extraordinarily generous income, but it’s still insufficient to explain his family’s acquisition of tens of millions of dollars in non-income-generating properties.Credit: Instagram/Hanushka ToniSergey and Hanushka Toni.
In fact, many of the Toni family’s purchases were financed through loans. In total, his companies’ debts surpass the value of their properties. And most of these funds were loaned not by banks, but by unnamed third parties, leaving their origin a mystery.
Between London and Monaco
Sergey Toni’s wife, Hanushka Toni, is the daughter of Azerbaijan’s former ambassador to London. Like her husband, she is familiar with unprofitable companies: she’s the director of a London-based real estate firm into which the couple have invested nearly two million pounds and owns a consignment handbag store she opened with her mother.
Both businesses are in the red. But neither they nor her husband’s lossmaking real estate empire have prevented the family from leading a life of luxury.
According to his wife’s Instagram posts, they split their time between London and Monaco. Her posts also show that she received an Aston Martin for her birthday in 2015 and poses in clothing made by Fendi, Gucci, and Dolce & Gabbana.
Hanushka Toni’s hobbies, according to a bio on a website of a former employer, include “writing, eating her way around London and organising her closet by colour and season.”
Thousands of emails sent and received by Kirill Shamalov — Vladimir Putin’s former son-in-law — showcase the fantastic wealth and personal power that come with access to Russia’s first family.
- Shamalov and Putin’s daughter spent millions setting up luxurious households in Russia and France even as Putin banned Russian elites from owning foreign assets.
- Soon after marrying Putin’s daughter, Shamalov spent an astonishing $100 to acquire a share in Russia’s largest petrochemical company that was worth $380 million.
- Shamalov later acquired an additional, much larger stake in the company in a well-known deal that made him a billionaire. His emails reveal that this acquisition was just one of the lucrative opportunities with which he was presented — and contain a hint about how it may have been structured.
- Shamalov’s proximity to political power made him a highly desired partner. In one case, he was offered a free share in a large company in exchange for his ability to wield “administrative resources,” exemplifying the corrupt nexus of power and business that characterizes modern Russia.
In Russia, few secrets are guarded as jealously as basic information about President Vladimir Putin’s family.
The president’s official biography confirms the widely-known fact that he and his former wife had two daughters, Maria and Katerina. But neither Putin nor his press service have ever revealed his daughters’ full names or anything about their family lives or careers. Neither uses his surname in public.Кирилл и КатяRead this investigation in Russian on the site of our Russian member center, IStories.Read more
Among the few facts that have been pieced together by journalists is that Putin’s younger daughter, Katerina, was once married to a man named Kirill Shamalov. It is clear that Shamalov is a wealthy man, having become Russia’s youngest billionaire at just 32 years old. But he is not a household name, and few details about his fantastic acquisition of wealth have been reported.
Now, for the first time, a wider set of facts about Shamalov has become available. Earlier this year, reporters from IStories, OCCRP’s Russian member center, gained access to a leaked archive of Shamalov’s emails from an anonymous source.
The leak contains more than 10,000 messages spanning the years 2003 to 2020, and it offers unprecedented insight into a man who has rare access to the inner workings of Russian political life.
🔗Collection Number One
The anonymous source didn’t reveal how he or she obtained Shamalov’s emails — but the messages themselves hint at a possible answer.MORE
Publishing leaks from anonymous sources is a difficult journalistic decision.
In the first place, the authenticity of documents received from an unknown party may be in question. To verify the Shamalov archive, the emails were first structured and indexed by OCCRP’s data analysts. Reporters from IStories then spent nearly a year verifying them: They checked email headers, spoke with senders, and substantiated information in company registries, real estate databases, social networks, and other publicly available sources. Our conclusion is that the emails are real.
Another issue is privacy. When granting access to the material, the source requested that reporters not publish any medical records. This request has been honored. IStories and OCCRP have also chosen not to release the archive indiscriminately. What’s being used in this investigation is just enough to tell a story that’s in the public interest.
Beyond confirming without a doubt that Shamalov married Putin’s daughter Katerina, who uses the surname Tikhonova, the archive contains a number of other revelations about the financial advantages he gained, and the influence he enjoyed, through his access to the first family. His evident ability to wield administrative resources and personal connections to the financial benefit of himself and his friends and business partners exemplifies the corrupt nexus of power and business that characterizes modern Russia.
Kirill Shamalov and Katerina Tikhonova both declined to comment for this story. Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, replied in one sentence: “We’ve already left such questions without answers many times.”
🔗The Elder Shamalov
Kirill Shamalov is the son of Nikolai Shamalov, one of Putin’s oldest and closest friends.MORE
Many members of Russia’s ruling elite are old Putin associates who followed him to Moscow and took up key government posts after he rose to the presidency.
These dacha neighbors, judo sparring partners, massage therapists, and one-time city bureaucrats are sometimes called Piterskie after their hometown of St. Petersburg — a term that, by analogy to other geographical epithets like the Tambovskie or Izmailovskie, carries more than a whiff of organized crime.
Many of these men are still around. But over the two decades since Putin took office, their children and grandchildren have amassed their own wealth and power and have begun to rise into top positions. Call them the “new Piterskie.”
Shamalov’s email archive offers a curious portrait of this group. Many of them, like him, studied law at St. Petersburg State University. They discuss taking positions in government, state firms, and big business, and note that when they come to Moscow, the city will be a different one than their parents once conquered.
But some things never change. As in their parents’ world, personal connections mean everything for the new Piterskie.
In June 2004, when Shamalov was in his final year of studies, he received an email from a classmate, Yan Piskunov:
Buddy, we’ll arrange everything in the best way possible! It’ll be sweet. The main thing is to discuss the organization. I’ll send you the speech on Tuesday morning. I’ll pick up the review today or Monday, and during the week we’ll prepare answers to the reviewers’ questions and comments. I was very glad to finally see you. Get some rest and take your time.”
Judging from the context, the message is about helping Shamalov prepare his thesis defense — and handing him a pre-written speech to present before the examination committee.
A few days later, the presentation was ready.
“Hello Shamalov :)!,” Piskunov writes again. “Draft speech … attached.” And indeed, the attached file contained a presentation about a thesis on real estate law.
The cheerful Piskunov had a career ahead of him that would be the envy of any Russian student. Not long after he graduated, at age 25, he vaulted into an executive position at Gazprom-Media, the largest media holding in the country, becoming its deputy general director and head of the legal department.
The group, which includes such popular outlets as the NTV and TNT television channels and the Echo of Moscow radio station, belongs to Gazprombank. By coincidence or not, Shamalov’s older brother, Yuri, is on the board of directors of both the media holding and the bank. He did not respond to requests for comment.
In September 2009, Piskunov came up in Shamalov’s correspondence again when an acquaintance wrote him with an unusual, but extremely frank, request: “Question: is it possible to change the position of Piskunov and Pleshkov towards Vnukovo airport, or to neutralize their activities?”
A memo attached to the email provided the relevant context: Two of Moscow’s major airports, Vnukovo and Domodedovo, had been involved in a commercial dispute that had been resolved in Domodedovo’s favor, costing Vnukovo some 350 million rubles ($11.8 million). According to the writer, the courts had made the ruling “under pressure” from Dmitry Pleshkov, then the “Head of the Secretariat of the Chairman of the Supreme Arbitration Court,” who himself allegedly acted “on behalf of Yan Borisovich Piskunov … of Gazprom-Media.” He was asking whether these two men could be influenced in a way that would favor Vnukovo airport.
There’s no evidence that Shamalov made any requests to either Piskunov or Pleshkov to intervene in the airport dispute. But a month later, the Federal Arbitration Court of the Moscow District overturned the earlier court decision, saving Vnukovo millions. Exactly what Shamalov’s acquaintance asked for had happened.
Shamalov was only 27 that year, but he already had an impressive resume, having worked for Gazprom, Gazprombank, the Russian government, and Rosoboronexport, the country’s top arms exporter. He was now Vice President for Administrative Business Support at Sibur, Russia’s largest petrochemical company.
But much bigger things were to come.
In 2013, as several outlets including Reuters reported, Shamalov married a woman named Katerina Tikhonova who was described as Putin’s daughter.Young Scientist Flies High with Leg Up From PutinThis OCCRP story from 2015 looks into Tikhonova’s Innopraktika Foundation — and her passion for acrobatic rock-and-roll.Read more
The Kremlin has refused to confirm that this is the case. But Shamalov’s emails leave no doubt, and confirm Tikhonova and Shamalov were married in February 2013. They don’t reveal when the couple got acquainted. But the evidence — including this message he received from one of the organizers of their wedding — indicates that he has known her for most of his life:
During the Ice Show, a screen will be installed behind the stage to show a video sequence to accompany the performances on the ice, and during some numbers a live broadcast will be organized to show what’s happening on stage (for example, during your dance).
For the video sequence, we need:
- Your joint photos from 2012-2013 (“recent”)
- Childhood photos — separately, together …
- Text from messages, from both Katerina and Kirill … just the text, it’d be nice to have something recognizable … how you addressed each other …
- Kirill, a photo in military uniform? Maybe with friends, or taking your oath, there’s probably something …
- Kirill — what was your phone number in 2003/2004 – when you called Katerina?
- Katerina, we would like to have some video clips of your performances ? Perhaps there are some from that iconic world championship in Munich, when Kirill spent 11 hours with you? Or whatever you’re willing to show (I remember that there are competitors among the guests)
By the summer before their wedding, the couple was busy arranging a luxurious life in Russia and France. On June 2, 2012, Shamalov received an email from the woman who was in charge of rebuilding and decorating a house for the young couple in Usovo, a village in an elite area near Moscow not far from the president’s Novo-Ogarevo residence:
Dear Kirill, here are the photos of items that Katya has chosen for your garden. Everything is in stock in Italy (we received confirmation). To get this order moving, you must make an advance payment of 60% of the indicated amount.
Attached to the email was a list of purchases for a small outdoor tent — a table, a sofa, a couple of armchairs, a fabric curtain — that cost 53,000 euros.
Shamalov forwarded this to his future wife: “I like it, no objections. What’s your opinion?”
Two days later, Tikhonova sent Shamalov a list of Japanese books for their home library that cost over $7,700. More expensive still was a carpet for the library that the couple purchased for 54,300 euros.
Shamalov received frequent reports on the progress of the house thanks to which it is possible to estimate its total cost. The renovation, furniture, and equipment came to nearly 8 million euros. Adding the estimated cost of the land and the house itself brings the possible total price of the mansion to about 15-17 million euros.Credit: Table by OCCRPA selection of 10 noteworthy items for Shamalov and Tikhonova’s Usovo mansion from the home improvement reports he received.
But the house in Usovo was not the couple’s only expensive property.
In October 2012, through a Monaco company called Alta Mira, Shamalov bought a mansion in the French resort town of Biarritz from the family of Gennady Timchenko, a longtime Putin friend and a multi-billionaire with interests in energy, transport and infrastructure. Judging by documents in Shamalov’s emails, the Biarritz mansion cost 4.5 million euros.
The decoration of this house, too, spoke of the couple’s expensive tastes. In July 2014, a designer asked Shamalov to approve the purchase of 19,000 euros’ worth of terrace and garden furniture. He forwarded this message to Tikhonova, who replied two days later: “This isn’t how it’s done. Tell her to send pictures;) or at least links to a site where you can see pictures)”Credit: The Anti-Corruption FoundationShamalov and Tikhonova’s mansion in Biarritz.
In the Russian Style
New Husband of Putin’s Ex-Wife Buys Posh Villa in South of FranceArtur Ocheretny, the new husband of Putin’s ex-wife, acquired his own villa in Biarritz in 2013, not far from Shamalov’s mansion.Read more
Shamalov’s emails reveal the details of the couple’s February 2013 wedding at the Igora ski resort in the Leningrad region.
At the end of January, Shamalov began sending out invitations with a detailed description of the elaborate dress code for three days and nights of celebration, including “cocktail,” “creative black tie,” and “casual chic” attire, all “in the Russian style.”
The newlyweds invited about 100 guests, including six officers of the Presidential Security Service who stayed nearby for protection. Curiously, the list did not include Tikhonova’s parents, Putin and his wife (the couple had not yet announced their divorce), though their omission may have been a security precaution.
On February 1, Shamalov received the final schedule. The first day included a “Russian tea party” with a samovar, traditional sweets, and buns, followed by a pre-wedding dinner. On the morning of the second day, the young couple was to marry in the church, followed by street festivities called “Russian holiday on the square” and a wedding banquet. On the third day, guests gathered for a farewell dinner where they were serenaded by Tikhonova’s favorite singer, Margarita Pozoyan.
Like most Russian couples, the newlyweds asked the guests to chip in for a gift. “We are planning to order an individual wedding tea-table service for 24 persons produced by the Imperial Porcelain Factory. The program will provide a special time and place for collecting money in envelopes,” the postcard read. The newlyweds spent their honeymoon in Mauritius.
A Generous Gift
It was after the wedding that Shamalov’s wealth began to approach the stratosphere.
Judging by his emails, Shamalov already owned a network of offshore companies by the time he was married. Most of these firms, run by lawyers from various countries, were registered to proxy owners. The main custodian of Shamalov’s offshore secrets was Dario Item, the ambassador of the small Caribbean state of Antigua and Barbuda to Spain, Monaco, and Liechtenstein.
In June 2013, Shamalov’s offshore company in Belize, Kylsyth Investments Limited, acquired 38,000 shares of a Guernsey-based offshore, Themis Holdings Limited, from yet another offshore called Volyn Portfolio Corp, this one based in the British Virgin Islands.
At that time, Themis Holdings was Sibur’s parent company. In other words, by acquiring the Themis shares, Shamalov had acquired 3.8 percent of Russia’s largest petrochemical company.
He did so for the astonishing price of $100. Shamalov later estimated Sibur’s value at the time to be $10 billion, which means his share would be worth $380 million. He had acquired fantastic wealth for nearly nothing.
In a later interview with Kommersant, Shamalov mentioned acquiring the Sibur shares in an options program. Such programs are meant to reward employees of a company by giving them a stake in its performance, allowing them to buy shares at a discount.
In response to journalists’ inquiries, the Sibur press office provided a statement from the company’s chairman, Dmitry Konov, who confirmed that this was how Shamalov obtained his shares. He said he had done so like any other manager: “The conditions of the purchase … didn’t differ from the conditions of purchases by other managers,” he wrote. “There were no exclusive conditions for Shamalov.”
Just six months later, another Shamalov-related offshore from the British Virgin Islands, Lauruz Ltd, raised $250 million against just 2 percent of Themis Holdings Ltd. The guarantor of this loan agreement was Kylsyth Investments.
IStories reporters examined the contracts of 11 top Sibur managers who participated in the program at the same time as Shamalov and found that they all paid real money for their shares, with discounts of about 15 percent from market price. For example, Sergei Komyshan, the company’s executive director, paid $21.6 million for his shares, which represented 0.26 percent of the company, according to his contract. The vice president, Alexei Filippovski, paid $12.7 million for his 0.15 percent. (Sibur’s chairman disputed these numbers, but did not provide any alternatives.)
The president’s son-in-law was the only one who used the stock options program to acquire so much wealth for nearly nothing. And this was only the beginning of his post-nuptial luck.Credit: ITAR-TASS / Vladimir SmirnovA Sibur petrochemical plant in the Nizhni Novgorod region.
Offer After Offer
As he settled into his career at Sibur, Shamalov attracted droves of advisers and assistants who went looking for projects for him to invest in, wrote abstracts for his speeches, and even provided him with answers to possible audience questions — just like when he was a student.
After he married Tikhonova, his assistants got to work finding financial projects for their boss. One by one, Shamalov began to receive messages from them with fantastic offers worth billions, enabling him to choose from among them the way we might pick out milk at the store.
In May 2013, Shamalov’s assistant Denis Nikienko sent him a proposal to acquire stakes in three companies at once — Rostelecom, Tele2-Russia and Tricolor TV — in order to subsequently unite them into a “national telecommunications leader.” The total cost of the deal would be about $9 billion. Nikienko suggested financing it using money from “friendly financial institutions” like Gazprombank or Gazfond — headed by Shamalov’s brother — rather than his own funds.
The best minds in Russia were apparently eager to make deals with the young businessman. In August and September 2013, Nikienko sent his boss several proposals from Sergey Kotlyarenko, the asset manager of former Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov. In his first message, Kotlyarenko suggested that Shamalov buy up an entire tower and business center in the Moscow City business district for $1.3 billion. Kotlyarenko’s second idea was “to create a global leader in oilfield services’’ through the acquisition of RN-Bureniya, a subsidiary of the Rosneft state oil company. “The company’s revenue for 2014-2015 can be brought to 4.5 billion dollars a year,” Kotlyarenko wrote. (He did not respond to requests for comment.)
In April 2014, Nikienko sent Shamalov more proposals. One was to buy 51 percent of the VSMPO-Avisma corporation, the world’s largest titanium producer. Such a stake was then worth over $1 billion. He explained the advantages of the deal:
Why 51%? If someone is on a sanctions list, then U.S. citizens and corporations can’t do business with companies in which the sanctioned person owns more than 50%. Since the U.S. is interested in collaborating with VSMPO-Avisma, it’s unlikely to sanction this company or its shareholders.
Another proposal was for Shamalov to purchase an additional stake in Sibur.
GNT [Gennady Nikolayevich Timchenko] being a shareholder in the Company creates restrictions for its operations. There have already been cases of banks and business partners refusing to collaborate with Sibur [due to Timchenko’s inclusion in the sanctions lists.] To solve the problem, it is proposed to buy out GNT’s share. The purchase can be carried out through two of the Company’s managers and subsequently consolidating the share (the mechanism of creating an artificial debt and repaying it with a second block of shares has been worked out).
As subsequent events showed, this was the proposal Shamalov chose.
On August 1, 2014, Shamalov registered a company called Yauza 12 at his Moscow apartment. Then, as his emails show, his company acquired 17 percent of Sibur from Timchenko just six days later, bringing his share in the petrochemical giant to just over 21 percent — and increasing his wealth by $2 billion.
The transaction made Shamalov the youngest billionaire in Russia and the second-largest shareholder in the country’s largest petrochemical holding company. It also attracted considerable attention, and the following year Shamalov sat for his friendly interview with Kommersant.
The president’s son-in-law told the newspaper that he had borrowed the funds to make this acquisition from Gazprombank (whose board of directors includes his brother Yuri), backed by his own assets. He did not explain what these assets were. Leveraging the 3.8 percent of Sibur he had already acquired, Shamalov could theoretically have raised about $500 million. But where did the young businessman get the remaining amount?
Shamalov’s emails provide no answer to this question — but Nikienko’s reference to “creating artificial debt” is a tantalizing hint. The practice of using fictitious debt to create a legal pretext for transferring assets as a “repayment” has been described in Russian legal literature as a popular method of gaining control of enterprises for next to nothing.
But the technique need not be limited to hostile takeovers. If such a method were used in this case, with the Sibur shares being transferred as a “repayment” of a debt that did not really exist, no additional funds would need to be raised. However, beyond Nikienko’s suggestion in a single email, there is no evidence that this is what happened, and the full story remains unexplained.
It’s unknown when and how Shamalov’s Yauza 12 paid off its huge loan. Its most recent available financial statements, for 2016, show 80 billion rubles ($1.28 billion) in borrowed funds. The company was liquidated in December 2017.
Shamalov ended his Kommersant interview with a patriotic statement: “I was born, raised, and live in Russia. And my businesses are here too. And all of them are in Russian jurisdiction, not offshore. It’s not like me to build some kind of fallback position, to organize businesses abroad.”
Of course, many of his dealings were in fact abroad — his transactions in Belize, his French villa (then owned by a Monaco company), and several bank accounts he opened in Switzerland that year. But by 2017, as sanctions cover an ever-wider circle of Putin acquaintances, Shamalov’s attorneys began to curtail his financial activities in European banks and registered a special fund for him, the Centurion International Fund, on Labuan Island, an offshore territory that is part of Malaysia.
The Wife’s Acquaintance
Even before his marriage, Shamalov could be considered one of the most influential people in Russia thanks to his father’s friendship with the president and his “new Piterskie” friends and acquaintances. But after the wedding, he became a member of the family — with all the opportunities that come with it.
One of the guests at his wedding, listed as a guest of the bride, was Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), the country’s sovereign wealth fund and one of the most important state players in the Russian economy. Created in 2011, the fund was tasked with investing in leading Russian companies and attracting foreign investors.
Dmitriev’s wife, Natalya Popova, was Tikhonova’s deputy at her non-profit foundation, and the two young couples were friends, celebrating holidays together abroad several times. Shamalov and Dmitriev regularly exchanged emails, sharing links and opinions on economic issues. In several cases, Dmitriev sent Shamalov confidential RDIF documents.
On December 7, 2012, Dmitriev sent Shamalov a RDIF presentation marked “strictly confidential.” It described a planned transaction where the fund would buy into Rostelecom, one of Russia’s largest telecom operators.
At the time, this deal was not publicly known, and the RDIF director was well aware that he was sharing secret information:
I am sending this — but everything is extremely confidential — if you need to use the materials or show it to someone else — please let me know — I will advise on the best way — because a lot of what is attached is confidential and for your eyes only.”
On another occasion, in July 2013, Dmitriev forwarded Shamalov a message he had sent to Ksenia Yudaeva, then the head of the Expert Department of the President of Russia. Attached were the minutes of a meeting between RDIF officials and Nikolai Nikiforov, the minister of communications, on the creation of a postal bank.
It is common for state companies like RDIF to have trade secret protection clauses. Reporters were unable to find such a provision on the RDIF website, and RDIF did not respond to requests for comment, but similar documents have been published on the websites of other state-owned companies. Typically, an employee of such an enterprise can send confidential information to third parties only on the basis of an agreement. Violation of these standards can carry not only administrative, but also criminal liability.
It’s unknown whether Shamalov benefited from the confidential documents Dmitriev shared with him, but in theory such information could be worth a fortune. This is especially true when it comes to publicly traded companies like Rostelecom. In 2013, together with Deutsche Bank, RDIF acquired 2.7 percent of the telecom operator for 7.7 billion rubles ($238 million), six months after Shamalov learned of these plans. The news led to an increase in the value of Rostelecom shares by nearly 30 percent between August, when the first reports of a possible deal emerged, and October, when the deal was closed. Someone who knew of the plans in advance would be in a position to make a tidy profit.
RDIF also proved helpful to Shamalov in strictly material terms. In January 2015, Dmitriev sent Shamalov an article from the newspaper Vedomosti with the headline “RDIF will help Sibur.” The article discussed RDIF’s proposed investment in a Sibur project to build a petrochemical plant in Tobolsk called Zapsibneftekhim.
“Little by little, we’re beginning to realize [the plan] :),” – Dmitriev wrote.
“Super!” answered Shamalov, Sibur’s second-largest shareholder.
Zapsibneftekhim, the largest petrochemical complex in Russia, opened last May after $9.5 billion in investment. At the end of 2015, RDIF announced on its website that, along with other investors, it had provided more than a third of the project funding.
To implement such a massive scheme, the participation of a friendly state fund was insufficient — so Shamalov’s father-in-law came to his aid. In October 2015, Putin approved the allocation of $1.75 billion for the Zapsibneftekhim project from the National Wealth Fund, which is intended to co-finance citizens’ pension savings and to cover the deficit of the Pension Fund.
Dmitriev also benefited from his friendship with Shamalov. For example, RDIF purchased the Sibur terminal for transshipment of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) in the Ust-Luga commercial seaport. Judging from Shamalov’s emails, not all of Sibur’s top managers were delighted with the idea of selling the terminal. The company’s former CFO, Pavel Maly, wrote that the deal would lose Sibur more than $250 million.
I understand that the transaction may contain other assets that I don’t know about. Maybe it’s extremely important for us to establish cooperation with RDIF. … I would be grateful for this kind of information. But if there are no other considerations, it seems to me the most reasonable move is to ‘pull the plug on the project.’
Dmitriev somehow acquired this confidential note, and left comments in red for Shamalov indicating his disagreement with Maly’s assessment. In the end, Sibur went ahead with the deal. With a consortium of other investors, RDIF bought the Ust-Luga terminal for $700 million.
Dmitriev did not reply to requests for comment for this story.
An Administrative Resource
Shamalov was an incredibly popular business partner. Businessmen with the most tempting offers lined up to meet him, and he was offered free shares in various enterprises, apparently under the assumption that the president’s son-in-law would bring something more valuable to the table than money.
In 2017, his former classmate Dmitry Utevsky offered Shamalov a share in a large garbage company in the Leningrad region. Utevsky promised his partner a “fixed annual income,” and in return asked literally for an “administrative resource (at least at the level of the head of a region).” In Russia, this is the common term for officials who make use of their powers for private benefit. We don’t know how Shamalov responded to this proposal, but his emails contain examples when he helped his partners solve problems through high-level government contacts.
Together with his father, for many years Shamalov was a co-owner of the Russian Cement Company and the Siberian Cement holding company. In 2016, Sharykin found himself in an unpleasant situation. On April 7, his home and office were searched by officers from the Investigative Committee and FSB operatives.
Four days later, Shamalov received an email from Valery Bodrenkov, Siberian Cement’s vice president, with the subject line “For the guarantor, a ‘soft’ version.” The email was accompanied by a message to Putin from Sharykin.
The company owner wrote that the searches had been initiated by a “business competitor,” Siberian Cement’s former president. His note ended with an earnest appeal:
I ask you, dear Vladimir Vladimirovich, to take this situation under your personal control, to instruct the leadership of the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian Federation to assess the legality of the actions of the FSB and the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation regarding the searches at my place of residence.
That same day, Shamalov forwarded the message to his secretary and asked for it to be printed out. It’s unknown whether Shamalov delivered it to his father-in-law, but this was not the only time Sharykin asked for his help — and there is evidence that Shamalov responded to his requests.
A year later, in April 2017, Sharykin sent Shamalov two more messages addressed to the president. In the first, he complained that his company, Ceramic Technologies (which Shamalov’s father also co-owned for several years), had developed an innovative method of burying radioactive waste, but that Rosatom had not agreed to cooperate. “I ask you to instruct the head of the State Atomic Energy Corporation ‘Rosatom’ Likhachev A.V. about the creation and implementation of a joint program,” Sharykin wrote.
In his second note, Shamalov’s partner complained that the same company, Ceramic Technologies, was developing optics for space and ground-based telescopes, but the state corporation Roscosmos was not buying them. “I ask you to instruct the General Director of the State Corporation for Space Activities ‘Roscosmos’ I.A. Komarov to develop a joint program for the implementation of existing technologies,” Sharykin wrote.
Apparently, Shamalov managed to help, at least in part. Two weeks later, on May 12, 2017, he received another email from Sharykin.
Kirill, good morning. I’m sending the protocols. The meeting with KSV went well, he delved carefully into all the issues. Warmest regards.
The abbreviation “KSV” corresponds to the initials of Sergei Vladilenovich Kirienko, the former head of Rosatom, as well as first deputy of the head of the Presidential Administration of Russia. Attached to the email were minutes of a meeting between managers of Rosatom and Ceramic Technologies. Sharykin did not respond to requests for comment.
On another occasion, a request for help came through Tikhonova’s foundation, Innopraktika . The message so accurately characterizes the Russian economy that it’s worth citing in detail.
On November 12, 2014, Alexander Veresov, the foundation’s head for working with the scientific community, received an email from the CEO of a company that developed veterinary medicines. His company was having a hard time getting a drug registered, facing monopolization in the veterinary market and general corruption. So he asked Veresov to get the president’s daughter to help:
First of all, you understand, to avoid serious problems in the future, ask Katerina to use this information without any links to me. … Entry to the market for veterinary drugs is practically closed for the ‘wrong’ companies that could compete with several of the largest companies, the ultimate beneficiaries of which are officials of the Rosselkhoznadzor [the Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Supervision].
The problem is that for the “wrong” companies, the requirements are applied in full, making the registration process almost impossible, while for the “right” companies, mostly, it’s not. Therefore, to summarize, I would ask Katerina, firstly, to send a direct and transparent message (without any excessive pressure) to the “spoiling” comrades that domestic innovative developments should be given a pass. Because their actions are at odds with the interests and security of the state. This concerns not only me, but dozens of unfairly treated applicants. But, I would really ask Katerina to give a clear signal that there will be MONITORING of their further actions … If there is such monitoring and control on her part, they will not dare to do what they usually do.
We do not know what Shamalov and Tikhonova may have done to help, but the drug was registered in 2016.
In early 2018, Bloomberg reported that Shamalov and Tikhonova had split up after about five years of marriage. Six months earlier, Shamalov sold the Sibur stake he had acquired from Timchenko in 2013. His emails shed no light on how much, if anything, he received for the sale. Timchenko did not respond to requests for comment.
After parting with Tikhonova, Shamalov found a new partner, the glamorous socialite Zhanna Volkova. By 2019, their relationship appeared to be official: That October, Volkova sent documents to Shamalov about registration of an offshore company in the British Virgin Islands, Kenaston Properties Ltd, of which she became the beneficiary. In the documents, her surname is indicated as Shamalova.
In 2018, Shamalov was sanctioned by the United States joining “a select circle of billionaires from Vladimir Putin’s entourage” after his marriage. The Americans were rather late: The last email in the archive between Shamalov and Tikhonova was sent on June 15, 2017. In it, Shamalov forwarded a message from a famous St. Petersburg architect with design options for a country villa.
The European Parliament has adopted a resolution calling on EU member states to “significantly strengthen” sanctions against Russia and stop work on completing the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in response to the arrest of opposition figure Alexey Navalny.
In particular, the members of the European Parliament are calling for sanctions against:
- “Individuals and legal entities” involved in the decision to imprison Navalny
- “Russian oligarchs linked to the regime”
- Members of President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle
- And “Russian media propagandists, who possess assets in the EU and can currently travel there.”
Additional restrictive measures could also be taken for human rights violations, under the new EU GlobalHuman Rights Sanctions Regime.
The resolution demands Navalny’s “immediate and unconditional release,” as well as the release of all other individuals detained in connection with his return to Russia.
After Alexey Navalny’s arrest, his associate Vladimir Ashurkov published a list of Russian nationals who, in Navalny’s opinion, ought to be placed under sanctions. Among others, the list includes oligarch Alisher Usmanov, billionaire Roman Abramovich, TV host Vladimir Solovyov, and Health Minister Mikhail Murashk.
Putin´s berühmtester Kritiker Nawalny veröffentlichte vor einigen Stunden ein investigatives Antikorruptionsvideo gegen den russischen Präsidenten. Innerhalb weniger Stunden wurde das Video bereits 18 Millionen mal angeklickt. Studio Berlin veröffentlicht das fast 2 Stunden lange Video ungekürzt. Das Video ist in russischer Sprache, allerdings kann man in den Youtube-Einstellungen “englisch” als Untertitel aktivieren. Die Studio Berlin Community hat viele russisch-sprachige Follower. Vielleicht mag der eine oder andere seine Meinung zu dem Video in die Kommentare schreiben. Kurz nach dem Nawalny in Moskau verhaftet wurde, hat sein Team dieses Video veröffentlicht. Dazu sagt Nawalny im Video selbst: »Wir haben ausgemacht, dass wir diese Recherche erst veröffentlichen, wenn ich wieder in Moskau bin, damit ihr wichtigster Held nicht glaubt, wir haben Angst vor ihm«. Dabei sitzt Nawalny auf einer Bank in Dresden (In Dresden war Putin einst als KGB-Offizier aktiv). Dies werde »ein psychologisches Porträt«, so Nawalny: »Wir wollen verstehen, wie aus einem einfachen Sowjetoffizier ein Irrer wurde, der auf Geld und Luxus fixiert ist.«
Coming soon – Former Chancellor Schroeder is a Suspect in trading NATO Secrets for Money
A poisonous blend of debasement and bungle in Democratic Republic of Congo’s incomes organizations and state mining organizations is draining a fifth of all mining incomes far from the state spending plan, Global Witness uncovers today. Its report ‘Administration Cash Machine’ demonstrates that in any event $750 million disappeared more than three years – cash that ought to have been utilized on fundamental open administrations for the Congolese individuals.
The discoveries come during a period of extraordinary political turmoil in Congo as the beset President Joseph Kabila sticks to control. “Congo’s mining incomes ought to be lifting its kin out of destitution, yet rather colossal totals are being siphoned far from general society tote and into unaccountable offices headed up by individuals with binds to political elites,” said Pete Jones, Global Witness Senior Campaigner.
Congo is Africa’s best copper maker and the world’s greatest provider of cobalt, which is utilized as a part of the lithium-particle batteries that power electric autos and amidst a value blast. Regardless of this, Congo stays one of the poorest nations on the planet. ‘Administration Cash Machine’ examinations the most recent information from the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), which uncovers that in the vicinity of 2013 and 2015 over $750 million of installments by mining organizations to Congo’s assessment offices and state mining organizations never achieved the national treasury. That figure ascends to a surprising $1.3 billion when other state bodies and a now-outdated commonplace assessment body are incorporated.
“A portion of the exchanges we’ve taken a gander at illustrate these organizations as a money machine for Kabila’s administration”, said Jones. “In the event that Congo is to abstain from losing the faith into strife and disorder, genuine straightforwardness and responsibility is required all through the mining segment and in the assessment organizations,” Jones said.
The discoveries come as Congo slips assist into political vulnerability. The nation is wracked by on-going political brutality and distress, following Kabila’s refusal to venture down from control notwithstanding an established mandate. A key reason for discontent with the administration is the ceaseless absence of subsidizing by the legislature in fundamental administrations, for example, schools, healing centers and streets.
“For quite a long time Global Witness and others have archived how incomes have spilled from Congo’s mining segment into seaward shell organizations. Presently we can see that even incomes paid to government bodies in Congo are disappearing before they achieve the treasury,” Jones included.
A key offender in this preoccupation of assets is the principle state-claimed mining organization, Gécamines. It gets more than a hundred million dollars every year from privately owned businesses in Congo’s mining part, however seems to pass on only a modest rate of that to the state coffers. Gécamines’ most imperative and lucrative business connections are with significant worldwide mining organizations, which regularly have Western financial specialists and benefits tied up in their benefits and dangers.
While its commitments to Congo’s open satchel are little, Gécamines sufficiently discovered cash to pay off immense advances from Dan Gertler, a dear companion of President Kabila. One of Gertler’s organizations was reimbursed in the meantime as Gécamines’ staff went unpaid and more seasoned advances stayed extraordinary.
Congo’s duty offices are likewise to fault. Current law enables them to keep down a rate of the fines they exact, which has prompted ruthless lease looking for conduct and created fines as they try to expand the amount they can keep as their own particular assets. The greater part of this adds up to a type of authorized debasement.
The Congolese constitution expresses that each Congolese individual has the privilege to appreciate the advantages of the nation’s national riches, and that the state has an obligation to redistribute that riches evenhandedly and ensure the privilege to advancement. To by far most of Congolese, those are unfilled words. A long time of fumble and debasement inside Gécamines, consolidated with a divided duty framework, imply that the framework is interested in manhandle by political elites trying to remove money from the mining division.
“The best way to put a conclusion to the redirecting of these indispensable assets is to revamp the divided duty framework and to demand full straightforwardness from Gécamines. We have to know the amount it wins, the amount it pays to the treasury, and what it spends its cash on,” said Jones.
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Daniel Ortega / Russian Presidential PIO
Though Daniel Ortega rose to prominence by leading a popular workers’ revolt against the entrenched dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza Debayle in 1979, he has had little use for democracy. His selected political allies include Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Cuba’s Raul Castro and Libya’s ousted strongman Muammar Gaddafi, whom he recently called to offer support. Since returning to power in a disputed 2006 election, Mr. Ortega has turned thuggery into a high art form by unleashing mobs on his opposition. Nicaragua is the poorest country in its region, with a per capita income of $2600 a year and with nearly 80 percent of the country living on less than $2 a day. Why is no one surprised? When Mr. Ortega was booted from office in 1990 after his first time as president, he and his Sandinista cronies looted the country to the tune of $700 million, by some estimates. They stole from the central bank, and seized homes and businesses, in a scandal dubbed “La Pinata,” After the children’s game where kids whack papier-mÃ¢ché animals to get the goodies inside.
Cristina Kirchner / Official
Even before she was elected president of Argentina, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner carried the haze of corruption. In the most famous case, an emissary from Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, was discovered at the Buenos Aires airport carrying a briefcase stuffed with $800,000 in cash, destined, he later told the FBI, to support Kirchner’s presidential bid. Kirchner denied the allegation. Within Argentina, many question the huge fortune Kirchner and her late husband Nestor amassed since taking public office. Her declared personal wealth stands at $13.8 million, up from $500,000 when the couple first entered national politics. Kirchner cites income from real estate and hotels the couple had purchased to explain the 2,600 percent return on the couple’s investment purse. Corruption watchers complain that her government has neutered government oversight, giving auditing posts to cronies compromised by conflicts of interest. The result: corruption cases take an average of 14 years to work through the system, according to the non-profit Center for the Study and Prevention of Economic Crimes, and only 15 in 750 cases have led to convictions.
Teodoro Obiang / Pablo Manriquez
Teodoro Obiang, president of Equatorial Guinea, has a genius for insuring that none of his country’s vast oil wealth goes to help its impoverished people, over 60 percent of whom live on less than $1 a day. His son, Teodorin, is building a mammoth $380 million luxury yacht, whose cost is three times more than the country spends on health care and education combined. This, in addition to a fleet of luxury cars and a $35 million estate in Malibu. Asked once how he managed to spend so outrageously on a government salary, the despot’s son and presumed successor said in a sworn affidavit that in Equatorial Guinea, government ministers can partner with companies that win government contracts. As a result, he wrote, “a cabinet minister ends up with a sizable part of the contract price in his bank account.
Robert Mugabe / Mangwanani
Thanks to Robert Mugabe, among the longest-standing leaders in Africa, Zimbabwe is ranked as one of the most corrupt countries by Transparency International. Citing the country’s unbridled corruption, the United States and the European Union have imposed sanctions against economic trade with the country, and barred Mugabe and his top officials from coming to Europe and the U.S. That, however, has not stopped Mugabe from spending his own country’s minimal resources for himself and his cronies: Mugabe is on track to spend nearly $50 million on foreign travel this year. He has a fancy house in the richest district of Hong Kong. His heavy-handed tactics have only brought violence and poverty to a country that was once seen as the breadbasket of Africa.
Goodluck Jonathan / Official Photo
Goodluck Jonathan took over one of the world’s most corrupt countries in May 2010 on the death of its president, and was re-elected last April. Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country — with appalling living conditions. Education, health and health care are poor. Only about half the population has access to clean water and life expectancy averages 47 years. Polio is still a problem, even though it has been eradicated everywhere else in Africa, along with cholera, malaria and HIV/AIDS. In 2006, anti-corruption officials investigated Mr. Jonathan’s wife, Patience, over allegations she tried to launder $13.5 million. She has never been convicted of any wrongdoing, however. Oil-rich Nigeria is home to networks of organized crime and has suffered from drug trafficking and piracy.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
President Joseph Kabila / Helene C. Stikkel – DOD
Since taking office as president in 2001 following the assasination of his father Laurent, Joseph Kabila is seen as doing little to combat corruption and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The country is resource rich: Diamonds, cobalt and rare minerals used in electronics are all found in abundance in the DR Congo. Yet the country has a long history of corruption. Laurent Kabila’s predecessor, Mobutu Sese Seko, allegedly walked away with $4 billion and Swiss courts found that a statute of limitations ran out on collecting some of that bounty. Meanwhile, DR Congo remains one of the poorest countries on earth. Its citizens struggle with incomes that average $200 a year. Only two other countries have lower per capita income.
Nursultan Nazarbayev / Ricardo Stuckert – PR
Since 1991 and the fall of the Soviet Union, Nursultan Nazarbayev has been Kazakhstan’s only president. Last April, he was elected to another five year term, receiving nearly 96 percent of the vote. The Central Asian nation — the world’s largest landlocked country — is dominated by Mr. Nazarbayev, who has become a de-facto “president for life” with immunity from prosecution and an extraordinary grip on the nation’s politics. Transparency International rates Kazakhstan at the level of “rampant corruption.” The Nazarbayev family was investigated by Western governments over money laundering, bribery and assassinations, although the U.S. Justice Department closed the case in 2010.
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