Childhood friends. Links between bankrupt Rostov developer and gang of killers led by Les 

Childhood friends. Links between bankrupt Rostov developer and gang of killers led by Les
Ex-Head of VANT is suspected of contracting murders of a dozen people including thief-in-law Alik Sochinsky Photo: The CrimeRussia

New charges have been recently laid against the former General Director of VANT Construction Consortium in relation to murders of a dozen of his competitors. He had ties with the leader of the cruelest gang of killers operating in the Moscow region. Andrei Chabanov, son of the Rostov developer, was charged with these crimes a while ago – but he has been on the run for many years. According to the medics, Valery Chabanov is at the point of death. The CrimeRussia was unraveling the links between the Chabanov family and assassin Les.

An unexpected twist occurred in the criminal case against Valery Chabanov, ex-General Director of VANT Construction Consortium. In August 2017, he was sentenced to 4 years in a settlement colony for swindling with co-investors’ funds. The total damage was estimated at 300 million rubles ($4.4 million); 235 construction co-investors have been recognized victims. In the framework of the second criminal case, the damages have been estimated at 600 million rubles ($8.8 million) and 434 persons recognized victims – but it was closed in May 2018 due to expiration of the limitation period. Courts of the Rostov region are currently examining the possibility to annul this decision and resume the case pertaining to the embezzlement of 600 million rubles ($8.8 million). 

The business of the largest developer in Southern Russia has collapsed after the financial crisis of 2008. There were no new investors and construction co-investors, while the panicking old ones started canceling contracts en masse and demanding their money back. Big banks refused to open a new credit line for Chabanov and instead requested to repay the old loans. Enterprises of the construction consortium went bankrupt one by one. Valery Chabanov had to part with all his major assets to repay the debts.


VANT Construction Consortium Open Joint Stock Company was founded by Valery Chabanov in 2001. Its charter capital was divided into 1000 common shares: 999 shares belonged to Chabanov and 1 share belonged to his wife Nadezhda. The name VANT is an abbreviation of the names of Chabanov family members: Valery, Andrei (son), Nadezhda (ex-wife), and Tatiana (daughter). The construction consortium has established a number of subsidiary companies. Nadezhda Chabanova was in charge of VANT Real Estate Agency. Valery’s son Andrei was responsible for liaison with governmental authorities. Andrei Chabanov even became a Deputy of the 4th Convocation of the Rostov-on-Don Municipal Duma (2005–2010). He was a member of the Permanent Commission for the Housing and Public Utility Sector and Energy.

Валерий Чабанов
Valery Chabanov

In summer 2010, hoodwinked construction co-investors started staging protest rallies in an attempt to attract the attention of the local authorities to their situation. Concurrently, the problem of unfinished residential buildings and bankrupt developers has escalated to the federal level. But the Chairman of the VANT Board of Directors never attended these meetings because he has left Russia. Only in October 2012, Chabanov and his wife have been put on the federal wanted list. A year later, an international warrant has been issued against them. A criminal case has been instituted against Valery Chabanov under Article 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (swindling). His wife Nadezhda Chabanova has also been charged in the framework of this case. She was arrested in the United Arab Emirates in July 2015, but her extradition to Russia is still pending.

Andrei Chabanov has been charged with more grievous crimes, including murder and banditry. Chabanov junior reportedly was a member of Edinaya Rossia (United Russia) Party – but after the high-profile scandal in relation to the criminal case against the son of the General Director of VANT, the Rostov Regional Branch of Edinaya Rossia made a rebuttal.

Андрей Чабанов

According to the statement issued by the regional branch, “Andrei Chabanov was nominated for the 4th Convocation of the Rostov-on-Don Municipal Duma (2005–2010) by the Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) and never was a member of Edinaya Rossia Party”.

However, the name of Andrei Chabanov was listed on the web-site of the regional branch of Edinaya Rossia Party.

Андрей Чабанов

Valery Chabanov was arrested in the resort city of Pattaya, Thailand in February 2016 at the prompting of the Russian Embassy. During a personal identity verification, Chabanov has presented a passport in the name of Lajos Igyarto. Immigration service officials have escorted him to a police station where officers of the Russian Embassy established his true identity. In March, he has been extradited to Russia. According to some information, his son Andrei Chabanov suspected of ties with a ruthless gang under the leadership of Les is also hiding in Thailand.


Валерий Чабанов задержан в Таиланде

Valery Chabanov has been arrested in Thailand

Dmitry Lesnyakov, leader of a Kurgan gang of killers that later became notorious in Pushkino, Moscow region, has started his criminal career in Rostov-on-Don. Similarly with Andrei Chabanov, he was born in 1977 – and the two boys were childhood friends. The bloody history of the gang has begun in their native city as well. At the age of 19, Lesnyakov has battered a businessman refusing to pay ‘levies’ with a baseball bat and was put on the wanted list. However, this hasn’t prevented him from committing further banditry crimes in Rostov. In 1997, Lesnyakov, acting under a new name – Ruslan Valentinov, has created a gang specializing in robberies, abductions of businessmen, and extortion in the Rostov region. Gang members established ties with some thieves-in-law (reportedly, Armen Kanevsky, Lisa (Fox), and Alfason) operating in Southern Russia. Then the crowned thieves started hiring the assassins to perform contract killings in Moscow. The support of authoritative thieves-in-law granted Lesnyakov a pretty high status in the criminal world.

Лесняков и Гоча Антипов

Dmitry Lesnyakov and thief-in-law Gocha Antipov

Concurrently, Dmitry Zav’yalov and Mikhail Purtov have created in the Urals a gang specializing in racketeering. In the late 1990s, they have relocated to a town of Pushkino in the metropolitan area and established ties with Les. At that time, several local organized criminal groups were waging a real war for control over enterprises and markets of the Pushkino district. One of the parties had sustained heavy losses and started recruiting fighters from other regions. Dmitry Lesnyakov and Andrei Vershinin were among the recruits.  

First of all, they have seized control over the Pushkino market. The bandits managed to bribe many local officials and law enforcement officers – this enabled them to operate unpunished for a long time. The gang of Les has extended its influence to other Russian regions as well and was considered one of the most bloody criminal groups. In 2001–2002, its members have dispatched more than 10 criminal ‘authorities’ in the Pushkino district of the Moscow region and seized control over many commercial structures. Using fake IDs, they became members of the Board of Directors of Pushkino Wholesale Market Public Joint Stock Company and completed the construction of a trade center on the railway station forecourt. 

Ruslan Valentinov (i.e. Dmitry Lesnyakov) was also a cofounder of Pushkino State Farm Market and co-owner of Sochi-based Freestyle Limited Liability Company. Andrei Chabanov was another co-owner of Freestyle – i.e. the childhood friends had maintained their close ties. 

Лесняков и Чабанов

Dmitry Lesnyakov and Andrei Chabanov

Chabanov junior was the Director for Regional Development and Social Policy in his father’s company. According to the investigation, he was involved in the murders of competitors of VANT. Chabanov had conveyed the assassination orders to killers – members of the gang led by Les. In August 2018, Valery Chabanov, ex-General Director of VANT Construction Consortium, has been charged with murders of a dozen of his competitors committed by an organized group. Several criminal ‘authorities’ and businessmen having conflicts with Chabanov were killed in Rostov-on-Don. There is evidence that in 2008, members of the gang under the leadership of Les have bludgeoned a businessman having a quarrel with Freestyle over a land lot to death with metal rods. 

Recently it became known that father and son Chabanov were involved in the murder of thief-in-law Alik Minalyan (Alik Sochinsky) in Moscow. In February 2009, assassins have ambushed the crowned thief near the building at 7 Initsiativnaya street when he was stepping out of his Mercedes. The killers gunned down the henchman of Ded Khasan and fled the scene. 

Victim’s driver Avanes Pogasyan, who has transported Minalyan to a rented apartment, was also wounded in the back and addressed one of the city clinics for assistance. The medics have notified the police about the incident, and guards were deployed at the entrance to his hospital room. 

Alik Minalyan used to live permanently in the Khostinsky district of Sochi. Shortly before the Sochi Olympics, he has launched frenzied activities on the territory under his control. However, by the time of the murder, Minalyan had strained relations with other influential criminal ‘authorities’. Reportedly, he was even decrowned a few days before the death.

Алик Миналян

Alik Minalyan (Alik Sochinsky

Alik Sochinsky was crowned back in 2000 by Aslan Usoyan and Zakhary Kalashov. Minalyan had mostly communicated with Shakro Molodoy, and the Krasnodar krai was considered his domain. At some point, he had enforced the financial interests of Usoyan and Kalashov in the region. Concurrently, another henchman of Ded Khasanthief-in-law Armen Arutyunyan (Armen Kanevsky) – had operated in the Krasnodar krai. Alik Sochinsky and Armen Kanevsky were members of the came criminal clan – but had endless conflicts with each other. 

In 2006, an assassination attempt was committed against Minalyan in Moscow. Somebody gunned him down on Krasnopresnenskaya quay – but Alik Sochinsky and his driver came out with minor injuries. 

Apparently, the crowned thief had really worried about his life since then. In spring 2007, he was arrested, and the policemen have seized a loaded Makarov pistol from his car. Furthermore, an entire cache of weapons was found in the trunk. The court has sentenced Minalyan to one year behind bars conditionally for illegal storage of firearms. 

In late 2008, Armen Kanevsky and several other thieves-in-law have held a congregation, accused Alik Sochinsky of misappropriation of money from the thieves’ pooled cash fund and decrowned him. In winter 2009, Alik Sochinsky arrived to Moscow to discuss the conflict with Ded Khasan – but they haven’t met.


Murdered Alik Minalyan

By that time, many active members of the gang led by Les have been arrested, and the criminal group disintegrated. Criminal ‘authority’ Karlo Mikadze was earlier considered the mastermind behind the murder of Minalyan – but he managed to flee abroad. In spring 2010, Mikadze was arrested in Spain in the framework of a large-scale inquest into operations of ‘Russian mafia’ in the European Union. In 2013, Madrid has declined the request to extradite the gangster submitted by the Russian law enforcement authorities. Mikadze was released on bail and absconded. 

Dmitry Zav’yalov, another killer of the gang led by Les, was also hiding in Spain. He lived in a Barcelona suburb. Zav’yalov was arrested in 2014 and extradited to Russia a year later. His case is currently in court. 

In 2013, the Main Investigations Directorate in the City of Moscow of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR) has charged Andrei Chabanov in absentia under Article 105 (murder) and Article 209 (banditry) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. No specific criminal episodes were disclosed. He was put on the federal and then on the international wanted list, while the Presnensky District Court of Moscow has remanded him in custody in absentia.


Valery Chabanov in court

Defense attorneys insist that there is no evidence of Andrei Chabanov’s guilt, that “positive references were received from the places of his residence and work”, and that he won’t obstruct the investigation. However, the court has ruled otherwise – according to the investigators, in 2006, developer’s son Andrei Chabanov has taken charge of a subdivision of the gang under the leadership of Les in the Rostov region. 

Chabanov senior started using ‘services’ rendered by the gang no later than in January 2008. The businessman used the bandits to eliminate competitors in the Krasnodar krai and Rostov region. Chabanov had covered the assassination-related costs and paid remuneration to the killers. 

Dmitry Lesnyakov has been sentenced to 25 years behind bars for murders and attempted murders. Andrei Vershinin, who has been convicted to 19 years, is currently turning in his accomplices. New charges laid against Valery Chabanov under part 2 of Article 210, part 2 of Article 105, and part 3 of Article 111 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation may be based on his testimonies. The suspect denies any guilt. His lawyers insist on his release due to a terminal illness – Chabanov senior has been diagnosed with cancer. According to his relatives, he had relocated to the resort country for medical reasons and decided not to return after becoming aware of the criminal case and warrant issued against him.



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