Court has arrested top-managers of Vekselberg’s structures
The Syktyvkar city court arrested the Managing Director of the group of companies Renova Evgeny Olkhovik and the CEO of T Plus Boris Vainzikher until November 5. The trial was held behind closed doors. Both suspects do not admit their guilt.
The energymen case began to turn in August 2016, after the Acting Governor of Komi Sergey Gaplikov complained to the President Vladimir Putin on the management of T plus. He reported on the critical situation with heat and energy supply of Vorkuta. All the problems he associated with state of emergency of the TPP-2 which belongs to the T plus. Gaplikov complained that T plus is not going to repair the power plant and tries to sell it. About the detention Vainzikher and Olkhovik it became known on 5th of September. The arrests of the senior managers followed the searches with support of the Special Forces units in the company’s office in Moscow. They are suspected of corruption: according to the investigation, for seven years, from 2007 to 2014, the two managers, as well as other unidentified persons, acting in the interests of the CJSC IES and its affiliated organizations gave multimillion bribes to the senior management of Komi. For the money and other property rewards, the officials contributed to the establishment of favorable tariffs for heat and electricity on the territory of the Republic. It is at least about 800 million rubles deposited in the pockets of the people's representatives.
According to a source of RNS, in the Investigative Committee, it is believed that these bribes were disguised as charity donations. Currently, among other things, sponsorship which was provided by the structures belonging to the oligarch Viktor Vekselberg to sports clubs and schools are being checked: there is a suspicion that it could be a cover for corruption schemes. In particular, the law enforcement agencies have asked the company T Plus for information about its support for the school basketball league IES-Basket, established in the Perm Region in 2007.
Photo: Vyacheslav Gaizer
The senior officials themselves are currently involved in the case of a criminal ex-Head of the Republic Vyacheslav Gaizer. The latter was arrested in Moscow last September. Along with him, in the case there are still 18 people: officials and businessmen, including his Deputy Alexey Chernov, the Deputy Chairman of the Komi Government Constantine Romadanov, the Chairman of the State Council of the Republic Igor Kovzel, the former Cenator from the Region Yevgeny Samoilov. They are accused of creating an OCG, swindling, money laundering and the withdrawal of assets abroad. The size of the damage caused by their activities is estimated at more than 1 billion rubles. During the investigation as a result of more than 80 searches in the Komi Republic, Moscow and St. Petersburg over 60 kg of jewelry was seized, 150 hours watches costing from $ 30000 to 1 mln, as well as more than 50 stamps and seals of legal entities which were used for the offshore schemes. According to Forbes, it was Gaizer who testified against Olkhovik, Vainzikher and Slobodin in exchange for a reduction of his sentence. However, the ex-Governor's lawyer refutes this information.
Photo: Searches in Renova
The former Head of VimpelCom (due to the criminal case initiated against him, he resigned) Mikhail Slobodin is involved in the new case along with Vainzikher and Olkhovik who were convoyed to Komi for the investigation the day before. The honored graduate of 1993 from the Faculty of Economics of Ural State University, in 1996, was appointed as the representative of Renova in the Ural Region. Then, he changed several senior managerial positions in Vekselberg’s different industries and structures: SUAL (1996 -1999), NTMK (1999 - 2000), Irkutskenergo (2001), TNK (2002) and, finally, KES (2002-2010), where, in particular, he was a crisis manager settling conflicts with the regional authorities and the Ukrainian energy sector. According to the operative data, it was he who donated to the then governor of Komi Vyacheslav Gaizer 38% stake in OJSC Komi Energy Retail Company (which is worth at least 100 million rubles), created by IES in 2006 for the centralized management of public networks of the Republic and purchasing electricity from its suppliers with its subsequent sale to the final consumer with an extra charge sanctioned by the regional authorities: the shares were passed into the ownership of the offshore company controlled by the senior Komi officials. After a period in KES in 2011, Slobodin worked as the Executive Vice President for gas and power supply of TNK-BP, from October 2013 he was the CEO of VimpelCom. From that moment, he achieved popularity also as a business blogger. However, because of the criminal case to date, he removed and hid his posts prior to 2014 on his pages on Facebook and Twitter, as well as the blog on LiveJournal. Now Slobodin is abroad.
Photo: Mikhail Slobodin
Initially it was reported that he was in London, but was going to return to the country and meet with investigators at the end of the week. However, later, it turned out that his visit was not planned: Slobodin was warned of impending raids, and he got the first available flight, to Nice. The Syktyvkar Court placed him on the federal wanted list. As the CrimeRussia previously reported, the new CEO of the company is temporarily Kjell Morten Johnsen. Slobodin wrote a farewell letter to employees of the company in which has complained that in his address "extremely serious charges sound," but "no real complaints and the facts have not yet been stated" and therefore he stepped down for the sake of the company. Mikhail Fridman’s and his partners’ Alfa-Group which includes VimpelCom also excluded Slobodin from the Supervisory Board, reported Interfax.
Photo: Evgeny Olkhovik. Photo by Victor Bobyr
In 2010, Slobodin on the post of the IES CEO was replaced by Vekselberg’s longtime collaborator Evgeny Olkhovik, the oligarch who has worked in these structures for more than 20 years. He graduated in 1977 from the Moscow Institute of Transportation Engineers, from 1992 to 1996 was the Deputy CEO for strategic planning and operational management of CJSC Renova. In 1996, he was appointed as the head of the financial and economic management of SUAL, where in 1999, he was appointed as the deputy CEO for corporate development, in 2000 - the first Vice-President, and from 2003 to 2007 he was the acting first VP. When the roof of the Ural aluminum plant SUAL collapsed killing four workers it was Olkhovik who traveled to Kamensk-Ural to investigate the cause of the accident and to organize assistance to victims’ relatives. Simultaneously, Olkhovik was the CEO of the CJSC Renova (until 2003). From 2010 to 2012, he held the position of the CEO of IES, then became the Managing Director of Renova. Since 2015, Olkhovik was the Chairman of the T Plus' Board of Directors. According to one theory, taking Slobodin’s position, Olkhovik replaced him on the directions that the management of Renova considered a failure. According to some reports, it was Olkhovik who came up with the idea of bribes. Some media compared his influence in the Ural Region with the governor’s. In 2009, Olkhovik took 77th place in Forbes’ rating with a fortune of $ 390 million.
Photo: Boris Vainzikher
He, in turn, was replaced in 2012 by Vainzikher. Born in Khabarovsk, Vainzikher graduated from Leningrad Polytechnic Institute with a degree in turbine construction. In 1993, he began working at Lenenergo as a simple engineer at TPP-15 and was promoted over the next 12 years to the post of the Director for Technical Development. From 2001 to June 2005, he was the CEO of the Kirishi GRES which was part of Lenenergo, until 2003, and then the subordinate of RAO UES of Russia. Due to the success on this post, Vainzikher was invited for the post of the technical director of the power holding which he will hold until the liquidation of the latter, combining this position with the post of the JSC Siloviye Mashiny (Power machines) JSC for two years. In the future, his track record includes TGC-1 senior positions, Ener1 Group, and finally, IES-Holding (2012 - 2014) which in 2015 was transformed into a public Joint Stock Company T plus. The company, the acting head of which after the arrests became the first Deputy CEO Andrew Wagner, has already announced a cooperation with the investigation on the Gaizer case.
There are several versions about why a scandal around Vekselberg’s main managers emerged now. One of them refers to the upcoming parliamentary elections on 18th of September. In such circumstances, the authorities of Komi simply could no longer keep silent about the incident. And, noting Vainzikher’s friendship with Anatoly Chubais, some politicians have rushed to take advantage of the scandal: on the eve of the parliamentary elections on 18 September. So, the party Rodina immediately demanded an audit of electricity tariffs across the country:
- They gave incredible bribes to inflate prices for electricity and heating, to pull the last money out of people's wallets, and stuff their pockets. As we have seen, in addition to the regular tariff increases, which have been heavily lobbied by the liberal bloc of the government, the amount of dirty money equates to almost 50%, said a candidate from the party, the military expert Igor Korotchenko.
The authorities have already announced Vekselberg’s company’s tariffs inspection in Komi.
On the other hand, some experts reckon that the incident is directed specifically at the oligarch, who is close to them Kremlin, and compare the situation with the prosecution of the other businessman loyal to the authorities - Vladimir Yevtushenko. As the economist, Professor of MGIMO Valentin Katasonov told Nakanune.ru, "Vekselberg is one of the untouchable oligarchs, who always executed the most important orders of our government. Suffice it to recall the Skolkovo, and even some scandals which arose in connection with the project, did not affect Vekselberg’s reputation at all. The Renova case is much more serious than the Skolkovo center. I think, Vekselberg resists some decisions relating to his own assets or the disputed objects."
Photo: Viktor Vekselberg
The version of the pressure on Vekselberg by the current arrests is supported in the Novaya Gazeta as well. As the NG believes, in crisis "it is Vekselberg's turn to to give something - either officially or unofficially" and Slobodin and Olkhovik are just an "excuse to bargain with Vekselberg." This supposedly is a newly established practice: " any top manager of any major corporation is under the risk of criminal prosecution, regardless of what he does. Because by doing so pressure on the owner will be put. And not because the owner would feel pity for the arrested top manager, no. It is because the owner will start fighting for his own assets."
Vekselberg’s group of companies Renova is an international private business group, consisting of management companies, private equity and indirect investment funds in various sectors (metallurgy, transport, telecommunications, utilities, medicine, the financial sector in Russia and abroad). Its annual turnover amounts to approximately € 12 billion. T Plus is included in Renova carrying out activities in the field of energy. It unites 59 power plants, of which 53 TPP 4 SDPP and 2 HPP. The number of its employees exceeds 50 thousand.
On September 7, information about the new “electrosearches” has transpired. This time, in St. Petersburg: the law enforcement officials paid a visit to the company Lenenergo, which provides electricity to the northern capital and the Leningrad Region. After the liquidation of RAO UES of Russia, 51% of the ordinary shares of Lenenergo, is owned by the JSC MRSK Holding, 19% - IES-Holding, a blocking shareholding belongs to the Government of St. Petersburg, 4% is the remaining minority shareholders of the company. The former Director for Technical Development of Lenenergo is Boris Vainzikher.
Rosfinmonitoring (Federal Financial Monitoring Service) analyzed the data of the Panama Papers and the Paradise Papers and discovered thousands of offshore companies through which the Russians laundered billions of rubles. Materials on deputies and governors were handed over to law enforcers.
A spokesperson of the Prosecutor's office said that the ECHR had not studied all the materials of the criminal case, so they were offered not to overturn the verdict, but to send the case for a new review in court.