Former Vice-Governor Filippov & sons and their criminal ambitions for fuel and energy complex in Vladimir Region
The former Vice-Governor of the Vladimir Region Sergey Filippov has become a defendant in the case of embezzling more than 230 million rubles from the heating supply company Vladimirteplogaz. Together with his sons, Filippov owned fuel and energy companies that operate in the region. The Filippovs Clan is notorious for multiple criminal cases and the amount of money stolen.
The former official will spend about two months under house arrest, up to December 19. He is charged under Article 160 of the Criminal Code (Misappropriation or Embezzlement committed by an organized group on an especially large scale), the maximum penalty for which is 10 years in prison.
The company involved in the case, Vladimirteplogaz (VTG), is now engaged in the production, transportation and sale of heat and hot water in 10 municipalities of the Vladimir Region. Since 2014, Vladimirteplogaz has become a full subsidiary of the Gazprom Mezhregiongaz Vladimir LLC, which was led by Sergey Filippov until mid-2013. In the late 1990s, Filippov oversaw the issues of housing and communal services and infrastructure development as the vice-Governor of the Vladimir Region. However, until the summer of 2014, the shares of VTG belonged not only to Gazprom Mezhregiongaz Vladimir (51%), but also to the Energoservis LLC (49%), which was in turn controlled by the MRG-Invest holding company, headed by Filippov’s son Alexander. In March 2013, a scandal broke out, which bore the signs of a conflict of interest. Energoservis decided to increase the authorized share capital of the controlled company by 10 million rubles and took control of VTG. Certain data implies that VTG, being an unprofitable enterprise, thus hoped to increase the amount of working assets to obtain the necessary loans and incur operating expenses. According to the statement by the MRG-Invest first deputy general director Alexander Belozerskikh and the head of the company’s legal department Sergey Ruzin, Energoservis representatives suggested that Gazprom Mezhregiongaz Vladimir should also add 10 million rubles, so that "everyone retained their shares." However, the latter not only refused to do so, but did not even show up for an extraordinary meeting. Filippov Sr. gave his vote for the decision by proxy, asking the Deputy Director for Economy and Finance of Gazprom Mezhregiongaz Vladimir, Valentina Sbitneva to do it. As a result, Filippov Jr. gained direct benefits from such changes — his share in VTG increased to 57.29%.
In the same summer, the powers of Sergey Filippov and Valentina Sbitneva, who had been charged under Article 286 of the Criminal Code, were terminated by the decision of the Gazprom Mezhregiongaz Vladimir Board of Directors. The new leadership objected to the loss of control over a subsidiary, which coincidentally had a debt before the company. In August 2014, Energoservis announced its withdrawal from the VTG founders, in particular because of the initiated legal proceedings and "lack of understanding coupled with unsubstantiated claims" by the partners.
In October 2015, Sbitneva was found guilty of abuse of power. The court ruled that her decision caused serious damage to VTG. The former Deputy Director for Economy and Finance was sentenced to a fine of 100 thousand rubles. However, the punishment was later waived due to amnesty.
This June, MRG-Invest CEO Alexander Filippov was also found guilty of embezzlement of property on a considerable scale. According to the court’s finding, he illegally sold and resold VTG’s boiler in Gus-Khrustalny. The damage caused by his actions amounted to more than 80 million rubles. The businessman was sentenced to 4 years in a penal colony of standard regime, but pleaded not guilty and promised to appeal the verdict. He currently remains in the Vladimir Central Prison as a defendant in two criminal cases, one of which is now being heard in the Leninsky Court of Vladimir. In the course of the judicial proceeding, it was established that Filippov’s company presented overstated data on electricity tariffs to the Department of Prices and Tariffs of the Vladimir administration. The damage caused by these actions has been estimated at 117 million rubles.
The threat of criminal liability now looms over Sergey Filippov himself. The issue in question is the management contract concluded with his help between MRG-Invest and VTG in 2009, which was obviously detrimental to the latter party, as investigators insist. According to this document, the holding company took over responsibility for managing VTG for a fee in the amount of 115 million rubles per year. In just five years up to 2014, they gained about half a billion rubles. However, the MIA General Administration for Economic Security and Combatting the Corruption (GAESCC) believes that more than 230 million rubles were transferred to the company of Filippov Jr. illegally. This money take root from the invoiced services, which were not actually rendered, as well as from the overvalued remuneration for services rendered.
"During the time when MRG-Invest managed VTG’s affairs, the latter was practically bled white and used for siphoning funds into certain structures. We got a company with little to no equipment, no office machines, no furniture, and no communications. Which looks like the company has not done a thing in the last 6-7 years. Literally nothing. We got ourselves a completely stripped off organization. Each line of the balance sheet can serve as a basis for a criminal case," the new CEO of Gazprom Mezhregiongaz Vladimir, Yuri Dubrov stated in January 2015.
Dubrov mentioned overstating the estimates for the construction and installation works and for rental boilers. In 2012, the cost of each gigacalory included management expenses, which were 120 rubles. In 2013, this sum turned into 180 rubles, and then to 189 rubles in just nine months of 2014. However, MRG-Invest called those accusations farfetched, noting that the money they received were used to pay for the work of more than 60 professionals and for the rental of premises designated for the accounting, legal and economic departments. Alexander Filippov has repeatedly challenged the statements that his structure was stripping off VTG.
Nevertheless, after the searches in Filippov’s house, as well as in the house of his neighbor (most likely made by mistake), the former official was arrested on October 25. This information was reported by Alexander Filippov’s lawyer, Mikhail Ovchinnikov, who had been present during the searches and interrogation. To avoid inevitable conflict of interest, Ovchinnikov will not defend Filippov Sr. in the court — the lawyers assumes that the same charges will soon be brought against his client as well. The interests of the former official will be represented by Ivan Ogarkov. Sergey Filippov’s case in the regional MIA department is lead by the investigator Pavel Krylov, who also led all other Filippov’s cases.
At the time of the hearing, it was prohibited to take photo and video footage upon request by the investigator and the Prosecutor's representative.
Although, according to Ogarkov, the economic crime that is imputed to his client, does not stipulate house arrest, Krylov insisted on this measure of restraint for the former Vice-Governor. The main reason is that a structure with state participation is considered the victim. The detainee also has extensive connections in high places and law enforcement agencies, which means that he can put pressure on witnesses. In addition, the investigation thinks that Filippov can flee from the country. Certain reports imply that he has a house in Nice (not mentioned in the official declaration) and a passport valid until 2020 (seized during the search). Moreover, his younger son is currently hiding overseas. 30-year-old Alexey Filippov was put on a wanted list in September 2016. According to investigators, he implemented a corruption scheme as the deputy director of Vladimirenergosbyt OJSC, and overestimated the cost of electricity for consumers via knowingly false mathematical calculations. The damage caused by his actions is estimated at more than 20 million rubles.
Aleksey Fillipov's photo from Facebook page
As a result, Filippov Sr. will stay in his house in Seltso until December 19. The former official is prohibited to leave the house and to communicate with other persons involved in criminal proceedings. He is also banned from using the Internet, email and mobile phones, except to call emergency services, or to speak with a lawyer or investigator.
"I was expecting this turn of events. As for the question of why, it is up to others to draw conclusions," Filippov commented on his arrest.
The lawyer Mikhail Ovchinnikov insists that the detention is unlawful and complains about pressure put on Filippov’s family, linking it to the political ambitions of Alexander Filippov. During the Governor’s election in Vladimir region in September 2013, he was named the main rival of Svetlana Orlova from the Edinaya Rossiya party, which eventually won the race. However, Alexander Filippov, who was in Mikhail Prokhorov’s Civic Platform, failed to pass the municipal filter — part of the signatures he had collected were invalidated. During the race, Orlova accused MRG-Invest led by Filippov in monopolization of the market, inflating the tariffs, and even made personal accusations against Filippov himself, claiming he siphoned off money into offshore companies. It was reported that the businessman even sued his rival for libel. However, later he withdrew his claim.
Aleksander Filippov is called the main rival of Svetlana Orlova in the gubernatorial election
The growing conflict between the Vladimir administration the business family continued even after Orlova’s political opponent had gone in prison. For instance, in August 2016, shortly before the State Duma election, Orlova said that the default electricity supplier Vladimirenergosbyt "forces enterprises of the region to their knees." Earlier, Alexander Filippov was a member of the governing bodies and the one of the company’s founders. Although he had ceased those activities even before the criminal case against him was initiated, only serving as an advisor to the Vladimirenergosbyt board of directors and shareholders. Nevertheless, regional officials continue to claim that this organization is under Filippov’s control.
Saburova believes that the Russian authorities violated articles 2 and 5 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, guaranteeing the right to life, as well as the right to freedom and personal inviolability.