Outmanoeuvered with offshore companies. Ex-Governor Mikhail Yurevich beats law enforcement authorities, secures his business empire
Mikhail Yurevich, the ex-Governor of the Chelyabinsk Region and factual owner of Makfa Agrarian Holding, managed to siphon off almost all his assets to Cypriot offshore companies. The evacuation preparations have started a year before the institution of a criminal case against Yurevich. On the day when the Supreme Court refused to examine the motion to annul his arrest in absentia brought by the defense, the fugitive ex-Governor has leaked to the press information that all his assets had been transferred offshore long time ago. Why did Yurevich tell the law enforcement authorities about their failure?
The main headline of August in the Urals was the announcement that fugitive oligarch Mikhail Yurevich, ex-Governor of the Chelyabinsk Region, managed to siphon off almost all his assets to Cyprus. The CrimeRussia found out that Yurevich had started preparations for the transfer of his business to offshore territories back in spring 2016 – a year after his removal from the Governor’s office. On April 21, Rantip Invest Limited has been incorporated in Cyprus at 28 Oktovriou street, 367, Mediterranean Court, Floor 1, Flat Α53107, Limassol. According to the public register of Cypriot companies, its Director is some Σαββασ Τεκλοσ.
On March 20, 2017, a criminal case has been initiated against Yurevich under part 6 of Article 290 (Bribe-Taking) and part 4 of Article 33 and part 2 of Article 128.1 (Instigation to Slander) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. On April 10, the ex-Governor refused to return to Russia to be questioned by the investigation. On April 28, 2017, two more companies have been incorporated at the above-mentioned address in Cyprus – Laplus Invest Limited and Trescode Limited. Because all the three legal entities are located in one office, it is logical that these are managed by the same director Σαββασ Τεκλοσ.
Upon completion of the preparations in Cyprus, time has come to move to action in Russia. The lion’s share of the ex-Governor’s business empire had officially belonged to his elderly parents: Valery Yurevich, born in 1941, who used to work in construction for his entire life and retired teacher Natalia Yurevich, born in 1942.
On May 24, the Sverdlovsk Regional Court has arrested Mikhail Yurevich – who was earlier put on the international wanted list and is currently hiding in London – in absentia – The CrimeRussia wrote about this earlier. On June 6, ex-Governor’s assets worth over 3 billion rubles ($50.1 million) have been frozen. On June 30, Valery Yurevich has sold two enterprises to Laplus Invest Limited. The first one was Prospect Limited Liability Company owning a chain of supermarkets. Valery Yurevich had owned 75% of shares in that company. The mother of the ex-Governor has retained her 15% of shares in it.
The second company sold to Laplus Invest Limited was UM Shkolnik (Schoolchild Supermarket) Limited Liability Company; Valery Yurevich had owned 90% of shares in it. The company owns the ground floor of a nine-storey apartment building in the center of Chelyabinsk where Shkolnik store used to be located earlier.
On July 3, the Sverdlovsk Regional Court has dismissed a cassational appeal against the arrest of Mikhail Yurevich in absentia. The hour has struck to engage Trescode Limited. On July 19, Valery Yurevich sold to it his 71.4% of shares in Melon Limited Liability Company specializing in office management. Natalia Yurevich has retained her 19.2% of shares in that company.
Melon Limited Liability Company owns 100% Rodnik (Spring) Limited Liability Company that, in turn, owns Rodnik Trade and Entertainment Complex – the first such facility built by Mikhail Yurevich. The four-storey building with the total commercial space over 135 thousand square meters accommodates more than 170 stores, Kinomaks multiplex cinema with 8 theaters, and Megaland children’s playground complex.
Rodnik Limited Liability Company is the founder of Otel’stroy Limited Liability Company that owns 14-storey elite Radisson Blu Hotel in Chelyabinsk. It also owns Almaz (Diamond) Trade and Entertainment Center built at the expense of hoodwinked co-investors of Akadem Riverside neighborhood – The CrimeRussia wrote about that story earlier. Therefore, by selling Melon Limited Liability Company to a Cypriot entity, Yurevich has transferred offshore several major real properties at once.
On August 8, it became known that prosperous and profitable Makfa Joint Stock Company has changed its owner as well. Prior to joining politics, Mikhail Yurevich had transferred his main asset to the parents. Valery Yurevich owned 71.42% of shares in the family enterprise, while Natalia Yurevich – 19.29% of shares.
Yulia Bobyleva, a representative of the agrarian holding, confirmed to the media that Valery Yurevich has sold his shares in Makfa Joint Stock Company to Cyprus-based Rantip Invest Limited. Bobyleva did not provide the specific closing date but noted that the accomplishment of that deal has taken a while. She said that the transfer procedure has already been completed, and the company management are aware of the major changes in the ownership structure. In that context, it becomes clear why the Makfa shares have been sold to Rantip Invest Limited established a year earlier than the two other offshore companies.
According to Bobyleva, the changes in the ownership structure primarily pertain to the optimization but also to “protection against unfriendly actions”. Furthermore, Valery Yurevich has retained the General Director’s post in Makfa Management Company Limited Liability Company and effective control over the enterprise.
Makfa Joint Stock Company is the primary owner of Novaya Pyatiletka (New Five-Year Period) Joint Stock Company, Smak (Savor) Joint Stock Company, and Dolgovskoe Joint Stock Company. Its structure includes dozens of companies located not only in the Chelyabinsk, but also in Moscow, Sverdlovsk, and Kurgan regions, Stavropol krai, and Ukraine. Now this huge agrarian business is going to pay taxes outside Russia – while it used to bring to the budget some 1 billion rubles ($16.9 million) per year in taxes in the Chelyabinsk region alone.
It is unknown yet whether, in addition to Nastoyashie Makarony (Real Macaroni) brand, the bread produced by Pervy Khlebokombinat (First Bakery Complex) is also Cypriot since recently. It is reasonable to suppose that this enterprise either has already been transferred offshore or is going to be transferred soon. On May 4, 2017, Suntrax Group Limited, another company with the same legal address – 28 Oktovriou street, 367, Mediterranean Court, Floor 1, Flat Α53107, Limassol, Cyprus – has been incorporated. Its Director is the same Σαββασ Τεκλοσ. Apparently, some portion of the Yurevich’s business empire is to be sold to the fourth Cypriot entity.
Political expert Aleksander Podoprigora believes that tax evasion is not the primary goal of the Chelyabinsk ex-Governor: “By making this step, Yurevich has, in fact, signed ‘the confession of guilt’ – he believes that these cases won’t be soft-pedaled but instead pushed all the way through to convictions. Therefore, he is not going to return back to Russia and siphons off the money abroad”.
Some minor – in comparison with Makfa Agrarian Holding – possessions of Mikhail Yurevich still remain in Russia yet, including Perekrestok (Crossroads) Trade Complex and Remzhilzakazchik Management Company. His extensive media assets haven’t changed ownership as well – Positiv (Positive) Limited Liability Company owning Vecherny Chelyabinsk (The Evening Chelyabinsk) retail chain and Media Center Limited Liability Company owning the 31st TV Channel, DFM Chelyabinsk radio station, and Ekho Mockvy v Chelyabinske (Echo of Moscow in Chelyabinsk) radio station. It would be meaningless to transfer Media Center offshore because, according to the legislation amendments that have come into effect in the beginning of this year, foreign companies owning more than 20% of shares in Russian media outlets can not be their founders. Therefore, the media assets of Yurevich are likely to be sold. In early August, the Ural mass media have reported that the respective negotiations are ongoing.
On August 7, the Chelyabinsk Regional Court has dismissed a motion brought by the defense attorney for Mikhail Yurevich to lift the attachment imposed on eight accounts and eight real properties of the ex-Governor, including apartments in Moscow, parking spaces, and garage. However, the judge has partially satisfied the appeal and unfroze 3.4 billion rubles ($57.6 million) deposited on bank accounts of Yurevich. On August 8, 2017, the Supreme Court refused to transfer the cassational appeal against the arrest of Mikhail Yurevich for court examination. On the same day, Yulia Bobyleva, a representative of Makfa Agrarian Holding, has announced the sale of the ex-Governor’s primary asset and confirmed that his other companies were sold for the purpose of “protection against unfriendly actions”. Of course, this conjunction of events was not coincidental. In fact, Yurevich notified the law enforcement authorities that he is not going to return back to Russia and has already secured almost all his empire against them. The transfer of assets offshore is a good protection against their potential seizure. Should the investigators decide to sequester the business of Yurevich, they now have to file claims with international courts and prove the illegitimate origin of his foreign assets.
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.