Patriots of Russia choose Miami
Intelligence of the US Justice Department is preparing a report on foreign assets of high-ranking Russian citizens. Leaks in the media are illustrative of their appetites.
Russian Major General Anatoly Petukhov, retired, bought real estate in Miami for $38 million. The American media write that the sources of income of the former First Deputy Head of the State Interior Ministry's Directorate for Combating Organised Crime, "a fighter against corruption and the Russian mafia," may be of questionable character.
Petukhov bought $3-million-worth apartments in the tower of the Continuum condominium in South Beach. This place is known as the center of the glamorous nightlife of Miami Beach, a place of leisure for both American and Russian celebrities. The former General also purchased 3 office buildings in Miami-Dade and Broward counties worth $13.6 million, a $4.5 million shopping center in Fort Lauderdale, the first floor with shops and showcases in Hallandale Beach condo for $1.5 million and etc. And according to the The Real Deal edition, for two houses on the island of Hibiscus Petukhov paid $15 million.
Fortunately for the former General, it was quite easy to acquire a property in Miami until recently – all you need to do this is to have money. Realtors asked a few questions, false offshore companies were screening themselves behind real buyers. Prestigious housing in Miami, the capital of sex and cocaine, was much cheaper than in London or Manhattan. Russians, businessmen, retired politicians and representatives of special services, especially fell in love with Fisher Island and Sunny Isles Beach (the latter is called Little Moscow). Criminals who survived in 90s’ moved here.
And now the FBI opened an office in Miami to specifically investigate the activities of the Eurasian mafia. "The Italian Cosa Nostra ceased to be our number one enemy, Eurasian mafia gets its seat," the special agent of the FBI, Rick Brodsky, told the Miami Herald.
Quite predictably, the retired 59-year-old Major-General, his lawyer and realtors refused to enter into a dialogue with journalists on the topic of sources of income.
As noted by Louise Shelley, a professor at the University of George Mason, the elite unit of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for Combating Organized Crime (where Petukhov worked as the First Deputy Head) was "the most criminalized structure in the police" - so much that it was reorganized and eventually disbanded after the scandal with participation of its management. The Americans refer to publications in the Russian media: Novaya Gazeta and MK about how Lieutenant-General Alexander Orlov, the commander of the unit, used his post to extort huge sums from oligarchs and bandits in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In 2001, Orlov fled the country, then he was seen in Turkey, Israel, Thailand and Florida. According to Louise Shelley, the anti-organized crime unit at all levels extorted money from businessmen and bandits, promising not to bring charges. Junior officers were supposed to donate some of their illegal income up the career ladder. And such, like Petukhov, were sitting on top of the pyramid of universal extortion.
In 2013, a civil suit against Petukhov was filed in the Miami District Court on behalf of the shareholders of Yasenovo United Trading House. From the document it followed that during 1999-2013 Petukhov extorted money from head of the company Pavel Gornostaev, now also an inhabitant of Florida. The total damage claimed in the lawsuit amounted to about $60 million. Among the civil defendants in the suit there were also the wife of Petukhov Julia, his property management firm in Miami, his business partner, Hallandale Beach and another company from Florida.
A few months later, the parties compromised, and the judge unexpectedly classified the case materials, which caused only questions: what state secrets could the case of extortion and the Russian corrupt scheme contain? Nevertheless, the Miami Herald had 45 pages of documents from the case, which remained open to the public.
According to these papers, during aforementioned period Gornostaev's company representatives handed Petukhov $2.5 million in cash a month. In return, Petukhov guaranteed a ‘roof’ from everyone who was dissatisfied with the expanding activities of Yasenovo United Trading House. The ‘roof’ could not be abandoned: the General threatened Gornostaev that "he would create problems for those who refuse his protection and damage their families, using criminals under his control."
Gornostaev's complaint stated that by 2002 Petukhov had already demanded a 25% stake in his business. It was decided to satisfy the requests, and in 2005 Petukhov was appointed the deputy general director of the company. Based on court documents, the General received about $16.8 million for providing ‘roof’. Then he began to demand a controlling stake in order to immigrate to the United States on a business visa and open a partner company in Miami. Gornostaev refused. But the General found the money, moved to the US and and did not cease threatening the firm.
Petukhov's lawyers deny the involvement of their client in the circumstances described, calling the charges "daring and scandalous". The defense provided a written explanation of Yasenovo United Trading House shareholder Sergey Kiselev. Kiselev testified that he never witnessed the events described above, did not see the transfer of money, and got wised about extortion from Gornostaev.
Six months after the settlement of the dispute, Yasenovo United Trading House sold its department stores in Moscow, which cost about $ 60 million. Before the sale, Petukhov was determined to own 25% of the property sold. The Cyprus offshore company, controlled by Petukhov, showed a profit of $3.6 million from the sale of Yasenovo stores. What happened to the rest of the money and how much Petukhov eventually got was a mystery. Neither he nor his lawyers comment on this issue. It turns out that the American Themis has no claims to the fighter against Russian organized crime.
Both an official and a deputy
Last year, the FBI conducted a six-month check, during which the Americans identified the true owners of luxury real estate in Manhattan (cost from $3 million) and in Miami (from $1 million). The measure was carried out as part of the fight against organized crime and money laundering. Undertaking the identification of the names of true owners, the Ministry of Finance made its own property insurance companies involved in all stages of transactions. The authorities placed the collected names in private databases of law enforcement agencies. They are indeed still classified. However, more and more new expository materials in the local media can indirectly indicate that a significant catch has been collected. As with Petukhov, this refers to officers of law enforcement agencies and members of the party United Russia – that it not to the ‘fifth column’, which feeds on the cookies of the State Department, but to the ‘true patriots’ of Russia.
Recently, as a result of the investigation, Transparency International Russia, along with journalist Lily Dobrovolskaya, have found several ‘strange’ apartments in Miami in Trump Palace condominium, registered in the name of Igor Zorin and acquired with the help of a former FSB officer, and now the head of the board of directors of security company Alfa-Anticriminal, Svyatoslav Mangushev. The total value of the property is $9 million. Investigators are interested in both personalities.
Igor Zorin. A person with the same name helms Russian Broadcasting and Alert Networks (RSVO), a state-owned enterprise that controls all radio channels in Russia. As a director of a Russian state-owned enterprise, he cannot own and run commercial companies, including foreign ones. Before becoming the director of Federal State Unitary Enterprise (FSUE) RSVO, Zorin was deputy head of the Federal Communications Agency, held the post of director of the Main Center for Special Communications - a courier service for secret dispatches and alerts. Is this the same Zorin, who owns commercial companies, which the elite apartments registered with in Miami? Transparency International Russia sent a corresponding request to the Prosecutor's Office.
Svyatoslav Mangushev is the founder of the unique motoclub SPETSZNAZ, which united American and Russian bikers, he also heads the board of directors of the group of enterprises Alfa-Anticriminal in Russia. Gleb Gavrish, a spokesman for Transparency International Russia, notes that former officers of the FSB and other law enforcement agencies, the counter-terrorism department in particular, works with this group of security enterprises.
How are these two names related? When Zorin worked in the Main Center for Special Communications, the FSUE gave many contracts for security orders to private security companies from the Alfa-Anticriminal group. The investigators managed to find a note of thanks in the name of Mangushev, signed by Zorin. After Zorin started to work with the Russian Broadcasting and Alert Networks, there were also major contracts that he handed over to the company of Mangushev. Having moved to the US, Mangushev started to run a business and purchase real estate, three flats were handed over to firms managed by a man named Igor Zorin. Is this just a coincidence? The Prosecutor General's Office, thanks to Transparency International, is abreast of this. The story is especially savour due to the fact that the property belongs to Trump Palace condominium.
The Miami Herald also wrote about former State Duma deputy Alexey Knyshov, who bought an apartment in Miami for $ 7 million and demanded 360 thousand dollars from the developer in court because of the "poor quality" of the apartment in Little Moscow - Sunny Isles Beach. In the lawsuit, he calls his life in the American flat a "nightmare".
Russia took interest in Knyshov five years ago, when opposition deputies (then deputies!) Dmitry Gudkov and Ilya Ponomaryov charged that he, despite the status of a parliamentarian, continued to do business and manage his assets. They also stated that they had found his house in the United States, worth over $1 million, and a number of other assets. Knyshov denied the accusations, but voluntarily stepped down, after which the law enforcers refused to initiate criminal proceedings against the politician.
In the offing
After five years since the beginning of this story, Gudkov and Ponomaryov are no longer deputies of the State Duma (the latter actually is forced to hide abroad).
Patriotism is getting stronger across-the-board, and critics of the regime are being massively slashed.
But in the US the story of the ‘patriots’ will reach a fundamentally new level. In accordance with the adopted Congress and the Act on counteracting aggression by the Governments of Iran, the Russian Federation and North Korea signed by President Trump, within 180 days, and therefore no later than February 2, 2018, the financial intelligence of the US Justice Department is to submit a report on foreign assets of "influential political figures, oligarchs and leaders of state companies of the Russian Federation, close to the Kremlin regime." Presumably, Americans have long been familiar with these names and assets, but we will be able to learn a lot. The promulgation of influential names will entail unavoidable legal procedures related to organized crime and money laundering. But already in the US. And without the fabled ‘roof’.
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.