Czech laundromat. Businesses of Robson involved in shady schemes pulled off abroad
The Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor) is taking efforts to block any publications about the meeting between ‘authoritative’ Sochi businessman Ruben Tatulyan (Robson) with thieves-in-law in the Czech Republic. Concurrently, it became known that Robson is also running shady business operations in this European country. The businessman slapped with US sanctions for support of crowned thieves has ties with companies involved in money laundering schemes pulled off by the First Czech–Russian Bank.
Roskomnadzor has ordered a number of news portals to remove articles dedicated to the arrest of ‘authoritative’ Sochi businessman Ruben Tatulyan in Karlovy Vary in May 2017 during a thieves’ congregation.
Roskomnadzor protects interests of criminal ‘authority’
For instance, PrimeCrime.ru had to remove 10 materials, including original articles of The CrimeRussia, Ptel.cz (Prague Telegraph), Cont.ws, etc. published with references to their sources in the “Other Media” section.
The Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media has notified the Internet portal about the violation of the Russian privacy legislation citing a decision of the Tagansky District Court of Moscow dated January 17, 2019 and stating that the court had established the fact of personal information processing by the web site with breaches of the Russian legislation.
Robson in Karlovy Vary
The removed materials contained information about the arrest of Tatulyan by operatives of the Department for Combating Organized Crime of Ministry of the Interior of the Czech Republic on May 13, 2017 in a summer cafe on Stará Louka street together with thieves-in-law Gaioz Zviadadze (Giya Kutaissky) and Gela Kardava (Gela Gal’sky), criminal ‘authority’ Artur Karadagaev wanted by the Directorate for the Krasnodar Krai of the Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation for extortion of 1 million rubles ($15.1 thousand), and several other persons.
Commenting on this information for Prague Telegraph, Kateřina Böhmová, Press Secretary of the Karlovy Vary Regional Branch of the Czech Police, has confirmed the arrest of only two people. “One of them was released after the identity verification, while the other detained because his passport was fake,” – Böhmová said. She added that the detained 43-year-old foreign national was sentenced to a fine and deportation from the country. According to The CrimeRussia sources, this refers to Gela Kardava who had a passport in the name of Oleg Golomb. The crowned thief had presented that passport to Ukrainian policemen as well. Later, in January 2018, Kardava was detained by Belarusian operatives in the Minsk airport and subsequently found guilty under part 2 of Article 380 of the Criminal Code of Belarus (forging, producing, use, or sale of fake documents). Currently, he is serving the prison term.
It also became known that, unlike the other detained persons, the freedom of Tatulyan could not be restricted because he had a diplomatic passport issued to him by the Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs “for activities promoting the economic development of the country and attraction of new investments”. However, according to Tigran Balayan, Press Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia, Ruben Tatulyan used to be a freelance advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs – but he does not possess this status anymore.
Other facts also confirm the presence of Tatulyan at the congregation. According to PrimeCrime.ru, the information on the arrest of the criminal ‘authority' from Sochi was submitted to the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the Russian Federation via Interpol. In addition, the Czech delegation has reported details of that operation at Millennium International Police Forum held in Moscow in June 2017.
However, in his interviews to Armenian and Russian Internet portals, Tatulyan claims that he had visited Karlovy Vary to ‘receive treatment’, that he makes such trips on a regular basis, and that he has no idea of thieves-in-law.
Eager to protect the businessman-turned-criminal ‘authority’, Roskomnadzor has ordered Armenian news resources, including Аravot.am, Media.am, Armrus.info, and Hetq.am, to remove articles about Tatulyan. Hetq.am is wondering why a governmental agency of the Russian Federation is requesting an Armenian media outlet to remove its materials? It is also unclear why has a diplomat representing Armenia addressed a governmental service of another country instead of seeking assistance in the Armenian Ministry of Justice? In response, Roskomnadzor has threatened to block the web site in the Russian Federation.
It is necessary to note that the Law On Personal Data of July 27, 2006 cited by Roskomnadzor makes it possible to block any publication about any person made without his/her consent. After all, the personal data include all information allowing to identify a human being – e.g. first and last name, age, position, photos, etc.
The law includes some exceptions though: publications are permitted for the purposes of dissemination of socially significant information; in the framework of journalistic professional activities; if the personal data are available for the public (court archives, state registries, etc.); and if the personal data are contained in documents subject to mandatory publication in accordance with the law (e.g. income and asset declarations of governmental officials).
Still, the law stipulates that the above-mentioned situations must not violate “rights and freedoms of the person whose data are disclosed”. As a result, in the absence of a clear definition, Roskomnadzor interprets this clause in a broad sense, thus, making the law a censorship tool.
There are plenty of situations involving disclosure of personal data of Russian citizens to the public due to faults of governmental authorities. Databases of the State Traffic Safety Inspection, lists of banks’ clients and residents of buildings, passport information, etc. currently can be found not only on the Internet – but on other data storage media offered on electronics markets as well. But this is of no interest for the governmental services – neither for Roskomnadzor nor for local police structures.
However, when it comes to Tatulyan, Roskomnadzor is zealously protecting his privacy – as if he were a significant person for the state.
It is necessary to note that Roskomnadzor started sending out letters with requirements to remove the information about Tatulyan even before the respective court decision.
Giya Dangadze, Boris Sulava (Kicho), Vakho Chachanidze, and Ruben Tatulyan
In addition, pursuant to the same court verdict, Roskomnadzor also requested to remove a well-known photo showing Robson in Sochi together with thieves-in-law Vakho Chachanidze, Giya Dangadze, and Boris Sulava.
In other words, the censoring authority permits to take joint pictures with crowned thieves at congregations – but prohibits to publish such photos.
Tatulyan and Aslan Usoyan (Ded Khasan)
Tatulyan and Vagon
Tatulyan, Kostya Mogila (Kostya the Grave), and Timokha
Czech ‘business’ of Robson
We found out that Robson visits the Czech Republic not only to receive treatment and meet with representatives of the criminal elite – but to solve personal financial issues as well.
In one of its earlier materials, The CrimeRussia wrote that the link connecting Tatulyan and this European state is Novyi Vek (New Century) Media Limited Liability Company belonging to him and also sanctioned by the USA. Recently, we became aware of its specialization.
This printing company has a common phone number with another Sochi-based organization reportedly affiliated with Tatulyan – R-7 Group Limited Liability Company. According to the official web site of Vesna (Spring) Hotel & Spa – whose Chairman of the Board of Directors is Tatulyan – he is also the President of R-7 Group.
Vesna Hotel & Spa
R-7 Group belongs 100% to Czech company Anabelle Property specializing in real estate leasing. Anabelle Property has been incorporated in Prague in late 2010 – at that time, Ruben Tatulyan became the henchman of Ded Khasan in the Krasnodar krai and informal local overseer.
In November 2018, Sochi resident Bernard Akopyan became the Managing Director of Anabelle Property. Prior to his appointment, this function was performed by Vartan Tatulyan and Moscow native Natalia Myskina residing in the Czech Republic. Myskina is a shareholder with deposit; she owns 0.01% of shares in Anabelle Property. The rest of the shares (99.9%) belong to Dastyno Commerce incorporated in Prague in 2009 at the same address with its subsidiary Anabelle Property. Sochi resident Erik Vartanovich Tatulyan is the Managing Director of Dastyno Commerce.
Another relative of Robson, Alvart Vartanovna Tatulyan, used to be the General Director of Novyi Vek Media Limited Liability Company. Up until 2016, the Sochi-based company had owned 50% of shares in Dastyno Commerce. Later, its portfolio was transferred to an Armenian legal entity – Commerce Group Closed Joint Stock Company. Based on the Czech Registry of Commercial Organizations, it is located somewhere round there:
14 Gosha street, Yerevan
The remaining 50% of shares in Dastyno Commerce belong to Royaline Investments Ltd. offshore company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands.
Here is where the most exciting things come.
According to the Czech Center for Investigative Journalism (researchace.cz), a member of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), the beneficiary of this offshore company is Roman Popov, owner of the bankrupt First Czech–Russian Bank.
The Czech Center for Investigative Journalism refers to it in the context of the poor transparency of operations pulled off by Russian banks in the Czech Republic.
According to criminologist and political analyst Petr Pojman, “the influence of banking institutions with Russian capitals is very risky. In Russia, banks were founded by organized criminal groups. Today, the Kremlin controls them and uses for promotion of its imperial interests”.
The above is fully applicable to the First Czech–Russian Bank (FCRB). For instance, in 2014, it has granted a loan to France's far-right National Front led by Marine Le Pen. French banks had refused to provide a credit to her party – so, she borrowed €9 million from the FCRB. In addition, the bank had financial relations with Iran despite the embargo imposed on this state.
The First Czech–Russian Bank was established by the Czech Investment and Post Bank in 1996; Russian Vozrozhdenie (Renaissance) Bank had owned 49% of shares in the FCRB. In late 2002, Stroytransgaz, one of the largest contractors for Gazprom currently controlled by Gennady Timchenko, became a shareholder of the FCRB and gradually increased its portfolio in the bank to 95% of shares. Thanks to its new co-owner, the credit institution became one of the top 50 Russian banks by the value of its assets. In that period, Roman Popov, a former Deputy Head of the Finance Department of Stroytransgaz, has taken charge of it. Over time, he acquired – either officially or not – the controlling block of shares in the bank and subsequently became its sole proprietor.
Roman Popov (Photo: Valery Levitin/RIA Novosti)
A bank's counteragent told an RBK Group correspondent that Popov was close to Timchenko who had, in fact, entrusted the bank to him. In an interview to Rossiiskaya Gazeta newspaper in December 2014, Popov said that their clients in Prague are “local businessmen with Russian roots and representatives of Russian companies operating in the Czech Republic”.
In early March 2016, the Czech National Bank imposed restrictions on operations of the European Russian Bank (ERB) – a Czech subsidiary of the FCRB. The bank was prohibited from granting loans to individuals and acquiring assets.
In turn, the Bank of Russia has initially imposed an interim administration to the First Czech–Russian Bank and later, on July 1, 2016, revoked its license. In August 2016, the Bank of Russia has announced that a ‘hole’ amounting to 26.5 billion rubles ($400.4 million) was found in the bank’s balance.
A bank’s counteragent and a source close to the FCRB told RBC Group that the funds of the Czech Embassy to Russia and CSA Czech Airlines got caught up at the bank deprived of its license.
In September 2016, the Moscow Arbitration Court has declared the FCRB bankrupt. In early 2017, its top managers have been criminally charged; Dmitry Merkulov, ex-Vice President of the Bank, was arrested. According to the investigation, in spring 2016, shortly before the interim administration imposition, he has signed agreements of purchase and sale in relation to bank’s assets. The sale proceeds under these agreements were never received by the credit organization – so, the regulatory authorities concluded that the assets had been siphoned off. Such schemes are often pulled off by bank owners in anticipation of the collapse – the fraudsters are trying to siphon off as much as possible before the arrival of the auditors.
Merkulov claimed that at the time of the signing of the agreements of purchase and sale, he had been working in the bank for only two weeks and had no idea that these transactions were fraudulent. However, prior to his transfer to the FCRB, Merkulov was employed at Taurus Bank deprived of its license a year before the collapse of the First Czech–Russian Bank. In addition, Taurus Bank was among the 19 Russian credit institutions involved in so-called ‘Russian laundromat’ (or ‘Moldavian scheme’) used to siphon off some 22 billion rubles ($332.4 million) from Russia in 2011–2014.
After the arrest of Merkulov, in February 2017, the Deposit Insurance Agency had found another ‘hole’ in the bank’s balance in the amount of 9.33 billion rubles ($141 million).
In April 2018, the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR) has issued international warrants against Roman Popov, head of the bankrupt bank, and his Deputy Olga Arsent'eva. Both of them have been charged with the embezzlement of more than 400 million rubles ($6 million).
To illustrate the involvement of Tatulyan in the above episodes, the Czech media outlet provides the following example.
Initially, the FCRB has provided a loan in the amount of €12 million to Cyprus-based Laerma Limited offshore company belonging to Natalia Myskina, wife of FCRB officer Vladimir Myskin. Shares of Dastyno Commerce s.r.o. with the nominal value of only 100 thousand Czech korunas ($4.4 thousand) were pledged to the bank as the security via Royaline Investments Ltd. Taking that Dastyno Commerce s.r.o. does not register its financial reports in the commercial registry, it seems to be a typical dummy company pledged as a security to take on a loan the borrower does not intend to repay.
According to the Alliance for Securing Democracy, Tatulyan had direct links with FCRB owner Roman Popov; in June 2011, they became joint co-owners of 25% of shares in R-7 Group. A month after the acquisition of a minority portfolio in the company by Popov, FCRB has granted to R-7 Group a loan in the amount of €30.5 million. The Alliance for Securing Democracy cites documents disclosed after the bankruptcy of the bank. In addition, Popov had assisted R-7 Group in securing a loan in another Czech bank and acquisition of technologies for a trade center built not far from Sochi in 2013. Apparently, this refers to Plaza City Trade Center in Adler. Reportedly, both Tatulyan and Popov had attended its grand opening ceremony.
Interestingly some R-7 Group Limited Liability Company belonging to Cyprus-based Brizote Investments Limited offshore company is registered at the Moscow address of Stroytransgaz – 10 Testovskaya street.
According to a former FCRB top manager, Popov had invested funds in Sochi, including the construction of Olympic facilities. “He had invested money in the hope to sell the properties at Moscow prices – but the investments hadn’t paid for themselves, and many facilities still remain unfinished,” – the source told to RBC Group.
It is necessary to note that other persons having ties with Tatulyan and his Czech ‘businesses’ recently started experiencing problems in the construction business. In April 2018, well-known Sochi developers Vartan Tatulyan and Eduard Saakyan have been arrested and charged with illegal construction and real estate fraud. The Prosecutor’s Office of the Krasnodar Krai has uncovered episodes involving abuses of official powers by governmental officials and experts. In total, 40 criminal cases have been instituted and 15 suspects detained, including civil servants. For instance, on April 18, Mugdin Chermit, First Vice Mayor of Sochi, and Igor Mazurok, Chief Architect of Krasnodar, have been arrested. Later, Yuri Palamaruk, Vice Mayor of Sochi for Housing and Public Utilities Sector, and Vladimir Permyakov, Head of the Department of Property Relations, were arrested as well.
In May, another prominent Sochi Developer – Yuri Oganyan – has been detained in the framework of the criminal case instituted against Vartan Tatulyan.
Yuri Oganyan (in the center)
In addition to his Czech connections, Vartan Tatulyan is also a co-owner of Amfibius Waterpark in Sochi. Robson’s daughter Galina Ter-Avanesova, who has relocated to the USA after the marriage, is another shareholder of this waterpark. Our next material will be dedicated to her family and life in America.
It concerns entrepreneur Dmitry Motorin, Boris Usherovich, a co-owner of the Group of Companies 1520, and Novoe Vremya board member, Ivan Stankevich. Motorin is accused of giving a bribe on an especially large scale, and Stankevich and Usherovich are charged with bribe-taking.
This week, the judicial debates in the trial of Vladimir Barsukov-Kumarin charged with creation of Tambovskie organized criminal group have been finished in the Kuibyshevsky District Court of St. Petersburg. If the court upholds the stance of the state prosecution, the once-influential criminal ‘authority’ may be convicted to almost 25 years behind bars. In reality, this translates into a life term for the legend of criminal St. Petersburg.