Who is lobbyist for thief in law Merab Sukhumsky?
It is hard to understand who is Krasnodar businessman Mindia Gulua for real. His name appears in media and official documents with completely opposite epithets: philanthropist, public activist, businessman, representative of criminals, keeper of the thieves’ pooled cash fund, etc. His sphere of interest encompasses Russia, Georgia, Abkhazia, and since recently, Turkey. The CrimeRussia was researching different facets of this controversial personality.
Mindia Gulua was born in 1969 in Sukhumi, in the family of a construction worker. He has graduated from the Tbilisi State University as an economist, served the compulsory military service, and relocated to the Krasnodar krai in 1994. In the period of 1997–2000, Gulua was the General Director of a major vodka distillery – BiO Open Joint Stock Company – located in Ladozhskaya village of the Ust-Labinsk district. In 2001–2002, he was the Director of Sauk-Dere Winery. The regional press still call him ‘ex-vodka king of Kuban’.
Gulua was one of the managers of Ladozhskoe Open Joint Stock Company – a major distillery in the Ust-Labinsk district involved into several high-profile scandals, including production of vodka with a name virtually duplicating another famous brand belonging to Soyuz-Viktan Group of Companies. Another scandal had escalated in July 2006 when a criminal case was instituted against a group of businessmen selling low-quality alcohol under disguise of expensive brandy. More than 500 thousand bottles with counterfeit excise labels were found during the searches in Ladozhskoe.
Currently Gulua is the founder and owner of three companies in Moscow: Mos-Oil Limited Liability Company, Mos-Realt Limited Liability Company, and Borjomi Center Limited Liability Company. He used to be a co-owner of MAG Group of Companies Closed Joint Stock Company, Motok Limited Liability Company (confectionery wholesale trade), Yaguar (Jaguar) Limited Liability Company (foods and drinks wholesale trade), Rosgaz Limited Liability Company (retail), MGL Group (printing), Zeleny Mir (Green World) Limited Liability Company (retail), and Interregional United Systems (residential property management).
Gulua has survived several assassination attempts. The first one was in preparation in 2003 – three killers have been arrested prior to committing the crime, but it is still unknown who were these people and who was their paymaster. On October 4, 2016, armored Hummer belonging to Gulua was blasted in the Enka district of Krasnodar. The first explosion occurred when he got behind the wheel near his home. The car burst into flames and several seconds later, the second explosion tossed the vehicle worth €170 thousand into the air. Gulua suffered multiple injuries and was admitted to the regional clinical hospital with shrapnel wounds. Larisa Kondakova, Head of the Office of the General Administration of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the Russian Federation in the Krasnodar Krai, has also suffered from the explosion that had thrown her several meters away. Seven nearby cars were also affected by the blast. The operatives have found numerous bearing balls on the scene – the explosive device was shrapnel-filled. The Prosecutor’s Office had instituted a criminal case under part 3 of Article 30 and item (f), of part 2 of Article 105 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (Attempted Murder committed by a generally dangerous method). The outcome of this case was never reported. The Administration of Criminal Investigation of the MIA General Administration in the Krasnodar Krai had only mentioned that it was checking the ‘Ladozhskoe’ trace: “I can only say at this point that the crime is linked with the professional activity of that person. Several versions are currently under investigation. Some of those can’t be discussed yet,” – said Evgeny Drobyazgo, the Head of the MIA Administration of Criminal Investigation.
The assassination attempt was made, by the way, a month after the incorporation of Kras FM company specializing in boiler station maintenance and established by Gulua. Stroikholding company with a charter capital of 1.25 million rubles ($21.6 thousand) belonging 100% to Sonari Investments Ltd. offshore company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands was another cofounder of Kras FM. Stroikholding, as well as all companies established by it, except for Kras FM, have been officially closed by now due to their exclusion from the Consolidated State Register of Legal Entities for misrepresentation.
Mikhail Kotlubaev was appointed the Director. In 2013, he was running for the Municipal Duma of Krasnodar from the Communist Party of the Russian Federation as the Chief Economist of the Production Assets in the Planning and Economic Service of Tander Company (the owner of Magnit supermarket chain). It is unknown though whom Kotlubaev was about to represent in the Municipal Duma – communists, Tander, or Mindia Gulua. Kotlubaev had made a scene during the vote counting and was removed from the voting station. He had lost the election to Maksim Burlachko, son of Yuri Burlachko, the Chairman of the Regional Elections Committee.
Video: Illegal removal of a member of the Elections Committee
Then Kotlubaev was dismissed from Tander. His name had popped-up again only in 2017, amid the upcoming elections for the Regional Legislative Assembly. This time, he was supposed to represent the Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia, but ultimately Kotlubaev hasn’t participated in the elections.
Gulua himself was eager to join the politics as well. In 1998, he was running for Deputy of the Legislative Assembly of the Krasnodar Krai; in 2000 – participated in the election of the Mayor of the Town of Ust-Labinsk of the Krasnodar Krai. In 2008, Mindia Gulua has launched vigorous public and political activity. He was the Chairman of Iveria Georgian Diaspora Krasnodar Regional Public Organization. In March 2010, he became the President of “For Georgia” All-Russia Public Movement. Gulua provides material aid to Georgian refugees from Abkhazia and participates in various charitable events.
In November 2011, he became an Advisor for the Chairperson of opposition Renewed Georgia Party later renamed into For Renewed Georgia. Mindia Gulua’s sister – Nana Gulua, a Computer Science Professor of the Tbilisi State University – was elected the Chairperson of the Party.
Georgian media had actively spread at that time the version that Mindia Gulua and the entire opposition party are creatures of the Russian secret services. On March 7, 2014 Mindia Gulua allegedly had a meeting with Vladimir Putin and discussed the issues between Georgia an Russia. On that day, the Central Elections Committee of the Russian Federation has published the results of the presidential election in Russia, and both Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin were on a working trip in the Krasnodar krai. They also had meetings with foreign investors involved into the creation of a tourism cluster in the North Caucasus. However, the official documents do not mention the meeting between Putin and Gulua.
In 2012, Vedomosti newspaper had mentioned some American company Saint Maria Holding whose supposed founder was Mindia Gulua. The company was about to purchase the Uspensky Trade and Entertainment Center Project (30 thousand square meters) on Rublevo-Uspenskoe highway, 64 ha of land in the Ruzsky district of the Moscow region for construction of Vishenki (Cherries) cottage community (90 thousand square meters), two residential construction projects in Lobnya (650 thousand square meters) and Klin (150 thousand square meters), and 270 ha of land in Kiev to build 2 million square meters of living space. The deal value was estimated at $450 million. Gulua had stated that he was ready to purchase residential and commercial real estate (either commissioned or at final construction stages) in the center of Moscow. According to him, the company already had assets in various segments in the U.S., Europe, and Russia – although he never named these assets.
The last assassination attempt against Gulua was made on August 23, 2016 on Chekistov avenue in Yubileiny neighborhood of Krasnodar. An unknown person has gunned down the businessmen and his bodyguard and escaped in a VAZ-21014 car. Gulua was wounded in abdomen; a bulled has crushed his thigh. The bodyguard has shielded him and was wounded in a forearm. The burnt car used by the assassin was found in a yard several blocks from the crime scene.
Burnt car used by the assassin
Immediately after the institution of a criminal case under part 3 of Article 30 and part 1 of Article 105 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (Attempted Murder), the victim has stated that Merab Dzhangveladze, also known as thief in law Merab Sukhumsky’ was the assassin’s paymaster.
It is unlikely though that an ordinary businessmen promoting the international interests could anger so many people and survive all the attempted assassinations.
Mindia Gulua is also well-known in the Krasnodar krai as a henchman of ‘Merab Sukhumsky’ and his clan also involving David ‘Dato Krasnodarsky’ Dzhangidze and Tengiz ‘Tengo Sukhumsky’ Lakerbaya. Furthermore, the ‘lobbyist’ for ‘Merab Sukhumsky’ is the keeper of a portion of the capital owned jointly with clan Sukhumsky.
Merab ‘Sukhumsky’ Dzhangveladze
‘Merab Sukhumsky’ and Mindia Gulua have official business ties as well. In 2011, Gulua was a cofounder of Interregional United Systems company whose another cofounder was Georgy Dzhangveladze, a son of Merab. A few years later, the company was transferred to Mindia’s son Amiran Gulua who later became its General Director. Several weeks ago, following an audit carried out by the Federal Tax Service, a decision has been made to exclude the company from the Consolidated State Register of Legal Entities for misrepresentation.
Therefore, the statement made by Gulua that ‘Merab Sukhumsky’ was the assassin’s paymaster seems weird. A few days later, the businessman has changed his testimony and said that the killer was contracted by Roman Kashchaev, also known as ‘thief in- aw Kashchai’. He is a member of the clan led by detained ‘thief in law Shakro Molodoi’ and also involving Dato ‘Dato Krasnodarsky’ Ozmanov, Ara ‘Ara Armavirsky’ Muradyan, and Shalva ‘Kuso’ Ozmanov.
In fall 2016, supposed assassin Eduard Keshesh’yan, a local resident who used to know ‘Kashchai’ and Gulua a while ago, was arrested and then remanded in custody. The investigation believes that Keshesh’yan, a disabled person of group I able to move only with a cane, is the killer. In late March 2017, Aram Gambaryan, a friend of the supposed assassin who was bringing care packages for Keshesh’yan to the pretrial detention facility, was arrested as well. The arrest of Gambaryan looked like a kidnapping. In his complaint to Yuri Chaika, Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation, the man wrote as follows: “a bag was put on my head, I was pushed into a car and driven in an unknown direction”. Gambaryan was taken to a woodland belt and cruelly beaten “to get some confessions”. After the tortures, he was escorted to the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR) and had to sign an interrogation report with “required explanations”.
Later Gambaryan was admitted to the Krasnodar Regional Hospital № 1 and diagnosed with “an acute renal failure, acute interstitial (posttraumatic) nephritis complicated by a renal injury 3rd grade, brain concussion, numerous bruises, abrasions, and hemorrhages of lower limbs. Only in September 2017, at the fifth attempt, Gambaryan managed to push the ICR to initiate an inquest into the tortures committed by people who had introduced themselves as Federal Security Service (FSB) operatives. According to Gambaryan, he is still mostly bed-bound due to the sustained injures and undergoes treatment.
In March 2017, Armen Chekalyan, another friend of Keshesh’yan, was also detained in a similar way. Chekalyan was arrested in Vnukovo Airport, a bag was put on his head, while his mouth duct-taped. The man was taken to a forest in a Moscow region and tortured for a long time in order to force him to confess to complicity in the assassination attempt against Gulua. Then he was escorted to a police station in Krasnodar where his arrest has been formalized. Later Chekalyan was also remanded in custody.
According to CrimeRussia sources, Mindia Gulua is involved into the production and trafficking of crop-based drugs in the Rostov region and tried to launch their shipping via the Krasnodar krai.
In addition, Gulua had reportedly actively collaborated with Sergei Zirinov, ex-Deputy of the Legislative Assembly of the Krasnodar Krai. Zirinov and his accomplices were found guilty of banditry, illegal weapons trafficking, attempted murder, and murder.
According to some information, Gulua is involved into the protection racketeering and raidership. Up to a certain time, his classmate Valentin Krasovsky, an officer of the Administration of Criminal Investigation of the MIA General Administration for the Krasnodar Krai, had covered up his operations. Currently he is on the wanted list in the Republic of Adygea for extortion. On the MIA Administration web site, his photo has been edited to remove the police uniform, while on the ICR web site, Valentin Krasovsky is shown in the uniform.
Aleksander Korchagin, Chairman of the Stavropol Regional Court who used to work in Krasnodar for many years, is also named among those involved into the operations of Mindia Gulua.
Currently, thief in law Merab Dzhangveladze relies on ‘authoritative’ Krasnodar businessman Mindia Gulua and intends to funnel the thieves’ pooled cash fund under his control into Gulua’s hands. A year ago, the ‘crowned thief’ sentenced in Italy to 4 years and 8 months of home arrest has got liberty. He is not welcomed in Russia – in November 2016, representatives of the MIA General Administration of Criminal Investigation, Interpol, and Italian Police, have delivered to Dzhangveladze a statement prohibiting him from entering the Russian Federation for life.
According to Mosmonitor.ru sources, Merab Dzhangveladze intends to settle in Turkey – although he is not giving up his influence in Russia and plans to expand his interests via Gulua.
In late May, a private Sud-Aviation Gazelle helicopter has crash-landed in the Khabarovsk krai. As a result, a 72-year-old man died from heart seizure. Another passenger has got a spinal fracture, while the third one – the pilot – came out of the accident with only a minor brain concussion. Later it became known that the deceased person was an FSB colonel general, the one with spinal fracture – a former overseer of the Khabarovsk krai, while a prominent Khabarovsk businessman had piloted the helicopter. The CrimeRussia obtained some exclusive information about this strange company.