How former FSB officer created empire for money laundering
Three criminal cases, searches in three major regions of the country, two of them in the capital – for several days already the employees of the “banking” department of the Economic Security Directorate of the Main Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in St. Petersburg have been conducting operations to liquidate the largest office of “cashiers” in recent years. At this point we are talking about the amount of 5 billion rubles ($73.6 mln). The black bankers headed by former FSB colonel Sergei Radzivilyuk were enriched by that amount precisely.
Black Tuesday for gray cash
The largest underground business empire lasted 4 years. Today, investigators are aware of several cities where money laundering offices operated, namely Moscow, St. Petersburg, Rostov-on-Don. Recently, Taganrog was added to this list. All these cities are distinguished by a developed business, there are large enterprises and factories everywhere, trade is booming.
So far we are talking about 5 billion ($73.6 mln) of profit – about the margin received by black bankers for their services. But now even the investigation cannot say how many billions in reality were cashed in these four years. Presumably, we are talking about tens of billions.
The scheme of finance transit in general was simple and widely known from the end of the 90s: one-day firms into whose accounts cash is transferred, offices that accept this cash and then draw up fictitious supply, sale and payment agreements for various services.
The reason for initiating criminal cases was the analysis of the Federal Financial Monitoring Service of the Russian Federation (Rosfinmonitoring) in the North-West Federal District. It is worth noting that the process took place in the framework of the unofficial fight against smuggling in the North-West which had begun in 2016. Since then, there have been many unpleasant events for smugglers in foreign trade: loud arrests of businessmen, the case of the Global ULS and broker Igor Havronov, the detention of high-ranking officers of FSB, MIA, transport police, prosecutors and customs officers. But the smuggling network could not exist without black bookkeeping. The visit of the security officials to the offices of the former FSB colonel Sergey Radzivilyuk is the cut-off of the next criminal tentacle of the giant octopus that seized the entire North-West.
Former Kaliningrad border service officer, FSB colonel Sergey Radziviluk today owns four companies – OOO Balt-Agro-Trade, OOO Eco-Trans, OOO Mosstroystroygazkomplektacia, and OOO Mettransbaltik. Companies' activities range from the storage and warehousing of goods, the sale of motor vehicles and their maintenance, to the sale of petroleum products and construction goods, and the wholesale supply of food. Colonel's wife, Elena Radzivilyuk, is also the owner and director of OOO B.T.K. registered in St. Petersburg in 2016. The main activity is the work of bus stations.
Today, there are already 6 people detained by St. Petersburg investigators in the case of illegal banking activities. 45 searches were conducted in 40 fictitious firms, in apartments and mansions. The operation began on November 6th and lasted until November 8th. However, it has not yet been possible to detain and interrogate the main protagonist of this underground banking scheme. 53-year-old Sergei Radzivilyuk escaped the handcuffs by chance – he stayed on a business trip in Riga.
4 years for boost
In the coming months, investigators of the Investigative Committee of St. Petersburg and the central office of the ICR will have to dig in the financial documents of dozens of companies, track hundreds of transactions for 2014-2018. According to the approximate estimates of specialists, the one-day firms monthly transferred from 300 to 400 million rubles ($4.4-5.9 mln). Underground bankers received not only a percentage of the transaction amount, but also about 12% for the cash-out operation itself.
Numerous searches will give pause for thought and conclusions of the investigation. Those that have already been carried out have proved to be very fruitful. About 12 million rubles ($177,000) of cash, financial documents, stamps of front companies and already traditional for Russia collections of expensive watches were seized. The most productive were the visits of security officials in St. Petersburg. Underground bankers lived in a big way. Offices were rented in the very center of the northern capital, while the leaders preferred to live outside the city in luxurious mansions. Members of their families moved exclusively on expensive cars.
Mansion owned by one of the black bankers
It’s hard to say whether all this was acquired by Sergey Radzivilyuk’s offices in the last 4 years. But the heyday of his criminal business came just in those years. Some sources attribute this to the fall of the previous empire of "cashiers," which happened due to an unfortunate coincidence of circumstances just in 2014 – it was then that the heroes of our article suddenly came to the top of cash-withdrawing companies.
On April 8, 2014, 35 shadow figures were detained - organizers of schemes, accountants and couriers. About 300 million rubles ($4.4 mln) in the accounts of fictitious companies were seized. Especially important witnesses were taken for interrogation to the Central Office of the Investigation Committee, to Moscow. More than a hundred people from the Economic Security Department of the capital, the FSB and other law enforcement agencies of the North-West were involved in conducting 50 searches. The scale of this "empire" was much more modest than of Radzivilyuk’s offices. As the investigation later established, the group cashed 70-80 million rubles ($1-1.2 mln) a day at 5.5%.
Wife of retired Colonel Radzivilyuk
The supposed organizers of this scheme are two Petersburgers – 46-year-old Mikhail Sanikov and 37-year-old Yuri Orlov. Both are entrepreneurs, and Sanikov was at that time a co-owner of OOO SK Imperial. A curious nuance: during a search at Sanikov’s, the certificate of a lieutenant colonel and the head of the Petersburg FSB department in his name was found.
Time of snouts and hooves
Sources believe that the "laundering" offices cannot exist and flourish without protection. So Sergey Radzivilyuk’s figure is considered not accidental. It is said that in these uncontrolled financial flows there cannot be any random people at all.
Leisure of the Radzivilyuk couple
If to delve into it deeper, then the true king of black bankers of St. Petersburg was once Mark Bronovsky. At the time of the visit of the security officials Bronovsky was the de facto head of Sotrans, the leading customs broker of the North-West region. Under his leadership, a criminal gang of 15 people gathered, which, according to the ICR data, has been operating under the scheme of illegal refund of VAT since 2008. With the help of forged documents, they created the appearance of financial and economic activity in the companies they needed, then documents were submitted for VAT refunds. With the help of connections in law enforcement agencies, courts and government agencies, the requests were complied with. From 2008 to 2013, according to the investigation, the organization earned several tens of billions.
In the early 2000s, the rate of shadow bankers for cashing ranged from 2.2 to 4%. After a mass revocation of licenses from different banks of St. Petersburg in 2013, the percentage for cashing reached 8%. Official coverings actually disappeared. Over the last three years, the black finance market has raised the rate to 11-17%. After today's collapse, they talk about 25%.
After Bronovsky left the “Olympus” of shadow finance, the lead of the black cash initiative was taken by Andrey Panteleev, widely known in underground circles, who was detained in 2014 in the case of the above-mentioned SK Imperial. He was transferred to Moscow for “subject conversations” in the Central Office of the ICR. According to sources, after the fiasco of Bronovsky and Panteleev, private black bankers, firstly, announced an increase in tariffs (risks must be paid for), and secondly, there was simply no developed network covering both capitals. It was then that Sergey Radzivilyuk and his companies emerged among the “muddy” financial flows, and the rate rose to a record 11–12%. According to our sources, its appearance could well have been lobbied by friendly security forces.
In the meantime (after recent investigative actions), panic reigns again in underground circles. Survived firms quickly close offices. Everyone is waiting for further development. After all, the last two months (September and October) have been very restless for the entire shadow financial sector. September 19, the Main Investigative Department of the Main Directorate of the MIA in St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region conducted a dozen searches in the apartments of black bankers as part of a previously initiated criminal case of attempted fraud on a large scale.
Picture of the searches
In addition, in the late summer of 2018, two significant sentences were announced. “Cashiers” (to their own surprise) began to receive real terms. Traditionally, gray cashing was considered to be a “childish” crime in terms of composition, the periods for such criminal cases were trivial and, as a rule, suspended. Most of the participants in such offices got off with fines. The pioneer in this was the Petrograd district court, which in October 2018 sentenced two underground businessmen to 2 and 2.5 years of actual imprisonment.
The defeat of Sergey Radzivilyuk’s “empire” threatens to become a new milestone in the history of the state’s struggle with the shadow financial market. As they say, one will not get off with two years for such a scope of activity.