Pre-investigation check at Novotrans may lead to nationwide scandals
A pre-investigation check is in progress at Konstantin Goncharov’s Novotrans. The company is suspected of money laundering and withdrawal abroad. It concerns large amounts of about $10 billion. If the suspicions are confirmed, then one of the largest railway operators will face major troubles, and the owners themselves may end up in jail. Moreover, the Novotrans scandal may strike the country’s key port infrastructure.
Investigators suspect Novotrans in withdrawing money using one of the common schemes, the so-called “fictitious transportation.” In this case, it concerns fictitious transportation of petroleum products. In a nutshell, it can be described as follows. The carrier company in collusion with the supplier company arranges fictitious transportation of goods, for example, abroad. Transportation is arranged through the offshore division of the carrier’s company Money goes straight to the accounts of this company, while in reality, the transportation of goods does not occur. As a result, money is divided between the customer and the carrier, ending up offshore.
It is known that for many years, such a scheme was used by the carrier company Transrail, which was created back in the days of the Ministry of Railways and then continued to work under the previous management of Russian Railways. According to media, the international system of Transrail companies includes over 150 companies in 12 countries. At the same time, Swiss Transrail branches were registered at the same legal address. Simultaneously, a number of trusts were used in the activities of the Transrail GC. Simka Trust, Sunar Trust, and others in Liechtenstein, Finance Trust Holding and others in Luxembourg, and Transport Holding in the Cayman Islands.
It was this company that became a part of the Novotrans company, which was created in 2004, under the name Transrail-car in 2006. At the same time, as of 2019, the founder of Transrail Car LLC is ARGO LLC. From 2013 to 2015, the owner of Novotrans Konstantin Goncharov was the company’s CEO.
Investigative actions at Novotrans with further development into criminal cases can have serious consequences for the company and the transportation market. After all, Novotrans is a major operator of freight railway rolling stock in Russia and the CIS countries with its own fleet of 25,000 versatile gondola cars, for which, according to rumors, other market participants have already begun to fight in the wake of information about inspections against the company.
Since the autumn of 2018, Novotrans has been the owner of Transport and Logistics Complex OJSC, which owns the Yug-2 terminal in the port of Ust-Luga and the complex operator, the stevedoring company Sea Commercial Port of Ust-Luga JSC. As for Novotrans-aktiv LLC, it implements a major investment project in the port of Ust-Luga to create port infrastructure as part of the development of the fourth, fifth, and sixth port construction stages. Goncharov is betting that the new terminal will become key to the development of the railway infrastructure of the North-West region, central Russia, and Siberia. To recall, Ust-Luga port is an important strategic object in terms of increasing Russian exports; any problems with the implementation of investment projects is a nationwide scandal.
In addition, Novotrans represented by its own company Novotrans SK is the general agent of Rosmorport FSUE for the maintenance and development of the only ferry complex that provides freight sea communication between the Leningrad and Kaliningrad regions (Ust-Luga port - Baltiysk port). The complex is of strategic importance for the country, because it enables the delivery of goods to the Kaliningrad region and back without crossing the borders of other states.
Thus, the developing scandal with Konstantin Goncharov’s Novotrans may have serious consequences for the Russian economy. Once again, the question arises of how money-laundering structures could take possession of Russian strategic assets. Perhaps, investigation will answer it.