Russian Deputy Alexey Chepa prefers to invest in foreign real estate and business. Where is the money from?
In line of his duty, Deputy Alexey Chepa follows the official foreign policy doctrine and hates the West. On the other hand, all his business interests, real properties, and children are abroad. The motherland is just his feeding ground. For instance, prior to the bankruptcy of Bank Razvitiya Tekhnologii (Technology Development Bank) belonging to him, some 2 billion rubles ($29 million) had been siphoned off from it.
On December 23, 2018, The Times has published the list of journalists working for Sputnik radio station based in Edinburgh. The newspaper calls them propagandists and Kremlin puppets. The article provides the names of eight radio station employees, their photos, and official positions, including the Editor-in-Chief of the Edinburgh Bureau, Editorial Director, Executive Producer, some journalists, and Head of the IT Department.
Russian officials have sharply criticized this disclosure of private information. According to Alexey Chepa, Deputy Chairman of the Committee for Foreign Affairs of the State Duma, “The British journalists wanted to demonstrate their loyalty to the authorities – but instead, they have discredited themselves in the public eye. Such actions have no excuse”.
Shortly before this, Meduza.io portal has drawn a parallel between the anti-Western rhetoric of the Deputy and his real estate acquisitions in the USA and UK.
Back in 2013, blogger Andrei Malgin, a former journalist, has found a condo located at 10101 Collins Ave. Bal Harbour, FL 33154-1656 purchased by Chepa in March 2010 for $2.45 million. This property was neither disclosed in the election declaration filed by parliamentary candidate Chepa in 2010 nor in his Deputy’s declaration for the year of 2011.
The building where Chepa owns an apartment
In addition, it became known that the declaration for 2011 had no references to Cyprus-based Windale Holding Ltd. offshore company belonging 100% to the Deputy and his 50% share in Lindaco Commercial SA incorporated in the British Virgin Islands. In November 2011, in strict accordance with the legislation, Chepa has transferred these assets to trust management – but ‘forgot’ to disclose them in his declarations.
In 2012, the apartment 342.8 square metes in size – supposedly used by the Deputy on the free-of-charge basis – has been disclosed along with his other residences and land lots. Chepa explained to the press that he hadn’t declared it earlier because the property was mortgaged by BAC Florida Bank. Allegedly, he did not have the ownership documents because the loan was not repaid in full to the bank at that time.
In response, the blogger has presented an agreement signed by Chepa and stipulating that the bank may repossess the apartment only if its owner – i.e. the mortgagor – defaults on the mortgage and only under a court decision.
Chepa accurately remits the property tax amounting to dozens of thousands of dollars per year – therefore, it is logical to assume that he makes the mortgage payments as well. All documents refer to him as the property owner – Alexey Vasil Yevich Chepa.
In March 2013, Chepa sold the troublesome apartment on the 19th floor of prestigious The Palace Bal Harbour on the oceanfront to some Vera Afanasyeva at the original purchase price – $2.45 million – despite all the costs incurred by him, including property taxes and mortgage interest.
Chepa made this deal without even traveling to the USA – it was formalized at the American Embassy in Moscow. This vividly illustrates who indeed is knocking on the doors of foreign diplomatic missions.
Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper contacted the Deputy – and Chepa told it that he had tried to declare the apartment back in 2011 – during the elections to the Tver Legislative Assembly – but he had no ownership certificate on hand, only the mortgage agreement; therefore, the property was “removed from the declaration”. The member of Spavedlivaya Rossia (Just Russia) Party claims that the American apartment officially belongs to his relatives – but until the full mortgage payout, it, in fact, belongs to the bank. The parliamentarian explained that he has legitimately earned the money used to buy the apartment through hard work – for more than 20 years, Chepa had been running business and paid taxes. Furthermore, according to the Deputy, virtually any Russian citizen can afford an apartment in Miami.
Leaving alone the statement about the financial capacity of “any Russian citizen”, it is necessary to note that Chepa told the truth with regards to the new owner of the residence – according to Meduza.io sources, Vera Afanasyeva is his niece.
She is a successful business lady – based on official documents, Afanasyeva is the founder or director of many companies affiliated with the Deputy.
For instance, she was the Director of recently liquidated Interregional Association for Promotion of Investments and Construction (Mosinveststroy) Limited Liability Company, while Chepa was its 100% owner. Afanasyeva owns 5% of shares in Golden Mile managing Golden Mile Fitness Club on Ostozhenka street, while Chepa owns 70% of shares in it. StroyMediaResurs belongs 65% to Afanasyeva, 25% to Chepa, and 10% to Tolos International owned by the Deputy.
In addition, Afanasyeva was among the cofounders of Plazmonika (Plasmonics) Limited Liability Company and Laboratory of Optical and Electronic Devices (LOEP) located in Skolkovo Innovation Center.
These companies have won plenty of governmental contracts, mostly with the Ministry of Education and Science, totaling 358 million rubles ($5.2 million) and defaulted on loans taken on at Bank Razvitiya Tekhnologii (BRT) for the total amount of 135 million rubles ($2 million).
The CrimeRussia became aware that Chepa is the primary beneficiary of this bank established in 2003. Initially, the credit institution had belonged 100% to Prommashekspo-I founded by AvantIntreid and S.K. Akkord – both these companies belong 100% to Chepa. Later his portfolio has reduced to 49% – he owns 8.763% of shares directly and 40% via Prommashekspo-I Limited Liability Company. According to our sources, Chepa had also controlled 52.23% of the bank’s shares via a dummy person – Tatiana Soboleva. The rest of the shares belonged to bank top managers.
In addition, Deputy’s wife Irina Chepa was a member of the Board of Directors of Bank Razvitiya Tekhnologii. In May 2016, the Bank of Russia has revoked its license – the gap in the bank’s balance amounted to almost 1 billion rubles ($14.5 million).
Meduza.io portal cites a statement made by Chepa amid the inquest into the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal: “The current English authorities just don’t know what else to do to bite Russia yet again”.
Still, similarly with the USA, Chepa has established a foothold in the UK. According to Meduza.io, he has a joint business there with famous Moscow restaurant keeper Arkady Novikov. In 2009, they have launched in London Novikov Restaurant 1,800 square meters in size.
Novikov Restaurant in London
For the first few years, Chepa was an official co-owner of the restaurant and owned 45% of shares in it. In 2013, after the enactment of the law prohibiting Deputies from keeping money abroad and owning/using foreign financial instruments (Deputies of the State Duma may own businesses but cannot participate in their management), his name disappeared from the list of shareholders.
However, in 2017, his 20-year-old son Daniil Chepa became a co-owner of Sеalthwave Ltd. managing the restaurant. According to the official documents, he is a British resident living at 807 – 20 Palace Street, London, England, SW1E 5BB. This high-rise building is located in central London within walking distance from Buckingham Palace. Unit prices in this condo start from £2.5 million.
In 2018, his share was transferred to Cypriot Costas Economou. According to Meduza.io sources, he is a confidant of Chepa – although the Deputy calls Economou ‘just an acquaintance’.
Residential building on Palace Street
Anastasia, a daughter of Chepa, is also a successful business lady. A graduate of the London College of Art and Design, she owns, jointly with her Greek friend Kleoniki Mandalou, Aperse outerwear shop in London.
According to Meduza.io, Chepa purchased for her an apartment in London worth £1 million back in 2006.
The CrimeRussia source claims that this apartment is located in prestigious Kensington area, on Upper Phillimore Gardens. Elena Pinchuk, wife of former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, reportedly lives at 17 Upper Phillimore Gardens.
Upper Phillimore Gardens
Unit prices in this quiet neighborhood located between Holland Park and Hyde Park start from £1 million for a small apartment with 1 bathroom. But such residences are pretty rare there – normally, apartments on Upper Phillimore Gardens feature 4–6 bathrooms and cost up to £35 million.
The Deputy told Meduza.io that he frequently visits his children in London. Chepa claims that the current deterioration in the relations between Russia and the West makes him nervous and, despite his official position as a Deputy of the State Duma, he would like “the things to normalize”.
The CrimeRussia has also contacted Alexey Chepa some time ago. The Deputy confirmed that he was a BRT shareholder. According to him, the bank went bankrupt due to a fault of its managers – they created a credit portfolio that was not secured properly, thus, requiring a large-scale replenishment of reserves.
“I tried to save it – but other shareholders, who concurrently were its managers and had committed this mistake, have done nothing,” – Chepa noted.
However, The CrimeRussia obtained a letter submitted to the General Administration for Economic Security and Combating the Corruption of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the Russian Federation by a former high-ranked bank manager.
According to him, Chepa was the founder and majority shareholder of the bank; he owned 65.3% of its charter capital and, in fact, controlled all operations of the credit organization. All important and strategic decisions, including financial ones, could be made only with his approval.
After the revocation of the bank’s license, the insolvency administration has identified a number of violations committed by the BRT management.
For instance, the total amount of loans not repaid to the bank by third parties was some 2 billion rubles ($29 million). According to our source, after the publication of the reasons behind the license revocation, Chepa has taken every effort to shift the blame to other persons in order to avoid criminal and civil liability for damages inflicted to the bank.
The Deputy had publicly accused some top managers of the bank’s collapse and threatened them with violence and criminal prosecution. Aleksander Bul’bov, personal assistant to Chepa and head of his security service, had also intimidated these people.
Police lieutenant general Bul’bov, ex-Head of the Department of Operational Support and Internal Security Department of the Federal Drug Control Service of Russia, has a criminal past. In 2007, operatives of the Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation have detained him in Domodedovo Airport for illegal telephone wiretapping, bribes, and ‘patronage’ of criminal groups. Bul’bov, in turn, claims that his arrest was linked with his role in the investigation of a criminal case against Tri Kita (Three Whales) company implicating high-ranked FSB officers. Despite the protests of the Prosecutor’s Office, the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR) has remanded Bul’bov in custody. Two years later, he has been released under a written pledge not to leave the city. In late 2010, Bul’bov was sentenced to three years behind bars conditionally for swindling and exceedance of powers.
According to the author of the letter, Bul'bov and Chepa were involved in multimillion embezzlements of clients' funds from BRT. For instance, some 1 billion rubles ($14.5 million) have been siphoned off to accounts controlled by Chepa through fictitious loan agreements.
Being the factual owner of the bank, Chepa could easily pull off this criminal scheme with the support of Bul’bov.
Taking the hard evidence collected against Chepa, the bank officer asks the FSB to launch an inquest into the facts provided in his letter and prosecute the persons involved in the multimillion embezzlements.
In addition to Plazmonika (Plasmonics) and Laboratory of Optical and Electronic Devices (LOEP) affiliated with Chepa via Afanasyeva, Nanorobototekhnika Closed Joint Stock Company was among the largest borrowers of Bank Razvitiya Tekhnologii. According to arbitration materials, the company owes to the bank 315.5 million rubles ($4.6 million). Interestingly, its founder Aleksander Shishaev used to be the General Director of AvantIntreid belonging to Chepa, while Viktor Gavrilov, the current Head of Nanorobototekhnika, is concurrently the Chairman of the Board of Park Palace Homeowners Association whose cofounder is Chepa. Furthermore, Nanorobototekhnika has the same address with the bank: building 3 7/1/8/ Sretensky boulevard, Moscow. Many other companies belonging to Chepa are also registered at this address: AvantIntreid, Prommashekspo-I, S.K. Akkord, Golden Mile Management Company, NET, Parus (Sail) Management Company, and already liquidated Media Trust and Mosinveststroy.
Building 3 7/1/8/ Sretensky boulevard,
Additional 70.2 million rubles ($1 million) were lent to Energotsentr founded by Energomashtekhnika Limited Liability Company belonging 100% to Chepa; 130 million rubles ($1.9 million) – to Fizpribor Research and Development Center Closed Joint Stock Company, the founder of NET Limited Liability Company where Chepa owns a share; and 30 million rubles ($435.3 thousand) – to above-mentioned Prommashekspo-I.
Overall, a Deputy’s mandate seems to be very profitable and, taking the parliamentary immunity, useful thing.
When asked by The CrimeRussia about his foreign real estate, the Deputy became nervous and started denying its existence.
“I have nothing – neither in London nor in the USA, – Chepa said. – Everything I have is disclosed in my declarations”.
Unfortunately, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) hasn’t provided a meaningful response to our inquiry with regards to the operations of Chepa in the UK. The Deputy is a very active person and has an interesting biography.
Officially, during the Soviet period, the 63-year-old people’s choice “had worked at closed military enterprises in Moscow and the Moscow region”. Unofficially, he was an officer of the General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense.
In the late 1980s, he switched to business and established a timber processing enterprise. In the 1990s, he was practicing agriculture in Africa, Asia, and the USA.
In addition, he was in charge of the Fund for Friendship and Cooperation with the Republic of Angola. According to some information, this post was a disguise for arms shipments to this country. Chepa calls these operations “service to the motherland”.
In 1994–1997, he was the Commercial Director of Military and Technical Company for Realization of Conversion Machinery and Equipment Closed Joint Stock Company. In 1996–1997, Chepa was a member of the Board of Directors of Alina Moskva Bank. Later, the bank started experiencing financial problems and was purchased by Ingosstrakh and renamed into Ingosstrakh-Soyuz. Currently, it is a part of structures controlled by oligarch Oleg Deripaska and bears the name of Soyuz (Union).
The media called Chepa a partner of Arkady Gaidamak sentenced by the French court in absentia to 6 years behind bars in 2009 for illegal weapons trafficking to Angola. Vedomosti newspaper claims that Chepa was an officer of secret services and had a common business with Gaidamak in the 1990s. Gaidamak is also believed to be a former officer of the General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate and partner of Viktor Bout convicted to 25 years behind bars in the USA for conspiracy to commit illegal arms trade and support terrorism.
According to Le Figaro newspaper, Gaidamak calls himself a friend of criminal ‘authority’ Alimdzhan Tokhtakhunov (Taiwanchik). He needed the assistance of Chepa because, being an Israeli citizen (as well as a citizen of France, Canada, and Angola), Gaidamak could not obtain visas of Islamic states of the Persian Gulf – the largest weapons purchasers in the world. Chepa, as a member of the Russian-Arab Business Council, could easily establish connections with representatives of these states and run business on behalf of Gaidamak.
In Russia, Chepa and Gaidamak were known as partners in an agrarian business. In 1999, Gaidamak purchased Kazphosphate – the largest producer of mineral fertilizers in Kazakhstan – and appointed Chepa in charge of the sales of Kazakh fertilizers to Russian agricultural enterprises. Chepa had even joined the Agrarian Party of Russia and established Plodorodie (Fertility) Interregional Agrarian Fund.
In 2000, Gaidamak purchased 94% of shares in Mar’ino Poultry Plant Open Joint Stock Company and 76% of shares in Brattsevo Poultry Plant Open Joint Stock Company – and Chepa became the Chairman of the Boards of Directors at both enterprises. He had held these posts up until 2006 – at that time, Gaidamak himself became the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Brattsevo Poultry Plant.
In May 2005, Gaidamak has admitted for the first time in an interview to Vedomosti newspaper that Chepa was his henchman: "We know each other with Aleksey Chepa for a long time, he is the main sponsor of the Agrarian Party. He is in charge of the largest poultry plants in the Moscow region. He is the only egg producer in the metropolitan area. I don't know another person so deeply engaged in agriculture on the daily basis".
In 2002, Chepa switched to the media business and became the majority shareholder in a number of printed periodicals, including Russian Courier newspaper published in the USA and American TV channels Nostalgiya (Nostalgy) and Russkiy Mir (Russian World). Concurrently, acting in the interests of Gaidamak, he was in charge of Russian-Speaking Community Association noncommercial organization.
In 2003, Chepa launched a construction business and took charge of Moi Dom (My Home) Development company building residential homes in elite Zhukovka community on Rublevo-Uspenskoe highway. In 2005, he became the President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Rokada Ltd. and joined the Russian-Arab Business Council on behalf of this organization. By the way, Chepa told us that he does not know a company with such name.
Jointly with Viktor Labusov, another member of the Board of Directors and former officer of the General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate, Chepa had worked at Vesso Link United Paging established by Cyprus-based Holbein Investments Limited offshore company. Jointly with a number of people, including Chepa, this company is the founder of Park Palace Homeowners Association – a prestigious residential complex in Khilkov lane, between Ostozhenka street and Prechistenskaya quay, located within the so-called ‘Golden Mile’ accommodating the most expensive real estate in Moscow.
Park Palace Residential Complex
In addition, Infaikom Investment and Financial Group belonging to Labusov (Vesso Link is subordinate to it) has built a complex of administrative buildings for the FSB.
Chepa runs construction business abroad as well. For instance, in Cambodia, Koh Puos Investment Group Ltd. – established and belonging 100% to Cyprus-based Vironia Enterprises Limited offshore company administered by Chepa’s ‘acquaintance’ Costas Economou – has leased in 2006 Koh Puos Island in Sihanoukville Province for 99 years and announced its intention to invest into it $300 million. It was planned to build hotels, casinos, cottages, and golf courses on the island.
In 2011, a bridge to the island worth $31 million and dubbed "Russian" has been built. Chepa has attended its grand opening – the local media called him the investor's Chairman of the Board. In his solemn speech, Chepa said that the construction of a residential zone consisting of 36 seashore villas and low-rise homes with a total living space of some 100 thousand square meters would commence soon.
Alexey Chepa (under the umbrella) and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen with wife at the grand opening of the bridge
In 2013, The Phnom Penh Post wrote that Morakot (Emerald) Island Project will be revised and its budget increased to $1 billion. Keam Kolnead, PR Director of Koh Puos Investment Group Ltd., noted that the company has already invested $100 million into the 1-km-long bridge to the island and other infrastructure, including an unfinished 5-km-long road around the island. The project was supposed to be completed in 2018.
It was planned to hold famous KaZantip music festival, earlier held in Crimea, on that island – but the Cambodian authorities have canceled it at the last moment.
The bridge to the island
No information about the project progress was available since then. In 2018, it was reported that Sihanoukville receives large-scale Chinese investments, and Chinese construction companies are actively working in the province, including Koh Puos Island.
In 2011, Aleksey Chepa, then-Deputy of the Legislative Assembly of the Tver Region, had participated in a talk show on Russia-1 TV Channel as a representative of Emerald Beach Resort in Bulgaria. His official position was the Chairman of the Board of Director of Emerald Group of Companies.
Still from the TV show
Russian pop stars Philipp Kirkorov and Lolita Milyavskaya, who had purchased residences in Emerald Beach Resort, had accused the developer of poor quality of works and the management company – of overcharged rates.
Bivol newspaper later wrote that its journalists were unable to find the name of Aleksey Chepa in registries of Bulgarian commercial companies. However, according to other sources, Chepa was not only a representative of the investor – but also a co-owner of the resort complex. The newspaper cites the hacked e-mail correspondence of Inna Novikova, Director of Pravda.ru Internet Holding, leaked online in 2012.
According to Bivol, one of the messages states that representatives of Russians owning apartments in Emerald Beach Resort have met with real shareholders of the development company and managers of the resort complex – and Chepa was among them. He is referred to in the correspondence as “one of the investors”.
Emerald Beach Resort
The newspaper has also disclosed the scheme used for ‘investments’ into the Bulgarian resort real estate: Chepa and his partners had lent to Bulgarian developers money of suspicious origin via offshore companies. After the sale of the real properties, the ‘laundered monies’ were returned to the investors.
Investments into Emerald Beach Resort were going through Spade Business Ltd. incorporated in the Bahamas. It is mentioned in an article published by Mayak Baltiki (Baltic Lighthouse) newspaper (№19 (134) of September 2004; currently the article is available on the web-site of the Kaliningrad Regional Branch of the Russian Professional Union of Seamen). According to that article, "in November 2003, seamen of the Pioneering Base of the Oceanic Trawler Fleet have submitted an open letter to Aleksey Vasil'yevich Chepa, owner of Spade Business Ltd. incorporated in Angola, Southern Fishing Fleet Limited Liability Company, and Golden Fish Limited Liability Company (both incorporated in the town of Pionersky), complaining about months-long delays of salaries".
Then the ‘investments’ had passed through Bulgarian company Pioneer Development – in 2004, it has purchased 39 ha of land on the seashore near Ravda for some €2 million and launched a large-scale construction project: deluxe Emerald Beach Resort consisting of 783 apartments. Later, the residences have been sold through Pioneer Development offices in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Vilnius. According to Bivol, many purchasers had problems with property taxes afterward: the preliminary agreements of purchase and sale had stipulated the real prices – €1,500 to €3,000 per square meter – while the final notarial acts stipulated only 50% of the real cost. The difference was pocketed by Pioneer Development.
During the talk show, Chepa has dismissed all allegations brought by the Russian pop stars as “nonsense” and said that “this can't be true ”.
In conclusion, we would like to repeat the Deputy’s words: “Such actions have no excuse”.