Why nobody searches for fugitive banker?
Fugitive billionaire Avanesov put on the federal wanted list for siphoning off some 9 billion rubles ($142.9 million) abroad is freely living in a St. Petersburg hotel. The CrimeRussia was figuring out why no one is going to arrest the banker.
Hideout overlooking St. Isaac Cathedral
A federal warrant has been issued against Agadzhan Avanesov, ex-Chairman of the Board of Directors of StarBank, a couple of years ago. The investigative authorities of St. Petersburg are searching for him in the framework of a criminal case pertaining to embezzlements on an especially large scale. This refers to a large consignment of fish products not supplied by Fish Fabric Limited Liability Company to its partners. Fish Fabric is a part of the business empire built by banker Avanesov. A large trade company has paid in full for the shipment – but did not receive the fish.
In September 2017, the Investigations Department of the Administration for the Kalininsky District of St. Petersburg of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the Russian Federation has instituted a criminal case under part 4 of Article 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (swindling). In fall 2017, the court seized assets of Fish Fabric Limited Liability Company in the framework of that case.
The director of the company made a plea deal and told the investigators that he had followed orders of his superiors. A representative of the top management said that all the orders pertaining to that deal were received directly from the owner. This is how banker Avanesov became a suspect in a criminal case for the first time. The investigators were unable to question him because the businessman has hastily fled Russia.
A few months later, the criminal proceedings were put on hold due to the impossibility to establish the location of the suspect. However, journalists managed to find him in Geneva – and plenty of exposing articles appeared on the Internet. It turned out that the banker owns two luxury homes in Switzerland and runs a legitimate business there.
A weird story occurred with StarBank whose controlling block of shares had belonged to Agadzhan Avanesov. In March 2016, the Bank of Russia revoked its license for siphoning off monetary funds abroad and suspicions transactions. According to the official statement issued by the regulatory body, the license was revoked for noncompliance with the federal legislation. Operations of the credit organization “had threatened interests of its creditors and clients”. StarBank had pursued “a high-risk credit policy without creating reserves adequate to the assumed risks to offset possible losses. Therefore, the credit organization hadn’t complied with the regulations issued by the watchdog authority and prohibiting certain operations in the interests of bank’s clients”.
The management of StarBank was also charged with siphoning off monetary funds abroad. In August 2016, the Arbitration Court of Moscow declared StarBank a bankrupt.
These transactions involved not only StarBank – but also above-mentioned Fish Fabric, a large fish processing plant in St. Petersburg. The financial institution had granted unrecoverable loans to legal entities under its control, and the funds were transferred to other countries. The media found out that big loans were granted to companies belonging to other members of the Board of Directors of StarBank. These loans were never repaid.
Avanesov had an opportunity to return at least a portion of the money and save the bank from collapse. Back in 2015 (a year before the bankruptcy), he won litigation in London: the St. Petersburg banker had asked the British judicial authorities to collect from Shymkentpivo Limited Liability Partnership more than $4.5 million for his benefit for shares of an Uzbek bank. Earlier, Avanesov had sold Jay Resources company incorporated in London to billionaire Tokhtar Tuleshov. Tuleshov was supposed to pay $17 million in the first installment and the balance of $4 million later. However, the seller hasn't received the final payment and obtained justice in the British court.
In July 2018, the tax service has filed a bankruptcy lawsuit against Fish Fabric Limited Liability Company with the Arbitration Court of St. Petersburg. By 2017, the once-large plant expanding its operations and even building new production facilities has turned into a debt-ridden company with salary arrears exceeding 110 million rubles ($1.7 million).
In March 2018, the Deposit Insurance Agency of Russia has discovered in StarBank a shortage of more than 15 billion rubles ($238.2 million). The investigation believes that Avanesov and other shareholders have siphoned off these funds abroad. In March 2019, the Deposit Insurance Agency has filed with the Arbitration Court of Moscow a lawsuit against Avanesov and other participants of the shady schemes. The plaintiff asks to pursue secondary liability on all former top managers of StarBank Joint Stock Company. In total, there are eight defendants in this case. In addition to Agadzhan Avanesov, Lyudmila Kontorshchikova, ex-Chairperson of the Management Board of StarBank, is expected to provide explanations with regards to the disappearance of billions of rubles.
The lawsuit filed by the Deposit Insurance Agency of Russia against StarBank is the largest claim examined by the Arbitration Court of Moscow lately. The plaintiff asks to pursue secondary liability in the amount of more than 15.211 billion rubles ($241.6 million) on L.Yu. Kontorshchikova, D.N. Seleznev, A.E. Gordeev, A.I. Gromovich, A.S. Avanesov, K.Yu. Pogosyan, A.S. Stoma, and Sh.Sh. Sultanov.
Not only does the Deposit Insurance Agency consider the defendants responsible for the losses – but also believes that they had deliberately acquired assets at overcharged prices and did nothing to prevent the financial collapse. Their actions have compromised the solvency of the bank and resulted in its inability to pay out loans to the creditors. “In the course of the bankruptcy administration procedure, it was established that the persons in control of the bank had granted knowingly unrecoverable loans to dummy legal entities,” – the press release published on the web site of the Deposit Insurance Agency states.
It became known that StarBank had more than 30 principal debtors. Only a few of them were real companies – while others were dummy structures. In 2018, an initial investigation was launched under part 4 of Article 160 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (misappropriation or embezzlement). No updates on its progress were published since then; it is even unknown whether the inquest is still ongoing or on hold.
Such things are not surprising nowadays. But a few days ago, the media reported that businessman Agadzhan Avanesov, ex-Chairman of the Board of Directors of collapsed StarBank, has arrived in St. Petersburg – even though his name is on the federal wanted list. The suspect in two criminal cases charged inter alia with swindling on an especially large scale has checked into a luxury hotel overlooking St. Isaac Cathedral. The banker entered Russia under his own name and registered in the hotel using his passport.
Four Seasons Lion
The purpose of his visit to St. Petersburg remains unknown. According to the media, the businessmen already had a conversation with the law enforcement authorities and was not detained. The details of this conversation were not disclosed. Some sources believe that there is nothing strange in this story. The policemen had no official grounds to arrest the fugitive billionaire in the absence of a court verdict – while the required verdict was never issued because nobody had filed the respective motion with the court.
Therefore, the main question is: what are the current state of the probe and status of the above-mentioned criminal cases? Is the embezzlement of 15 billion rubles ($238.2 million) still under investigation or not? What investigative actions were taken? According to sources, while being the Chairman of the Board of Directors of StarBank, Avanesov has established extensive connections in the law enforcement structures. Reportedly, they had even permitted the banker to isolate his own father – nearly locked up under a vain pretext.
Evil tongues claim that Avanesov had planned to leave Russia a long time ago. In 2012, the businessman was in litigation with Ramenki Municipal District of Moscow because the municipal child protection service had vetoed the sale of some expensive real properties belonging to his minor son. The enterprising parents had earlier purchased in the child’s name an eight-room apartment with a living space of 639.4 square meters, a one-bedroom apartment 98.7 meters in size, and two parking spots.
A representative of Avanesov said in court that the minor owner of the real estate has been residing in Switzerland for a while and does not use the above residences. Ultimately, the Nikulinksy District Court of Moscow has upheld the stance of the plaintiff by ruling that the sale of these properties does not violate the minor’s interests.
It cannot be ruled out therefore that the banker has transferred his assets abroad a long time ago, and the criminal operations with funds of StarBank were a part of his relocation.
Interestingly, the bankruptcy of the credit organization has affected not only individuals and legal entities of St. Petersburg. The Bryansk Municipal Council is also among the victims: in 2016, its Deputies could not withdraw salaries from their bank cards because the bank’s license was revoked. The local people raised a question: how much public money was kept on StarBank accounts, and who is responsible for the shortfall in the budget? Time will show whether the St. Petersburg investigators can answer it.