Of two evils: Why brothers Gutseriev swap crime-stricken vegetable warehouse for troubled bank?
After gouging a hole in Binbank, clan Gutseriev passes off a vegetable warehouse with migrants upon the Bank of Russia as a compensation. However, this deal may be mutually beneficial – the family of billionaires gets rid of a troubled asset, while the authorities eliminate the ‘second Biryulevo’ issue.
In the framework of its large-scale purge of Russian banks, the Central Bank has finally come for Binbank. 28.5% of its shares belong to Mikhail Gutseriev, while 67.9% – to his nephew Mikhail Shishkhanov, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the credit institution.
In 2014, Binbank has started the resolution of the Rost Bank Group (Akkobank, Kedr (Cedar), Rost Bank, SKA-Bank, and Tveruniversalbank) and received 36 billion rubles ($610.6 million) from the Bank of Russia for that purpose. In early 2015, it has acquired Uralprivatbank linked with former owners of Rost Bank. In November 2016, the amalgamation with MDM Bank has been completed; as a result of that operation, banks with assets worth in total over 1 trillion rubles ($17 billion) and deposits over 500 billion rubles ($8.5 billion) have been consolidated under the Binbank brand.
However, in September 2017, Binbank itself became in need of a resolution. According to the most recent (as of October 2017) assessment performed by the institution governed by Elvira Nabiullina, the bank requires an additional funds reservation in the amount of 350–370 billion rubles ($5.9–6.3 billion).
For that reason, the owners of Binbank promise to transfer assets worth 70 billion rubles ($1.2 billion) to the Central Bank of Russia. They would gladly transfer more, but in 2015, the indebtedness of companies belonging to the Gutseriev family had reached 8 billion rubles ($135.7 million), and many assets were pledged as securities for these credits. Therefore, currently the Bank of Russia may receive commercial real estate in Moscow (including Meshchaninovo Podvorie cultural monument located across GUM (State Department Store) in Vetoshny lane; it accommodates an office center with the total space of 10.7 thousand square meters), construction projects (including a portion of A101 Development specializing in residential construction in Moscow and other regions), and trade complexes, including Kur’yanovskoe office-warehouse complex with the total commercial space of 155 thousand square meters located in Pechatniki and Vegetta Market – the largest vegetable warehouse in the Moscow region. Vegetta Joint Stock Company has been acquired by Rost Bank through the purchase of Eastmond Ltd. – the Cyprus-based owner of the vegetable warehouse.
This is not the first time when the family of billionaires experiences issues with banks. In 2014, the Bank of Russia has revoked the license of Ingushetia-based Ringkombank; Khamzat Gutseriev, ex-Minister of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Ingushetia and older brother of Mikhail Gutseriev, was among its three main shareholders.
Vegetta became the market leader after the shutdown of Pokrovskaya vegetable warehouse located in the Biryulevo district of Moscow. To refresh background: in October 2013, a spontaneous public rally had occurred there and escalated into violence. Such a demonstration of the public anger was the apotheosis of popular discontent suppressed for many years. The people had complained on the worsening crime situation after the emergence of an entire town of uncontrolled migrants working at the warehouse in their neighborhood. They were also unhappy with the dirt and increased transport load. The last straw was the murder of a local resident, 25-year-old Egor Shcherbakov, by loader Orkhan Zeinalov. The public outcry made it impossible to hush up the incident. According to Kommersant newspaper, in order to locate Zeinalov, operatives of the Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation had to threaten the Azerbaijani diaspora with ‘business issues’. The ‘authoritative’ businessmen, in turn, have notified their compatriots that they are going to collect compensations for the potential financial losses from those who assist the fugitive. Shortly after that, Zeinalov has been arrested in a forest park on the outskirts of Kolomna. He was unable to provide a clear reason behind his crime.
Arrest of Orkhan Zeinalov
Various governmental services – police, Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights Protection and Human Welfare (Rospotrebnadzor), Federal Migration Service, etc. – started inspecting the warehouse and, of course, identified some violations.
In that period, the public became aware of the warehouse operations. The territory of Pokrovskaya was divided into two parts. One part was official: legitimate companies had stored there fruits and vegetables accompanied by all required documents in indoor storehouses and supplied those to large retail chains. The second part was officially designated a caravan park – but in fact, it was an illegal market selling products directly from trucks arriving from the south.
The ‘shady owners’ of the warehouse had reigned supreme there and collected ‘levies’ from all the traders operating on that illegal market: for entrance, for space, for settlement of issues and protection, etc. They were also receiving a cut from the sales turnover. Plenty of people – storehouse owners, their commercial tenants and subtenants, suppliers, wholesale purchasers, loaders, guards, fixers, etc. – had fussed around the warehouse day and night. The official revenue of the base for the year of 2012 was slightly above 1 billion rubles ($17 million), while, according to well-aware sources, its unofficial income could reach 10 billion rubles ($169.6 million). The total annual turnover of the commercial tenants had reportedly amounted to $1 billion.
A well-aware source in the law enforcement authorities has also confirmed this to The CrimeRussia. He said that the largest vegetable warehouse in Europe was controlled by thief-in-law Vagif Suleimanov also known as Vagif Bakinsky in the criminal world. Earlier in 2013, the crowned thief was arrested for extortion of 16 million rubles ($271.4 thousand) from a Moscow businessman.
Suleimanov has not only established control over the warehouse but also built connections with supreme officials of the Southern Administrative District of Moscow, including Georgy Smoleevsky, Prefect of the Southern Administrative District, and Aleksander Podolny, Head of the Administration for the Southern Administrative District of Moscow of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the Russian Federation. According to our source, Smoleevsky and Podolny had received from the ethnic groups $50 thousand per month each for covering up that establishment; Anzor Meritukov, First Deputy Prosecutor of the Southern Administrative District of Moscow, was also involved into the ‘patronage’ of the warehouse.
Vegetable warehouse in Biryulevo a year before its shutdown
The source noted that that the killer of Shcherbakov had fled without any issues with the connivance of the law enforcement authorities. Immediately after the murder, the police had complete information about the criminal – but somehow he managed to escape, which caused the public uproar.
Mikhai Pashkin, Head of the Coordination Council of the Labor Union of the Moscow Police, said at that time that the vegetable warehouse in Biryulevo was ‘untouchable’. According to him, local law enforcement structures were involved into the illegal operations because under the rule of the former head of the administrative district, police officers hadn’t patrolled that base. Only the escalation of the problem to the federal level made it possible to take the required action.
In February 2014, Chertanovsky District Court of Moscow has terminated the operation of the vegetable warehouse belonging to Novye Cheremushki Closed Joint Stock Company. Magomed Churilov, Chairman of the Board of Novye Cheremushki, and Viktor Kotelevsky, head of the private security company guarding the base, have been charged under paragraph “a” of part 2 of Article 322.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (organization of illegal migration by an organized group) and detained. Warehouse owners, brothers Aliaskhab Gadzhiev and Igor Isaev (previously Ibragim Gadzhiev), absconded and have been put on the federal wanted list. They have left ‘frontman’ Magomed Tolboev, a Hero of the Russian Federation, to clear up the mess after them; Tolboev told the media that he does not understand “what Aliaskhab and Magomed have to do with this because he is the owner”. “The investigators had to come to me, speak as normal people do, ask questions, I would provide answers. I have nothing to fear,” – Tolboev pretended to be perplexed.
According to Aleksei Mayorov, Head of the Regional Security Department of the City of Moscow, a year later (in 2014), the number or robberies and armed assaults in the district has dropped by 50%, the number of swindling episodes – by 67%, and the number of car thefts – by 31%.
Checks and inspections were carried out in that period on other vegetable bases as well, but all of those have resumed their operations soon. Traders from Pokrovskaya and their criminal ‘patrons’ have relocated to Vegetta. Some experts even supposed that Vegetta owners were involved into the shutdown of their competitor. Novaya Gazeta newspaper wrote that a month before the public unrest in Biryulevo, Vegetta and Yuzhnye Vorota (South Gate) markets have considerably expanded their parking lots.
In fact, the traders had little choice where to relocate – Vegetta was the second largest vegetable warehouse in the region after Pokrovskaya. Some 300 thousand tons of fruits and vegetable passed through it every year. Its territory – 30 ha – was 5 ha less than the territory of Pokrovskaya base. By its interior structure, Vegetta was very similar to Pokrovskaya. Residents of nearby Khlebnikovo village called it “little Azerbaijan”. Police inspections have uncovered there an entire town with its own banks, cafes, casinos, mosques, and maternity homes. Up to 500 illegal immigrants had been found there on a regular basis; 200 kg of heroin were once discovered among the radish in a truck that had arrived from Azerbaijan.
“Little Azerbaijan” in every part of Russia
Shishkhanov and his partners purchased the control block of Vegetta shares from Rosbilding in 2003. The company had a notorious reputation since the 1990s for its hostile takeovers. Acting in the interests of third parties, Rosbilding had acquired in Moscow large stores, commercial properties, and enterprises – sometimes, using arbitration courts and plain raidership. Furthermore, a year before the warehouse transfer to the Gutseriev family, Petr Rod’kin, General Director of the vegetable base, and his wife Tamara were murdered. This crime was never solved.
A short excursus to the history: after the privatization of vegetable warehouses in the 1990s, their first owners were the same ‘red directors’ – but later enterprising natives of the regions supplying goods to these bases started replacing the original warehouse owners using various methods.
For example, Galina Padal’tsyna, the first Director and factual owner of the vegetable warehouse in Biryulevo in the post-Soviet period, has inexplicably transferred her portfolio of shares to some Daghestani businessmen and then mysteriously disappeared.
In 2003–2004, Rosbilding has rendered another service to the Gutseriev family by seizing control over Rus’ (Russia) warehouse located in the eastern part of Moscow. It has also been sold to Bin Industrial and Financial Group that has transformed the vegetable base near Cherkizovsky Market into an office-warehouse complex.
Sergei Gordeev and Aleksei Tulupov, owners of Rosbilding
Another asset of clan Gutseriev that may be transferred to the Bank of Russia is Kur’yanovskoe base. Initially, Bin Industrial and Financial Group had exercised trust management of that asset, but in 2008, the City of Moscow has sold 75% of its shares to structures controlled by the oligarch, while in 2011, the city sold the remaining 25% of shares.
Similarly with the true owners of Novye Cheremushki base who had never advertised their ties with the vegetable warehouse, the final beneficiaries of Vegetta became known only after the decision to transfer the base to the Bank of Russia. According to the company information for the year of 2008, its main shareholder was Cyprus-based Ripplewood Limited (90.87%); the minor shareholders included Vera Zarubina (0.2%) and Lydia Rybko (0.3%). According to the Federal State Statistics Service (Rosstat), in 2015, Ripplewood Limited had owned 94.69% of the shares, while the remaining stock was distributed among 128 individuals. However, Bagaudin Aushev, who used to work in the structures of Bin Group belonging to Mikhail Gutseriev, his brother Sait-Salam Gutseriev, and nephew Mikhail Shishkhanov in 2000–2004, was always in charge of Vegetta.
Vegetable warehouses in other Russian regions operate in accordance with the same ‘laws’. Their news resemble military communiqués – murders, skirmishes, robberies of ‘black’ cash couriers, wars for influence between criminal ‘authorities’, etc. Violations of sanitary standards, illegal migration, counterfeit products, tax evasion, and ‘black’ ledgers are just everyday routine in such establishments.
Fatima, daughter of Teimuraz Misikov, owner of Sophiiskaya vegetable warehouse in St. Petersburg, was a close friend of the main thief-in-law of Russia – Zakhary Kalashov (Shakro Molodoy). The well-known events in Elements Restaurant in Moscow had occurred because of her, and, as a result, Kalashov has ended up in jail again.
In 2015 alone, one murder and two robberies have occurred in relation to the vegetable warehouse. In February 2015, 52-year-old Nodari Grigolashvili transporting $50 thousand from the base was shot dead in the lobby of a home in Kupchino. On September 22, the three assailants have been detained, while the fiscal police became interested in the cash turnover on the vegetable market. In May 2015, robbers have stolen over 2 million rubles ($33.9 thousand) in one of the storehouses. In 2016, owner of a box used as a vegetable and fruit sales booth was killed in the warehouse. This list goes on and on.
The notorious vegetable warehouse № 4 in Yekaterinburg ‘patronized’ by Vice Mayor Viktor Konteev for a long time has been acquired by his spouse in 2014. Then a struggle has escalated involving the former warehouse owner Tatiana Rusinova, people close to Uralmash organized criminal group, local enforcement structures, and ethnic gangs operating on the base. In 2011, Konteev has been arrested and charged with extortion of warehouse shares and masterminding contract killings of two businessmen from Kurgan. In 2014, Kurgan Regional Court has sentenced Viktor Konteev to 18 years in a penal colony. In 2016, Tatiana Rusinova died a sudden death. At that time, thief-in-law Rovshan Dzhaniev (Rovshan Lenkoransky) had controlled members of the Azerbaijani diaspora working at the base; another influential crowned thief Nadir Salifov (Guli) was his rival.
Their longstanding conflict was accompanies by numerous murders as well. In 2007, Raguf Rustamov representing the interests of Guli in Moscow while he was serving a term in an Azerbaijani prison was killed. In 2009, Rafik Mamedov, leader of the Azerbaijani diaspora in the Krasnoyarsk krai, was murdered. In 2014, killers have gunned down in an Odessa restaurant criminal ‘authority’ Bakhysh Aliev (Vakh) – who, according to some information, used to control the vegetable base in Biryulevo in the mid-2000s. In 2016, Dzhambulat Shamil-Ogly became a victim of the conflict between two crowned thieves. Reportedly, he had initially collected money for Dzhaniev, but then decided to defect to Guli – and paid for this with his life. Finally, Rovshan Lenkoransky himself was killed in 2016 – but hasn’t ended the series of murders.
Gunned down car of Rovshan Dzhaniev
In April 2017, 42-year-old Dzhabir Gasanov, an associate of Guli, was killed in St. Petersburg. In the end of summer, assassins have gunned down his ‘right hand’ El’shan Mamedov (El’shan Amirdzhansky) in Tbilisi. The list of victims of the ‘dill war’ waged in Russia for control over the vegetable markets goes on and on...
Buy oranges! Buy vitamins!
After 2013, Vegetta was nearly the sole vegetable warehouse a la Biryulevo in the metropolitan area. Other major players unwilling to share the fate of Pokrovskaya were either redirecting their operations or ceasing those at all.
At that time, Krasnaya Presnya base was considered a prominent player on the market; currently it belongs to Peresvet Development Group established by Vladimir Melnik and Oleg Pronin, graduates of the FSB Academy. Up until 2013, Viktor Taranin, ex-Advisor to the Moscow Mayor in 2004–2008 and Deputy of the State Duma from the Communist Party of the Russian Federation since 2007 and until March 2012, had controlled that base via a number of owners.
Currently the warehouse is used by major retail chains for storage of groceries – but the share of fruits and vegetables in its product flow is relatively low. Despite the increasing revenues in the recent years, the base seems to be of no interest for its owners. 24 ha of land between Polezhaevskaya and Begovaya subway stations are an ideal territory for any development project – and Peresvet is running such projects there.
The warehouse of Dmitrovskie Ovoshchi (Vegetables of Dmitrov) Limited Liability Company belonging to Sergei Filippov has a large capacity but is mostly used for the needs of an agricultural holding of the same name.
Yuri Zaborovsky, General Director and principal shareholder of Kuntsevskoe warehouse, admits that they have ceased operations with vegetables after the resignation of Mayor Luzhkov – because the centralized acquisitions of vegetables and their placement in storage at the expense of the municipal budget have ended with his departure. According to Zaborovsky the vegetable bases have lost a guaranteed portion of their income because of that.
Instead of Moskvoretskaya base belonging to Yuri Kryukov, Kazbek Kokoev, and Yuri Khomushko, Pioner (Pioneer) development company intends to erect, jointly with structures of Igor Krutoy, a residential complex with the total living space of 500 thousand square meters.
Dmitrovsky Wholesale and Retail Market belonging to Sindika holding owned by Timur Kanokov and his partner Artur Kardanov, relatives of Arsen Kanokov, ex-Head of the Kabardino-Balkar Republic and currently a Senator, retains its specialization and even develops. It encompasses several former collective farm markets (Tushinsky, Usachevsky, and Bratislavsky), Troitsky and Pokrovsky trade centers, and Sindika construction market recently destroyed by fire.
Four Seasons wholesale distribution center has been launched in Domodedovo in 2013. Brothers Aleksei and Dmitry Anan’yev and Timofei Kurgin, a former boxer and currently an ‘authoritative’ businessman, are the beneficiaries, via Promsvyazbank, of Mosselprom-Domodedovo company owning that market. A cofounder of the Boxing Academy and President of the National Association of Timber Industrialists has long-term ties with the criminal world. In 1999, he has met Shakro Molodoy in Matrosskaya Tishina (Seamen’s Silence) Pretrial Detention Center № 1. The launch of Four Seasons has attracted members of the Azerbaijani diaspora controlled by henchmen of thief-in-law Guli.
After the events in Biryulevo, Mayor Sobyanin has ordered to expedite the creation of modern foods logistics centers outside the Moscow Ring Road. In 2014, the first such agrocluster, Food City, belonging to structures controlled by God Nisanov and Zarakhl Iliev, owners of Yuzhnye Vorota, Sadovod (Gardener), and Moskva (Moscow) trade complexes, Evropeisky (European) Trade Center, and Ukraine Hotel, has been launched on Kaluzhskoe highway to spite the rivals in Domodedovo. People of Rovshan Lenkoransky were working there.
Currently, there is some stagnation on the Moscow front of the ‘dill war’. Furthermore, the enforcement structures have recently intensified the struggle against criminal ‘authorities’. The Moscow Government intends to make the market trade in the capital more civilized – Mayor Sergei Sobyanin had specifically mentioned this during his visit to Food City in 2015. Therefore, the decision of clan Gutseriev–Shishkhanov to get rid of this ‘gold mine’ indicates that times are changing.
Historical markets located in the center of the city are currently undergoing transformation. Their owners don’t want these establishments to be associated with dirt, cheating, and migrants anymore – instead, they want to convert the markets into places selling deli and natural products and equipped with food courts and cafes where master classes and night markets with parties are held. Danilovsky market has been upgraded in 2015, Usachevsky – in 2016, Cheremushkinsky – in 2017, and the next in line is Bagrationovsky market. This concept turned out to be so successful that farmers’ markets are currently integrated into existing trade centers and traditional supermarkets. Such markets are to be launched in places earlier considered unsuitable for those. For instance, the Central Market located on Tsvetnoy boulevard up until 2000 (currently there is Tsvetnoy Superstore in that place) will be launched soon instead of the public toilet across Trubnaya square. A two-storey building in the classic 19th-century style featuring traditional Russian ornamental patterns of the 17th century on its floorings and having an underground parking has already been built for it.
Therefore, such markets as Pokrovskaya warehouse in Biryulevo or Vegetta may become the history. Anyway, they don’t generate as much income nowadays as they used to in the past. In the recent years, Vegetta hadn’t won any tenders to supply fruits and vegetables to municipal institutions. Its revenues are steadily decreasing: from 531.5 million rubles ($9 million) in 2013 to 316.4 million rubles ($5.4 million) in 2016. Experts estimate the current value of this asset at 3.6–4.5 billion rubles ($61.1–76.3 million).
God Nisanov and Sergei Sobyanin
The story of Telman Ismailov, once-almighty owner of Cherkizon, shows that a business based solely on the administrative resource and crime collapses as soon as one of these two ‘pillars’ disappears. Should the Mayor-friend be unwilling to help, it suddenly happens that a market operating for many years must be closed due to numerous violations, while a seven-star hotel built in Turkey stays empty. Furthermore, it turns out that the businessman’s hands ‘are steeped in blood up to the elbows’. Currently Ismailov is wanted for masterminding the murder of two businessmen. According to the source, in the course of the years-long war for the Moscow markets, Ismailov and his relatives were allegedly involved into at least 10 murders.
Who is going to become the new owner of Vegetta after its transfer to the Bank of Russia? Would the warehouse undergo any transformations? The future will show whether the authorities are really interested to establish order on the Moscow markets and fight the ethnic crime or not.
The billionaire colonel who held the post of head of the regional Economic Security Department, and then Economic Security and Anti-Corruption Department for more than 12 years, kept his 1 billion ($15.2 mln) in bank accounts.