Ring for Viktor Voronin. FSB general fled Russia after the death of Kogan
Banker Vladimir Kogan, owner of Bank UralSib, first private turnaround manager in Russia, and, possibly, keeper of many secrets of St. Petersburg, died at the age of 56. After his death, general Viktor Voronin, ex-Head of “K” Directorate of the Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation and Security Chief of Bank UralSib, fled the country. The CrimeRussia performed its own inquest to find out the reason behind the hasty departure of Voronin to Israel – where his former boss Aleksander Karmatsky has been hiding for more than 10 years. It turned out that Voronin had ties with Vadim Uvarov and Pavel Smolyarchuk involved in the high-profile corruption and smuggling scandal, as well as with detained FSB officers Kirill Cherkalin and Dmitry Frolov. In addition, some people from the close circle of Voronin were involved in the case against Barsukov-Kumarin and case against Sergei Sokolov, while all events occurring with the general originate from St. Petersburg.
Billionaire Vladimir Kogan, a native of St. Petersburg, suffered a stroke in 2018 and died in a private clinic in the Danilovsky district of Moscow after being in coma for almost two months. In 2008–2011, he was the Head of the Construction Department of the Ministry of Regional Development. In July–December 2012, Kogan was a Deputy Minister of Regional Development and Head of the Federal Agency for Construction and Housing and Public Utility Sphere (Rosstroy). He owned the control block of shares (81.8%) in Bank UralSib and chaired its Board of Trustees. In the past, he was a co-owner of Industrial and Construction Bank of St. Petersburg (ICB). Kogan joined the banking industry after purchasing ICB in the mid-1990s; Vladimir Putin, then-Vice Mayor of St. Petersburg, was also involved in the establishment of this bank. In that period, Vladimir Kogan was nicknamed “the great”. Up until recently, he was the only St. Petersburg businessman invited to meetings between Putin and representatives of the big business in the Kremlin.
Vladimir Kogan was familiar with Vladimir Putin since 1994
According to Banki.ru portal, Vladimir Kogan was recognized the best banker of Russia in 2017. In August 2018, he was awarded The Order of Honor by a Presidential Decree for financial and economic achievements and longstanding dedicated work.
Kogan was the biggest shareholder (57.6%) of NefteGazIndustriya Group of Companies owning 100% Afipsky Oil Refinery built in the Krasnodar krai in the 1960s. He controlled St. Petersburg Banking House Closed Joint Stock Company administering assets of more than 200 enterprises and companies of northwestern Russia and BFA-Development. FC Zenit Saint Petersburg Football Club became one of the last acquisitions of the banker.
Vladimir Kogan was a successful banker and businessman
Bank UralSib and conspiracy theory
In 2018, Forbes estimated the wealth of Kogan at $1.1 billion and ranked him the 91st richest person in Russia. In 2019, it estimated the fortune of Kogan at $750 million (the 140th position in the rating). Apparently, his business started declining due to the banker’s illness. A year ago, sons Evgeny and Efim took command of the family empire. In April 2019, it became known that a structure of NPF Safmar controlled by Mikhail Gutseriev has purchased from Kogan brothers the control block of shares in Afipsky Oil Refinery for $20 million.
With regards to Bank UralSib, the Bank of Russia is going to consider the replacement of the investor after the completion of estate inheritance procedures. According to available information, Vladimir Kogan had planned to leave the bank to his children.
Vladimir Kogan had planned to leave the bank to his children
Bank UralSib has been undergoing resolution since November 4, 2015; the government has spent 81 billion rubles ($1.3 billion) on its financial recovery. As of May 1, 2019, net assets of Bank UralSib amounted to 551.94 billion rubles ($8.7 billion) (the 19th place in Russia), its capital was 49.33 billion rubles ($776.9 million), credit portfolio –260.66 billion rubles ($4.1 billion), and liabilities to the clients – 159.52 billion rubles ($2.5 billion).
Vladimir Kogan was known as a tough and authoritarian businessman and winner of a number of corporate wars. Concurrently, he never was a public person.
Banker Vladimir Kogan was not a public person
Deaths of prominent persons often result in conspiratorial versions; the untimely death of the banker was not an exception. According to some sources, shortly before the breakdown in health, Vladimir Kogan started frequently remembering the ‘turbulent 1990s’. People familiar with him claim that, in his narrow circle, the banker was telling stories about that period and his own and others’ roles in many criminal episodes. As a result, the memoirs of Kogan could displease somebody.
Some sources compare late Kogan with Vladimir Barsukov-Kumarin, leader of Tambovskie organized criminal group; in March, the Kuibyshevsky District Court of St. Petersburg has sentenced him to 24 years in a maximum security penal colony for creation of an organized criminal group (Article 210 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation).
Vladimir Barsukov-Kumarin, ‘night governor’ of St. Petersburg
According to the investigation, Tambovskie organized criminal group led by Barsukov had specialized in raiding takeovers of real properties in St. Petersburg, contract killings, robberies, and other grievous crimes.
Sources claim that, shortly before his arrest, Barsukov-Kumarin started revealing old secrets – and was placed in the pretrial detention center; taking his lengthy term, it is unlikely that the leader of Tambovskie gang ever gets liberty. According to the conspiracy theory, the ‘law enforcement methods’ were not applicable to Vladimir Kogan – so, his health has drastically declined.
Bank UralSib and suspicious insurers
During the illness of Vladimir Kogan, general Viktor Voronin, ex-Head of “K” Directorate of the FSB, had administered his business affairs. For almost 10 years, Voronin had supervised the banking system of Russia on behalf of the FSB. Kogan and Voronin were friends for many years. Being a high-ranked FSB officer, Voronin had provided comprehensive assistance to Kogan; after his resignation, the banker started helping the retired officer. Their tandem was unbreakable: in the last years, Viktor Voronin took charge of the Security Service of Bank UralSib, thus, becoming the ‘right hand’ of Kogan.
Viktor Voronin was absolutely loyal to Vladimir Kogan
Voronin had actively assisted his friend in the resolution of UralSib and lobbied the transfer of the bank to the Deposit Insurance Agency (DIA) chaired by Valery Miroshnikov, an old friend of Voronin.
This state corporation ruled by Miroshnikov for more than 20 years specializes in liquidation of financial institutions. Illegitimate actions of this organization resulted in numerous complaints submitted to the Bank of Russia and even public protests.
People protest against actions of the DIA
Only in March 2019, Elvira Nabiullina, Governor of the Bank of Russia, has paid attention to the DIA and started considering its liquidation, including the investigation of all suspicious deeds committed by the insurers under the rule of Miroshnikov. The auditors have plenty of work to do because the DIA was repeatedly involved in shady stories, including bankruptcies of banks. However, seasoned insurer Miroshnikov had always got off the hook.
After the death of his boss, Voronin went to Israel – allegedly, for medical treatment. His return is doubtful. Why has Voronin fled abroad only now? According to some Telegram channels, the former FSB officer is sick indeed and currently receives treatment in Israel. According to other sources, Voronin left Russia to avoid the excessively close attention of the law enforcement authorities. In the absence of Kogan, Voronin cannot feel safe in Russia amid the arrests of his high-ranked colleagues in the FSB.
The Magnitsky Case
The name of Viktor Voronin is on the ‘Magnitsky list’; he has initiated the criminal case against the management of Hermitage Capital where Sergei Magnitsky had worked as a lawyer.
The prosecution of Sergei Magnitsky has started from a report submitted to Viktor Voronin by Aleksander Kuvaldin, an operative of “K” Directorate of the Economic Security Service of the FSB. Voronin put his resolution on the document and submitted it to the General Administration for the City of Moscow of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the Russian Federation for institution of a criminal case against Magnitsky.
This report was submitted to Viktor Voronin before the arrest of Magnitsky
According to some media outlets, $6 million were delivered to the FSB headquarters to arrange the arrest of Sergei Magnitsky. On November 16, 2009, the 37-year-old lawyer died in Matrosskaya Tishina Pretrial Detention Center (the official cause of his death is cardiac insufficiency) – a year before the expiration of the maximum permitted one-year pretrial detention term.
Sergei Magnitsky was buried on Preobrazhenskoe Cemetery in Moscow
The death of Magnitsky caused a sharp international reaction; in 2012, the USA has enacted the Magnitsky Act imposing personal sanctions on people responsible for violations of human rights and the supremacy of the law principle in Russia. Initially, the act had targeted persons believed to have a hand in the death of the lawyer, and Viktor Voronin was mentioned in it. However, his name was not included in the final ‘Magnitsky list’.
In early June 2016, Viktor Voronin, Head of “K” Directorate of the Economic Security Service of the FSB, has resigned amid a corruption scandal involving the FSB directorate under his command. Operatives of the 9th FSB Directorate have performed a special operation to disrupt a smuggling scheme. A large shipment of iPhones had to be illegally brought to Russia via the St. Petersburg Customs with the assistance of ULS Global and its owners – businessman Igor Khavronov and Turkish oligarch Jabrail Karaarslan.
Colonel Vadim Uvarov, Head of the 7th Department of “K” Directorate of the Economic Security Service of the FSB (a subordinate of Voronin and ‘patron’ of Khavronov), and Pavel Smolyarchuk, Operative for Special Cases of the General Department of Anti-Smuggling of the Federal Customs Service of Russia and brother of Vadim Uvarov’s wife, had played the key role in this scheme.
Both of them were involved in the bribing of a customs officer in the course of the clearance of cargo worth $1 million in exchange for his ‘patronage’. However, the Investigations Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR) refused to institute a criminal case against them – and Vadim Uvarov became a witness in that case. The only suspect was Anatoly Naumov, a former officer of the Federal Customs Service; he was convicted under a special procedure to 4 years behind bar for swindling – i.e. not for mediation in bribery. In April 2017, Igor Khavronov, Head of ULS Global, was arrested; in June 2018, the Kingisepp Court sentenced him to 7.5 years in a maximum security penal colony.
Igor Khavronov was convicted in the framework of a high-profile smuggling case
Igor Khavronov had started his smuggling career from shipments of cars under the supervision of above-mentioned Vladimir Barsukov-Kumarin and later continued it with air and ferry freights under the control of supreme customs officials and officers of the FSB Directorate for St. Petersburg.
The close attention of the law enforcement structures to Uvarov and Smolyarchuk and high-profile smuggling scandal actively discussed in the media were the reasons behind the resignation of Viktor Voronin. General Ivan Tkachev, who used to serve in the Internal Security Directorate of the FSB and was a member of so-called ‘Sechin’s special force’ under the command of general Oleg Feoktistov, has succeeded Voronin.
Yuri Yakovlev, Head of the Economic Security Service of the FSB, has left office shortly after his subordinate Voronin. Sergei Korolev, another former officer of the Internal Security Directorate of the FSB, was appointed instead of Yakovlev. By the way, the criminal case where Vadim Uvarov, a subordinate of Voronin, had acted as a witness, was instituted by Korolev. The decisions on the terminations and appointments were made on the basis of two internal probes carried out by the Internal Security Directorate of the FSB. As it is known, the FSB prefers to wash its dirty linen at home.
The internal probe carried out by the Internal Security Directorate has also identified friendly ties between Viktor Voronin and billionaire Dmitry Mikhalchenko, head of Forum Holding, arrested in Moscow in March 2016 for smuggling of alcohol products committed by an organized group (part 2 of Article 200.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). These counterfeit products were also imported with the assistance of the St. Petersburg Customs. During the trial, Mikhalchenko had denied any guilt and called the charges laid against him absurd; however, in late December 2018, the Basmanny District Court of Moscow sentenced him to 4 years and 7 months in a general regime penal colony. This term ended on April 19, 2019 – but the businessman was not released because the ICR has resumed a criminal case instituted in March 2017 under Article 210 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (creation of a criminal community (criminal organization) and participation therein); according to the investigation, a criminal group had repeatedly committed embezzlements in the framework of contracts awarded to it by the Federal Protection Service of Russia. In January 2019, a new motion to remand Dmitry Mikhalchenko custody was filed with the court. The companies belonging to the St. Petersburg billionaire are suspected of embezzlements committed during the construction of the Presidential residence in Novo-Ogarevo. In May 2019, the Moscow City Court upheld the decision to keep Mikhalchenko in Lefortovo Pretrial Detention Center.
Businessman Dmitry Mikhalchenko was convicted for smuggling
Case against Sokolov and arrests of former colleagues
In other words, the noose around Viktor Voronin had been steadily drawn in the last two years amid the arrests of his friends, partners, and colleagues. For instance, in January 2018, financier Valentin Gonastarev, a capital management specialist and old friend of Voronin – his trusted aide and mediator in negotiations – was detained. Gonastarev is one of the seven suspects in the ‘Sokolov case’. To refresh background: in January 2018, FSB operatives arrested Sergei Sokolov, ex-head of the security service of Boris Berezovsky, Ruslan Milchenko, ex-Director of Analytics and Security Federal Information Center, Oleg Antoshin, ex-Head of the Security Service of TogliattiAzot Open Joint Stock Company, a former employee of TogliattiAzot, and two natives of Ukraine and charged them under part 3 of Article 222 and part 3 of Article 222.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (illegal acquisition, transfer, sale, storage, transportation, or bearing of firearms and ammunition committed by a group of persons by previous concert). The suspects are kept in Lefortovo Pretrial Detention Center; the criminal cases against them have been merged into one proceeding. Concurrently, the suspects are checked for involvement in terrorist attack staging and ties with Zakonovskie organized criminal group.
Out of the seven defendants, only Sergei Sokolov and Valentin Gonastarev continue denying their guilt. No details of this case were disclosed so far for the interests of the investigation; the defense lawyers also abstain from any comments.
In April 2019, more people close to Voronin were criminally charged: Dmitry Frolov, ex-Deputy Head of “K” Directorate of the Economic Security Service of the FSB, and Kirill Cherkalin, Head of the 2nd Department of “K” Directorate of the Economic Security Service of the FSB. In the course of searches, monetary funds totaling 12 billion rubbles ($189 million) were seized from them. Cherkalin was arrested by the FSB Directorate of Internal Security jointly with the Main Military Investigations Directorate of the ICR on suspicion of bribe-taking on an especially large scale, Frolov – on suspicion of swindling on an especially large scale. Both FSB colonels are kept in Lefortovo Pretrial Detention Center.
Prior to his resignation from the FSB in 2013, Dmitry Frolov was a deputy of Viktor Voronin, Head of “K” Directorate of the Economic Security Service of the FSB, while Kirill Cherkalin was in charge of the 2nd Department of “K” Directorate supervised by Frolov.
Their duties included the counterintelligence support for the financial and banking sectors of the Russian economy. In addition, Cherkalin was a member of the Inter-Departmental Commission for Combating Laundering of Criminal Proceeds, Terrorism Financing, and Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Visiting Aleksander Karmatsky in Israel
After the death ‘patron’ Vladimir Kogan, amid the unclear status of Bank UralSib, Viktor Voronin has realized that too many people from his close circle were in custody and making statements. Therefore, to be on the safe side, he decided to leave Russia. Especially taking that the law enforcement authorities have expressed fresh interest to the old story of ‘smuggling bribes’ involving Vadim Uvarov and Pavel Smolyarchuk – that, in fact, became the end of the general’s career. This means that the earlier refusal to institute criminal proceedings against Uvarov and Smolyarchuk may be revised.
Viktor Voronin had no choice but to flee Russia. He relocated to Israel where lieutenant general Aleksander Karmatsky, ex-Head of the Administration for St. Petersburg of the Federal Drug Control Service of the Russian Federation (FSKN) and former FSB officer has settled in November 2009.
General Aleksander Karmatsky
In 2009, an international warrant was issued against Karmatsky (wanted person case № 333; instituted by the FSB Internal Security Directorate). According to the case file, Karmatsky was charged with smuggling on an especially large scale, including shipments of Chinese consumer goods to Cherkizovsky market. In 2012, after the decriminalization of the ‘smuggling’ article of the Criminal Code, the charges laid against Karmatsky were reclassified under Article 194 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (evasion of customs payments collected from organizations or natural person); the damages sustained due to his actions were estimated at 39 million rubles (some $1.2 million at the exchange rate of that period). However, some sources claim that general Karmatsky has allegedly fallen a victim to clan wars within the FSB by supporting a ‘wrong’ party.
According to the media, the fugitive general had friendly ties with Barsukov-Kumarin and other criminal ‘authorities’ of St. Petersburg, including Ledovsky, Tsaturov, and Shuster.
Viktor Voronin has started his career in the law enforcement structures under the command of Aleksander Karmatsky. Jointly with other FSB officers, including Sergei Smirnov, Vladimir Kryuchkov, Viktor Ivanov (ex-Director of the FSKN), Sergei Chernyshev (ex-Head of “T” Directorate of the FSB), etc., Voronin was involved in the inquest against above-mentioned Barsukov-Kumarin, leader of Tambovskie organized criminal group carried out under the direct supervision of Karmatsky.
In the course of their careers, many of these people have relocated from St. Petersburg to Moscow and joined various – sometimes even rival – law enforcement clans. But all the counterintelligence FSB officers have shown a surprising consensus in the prosecution of their former boss Aleksander Karmatsky – who was, by the way, a Honorary Officer of the Tax Police and Honorary Counterintelligence Officer. As a result of their combined efforts, he was put on the Interpol wanted list.
The ‘bros in uniform’ have shown their surprising unanimity after the clampdown on the gang led by Barsukov-Kumarin. According to sources, he knew too much and was a talkative person – as well as late banker Vladimir Kogan.