The Merkushkins’ ‘snatched’ business 

The Merkushkins’ ‘snatched’ business
Nikolay Merkushkin

Nikolay Merkushkin is truly a symbol of stability. He has been working as a governor in different regions for more than 20 years. Economy of every region he is appointed the governor of worsens while his family’s business consistently grows.⁠

Samara Region Governor Nikolay Merkushkin managed to ‘get his hands on’ 2 regions while in office. He had been governing the Republic of Mordovia for 17 years prior to getting appointed the Samara Region Governor in 2012. One cannot exactly say Mordovia benefitted from his time in office. Results of his work are best illustrated by the Mordovian national debt growth dynamic. The Merkushkins’ wealth grew while the depressive region was going into debt.

Госдолг Мордовии

National debt of Mordovia

The Governor’s youngest son Aleksey became the family’s breadwinner. He was hired as a legal advisor for the Lamzur Confectionery Factory upon graduation from the Lomonosov Moscow State University. Merkushkin Junior got promoted to the Factory CEO a mere year later. He was the Lamzur C Company CEO at the same time. Lamzur C controls the Factory. The son of the Mordovian Governor at the time became a member of the boards of directors of the Lamzur C and Lamzur Companies a year after that. The following people were building their careers alongside Merkushkin Junior in Lamzur’s corporate structure: former State Duma of the Russian Federation MP and Plekhanov Russian University of Economics Rector Viktor Grishin’s son Aleksey Grishin; Viktor Grishin’s son-in-law Andrey Shklyaev; 5th Mordovian Legislative Assembly MP Aleksandr Muraviev.

Soon, they mysteriously became Lazur co-owners and began purchasing Mordovian-based companies operating in almost any industry. The Invest-Alians Company was the 1st such company. Today, Invest-Alians controls 11 construction, trade (Ogarev Plaza Shopping Mall), and printing companies. Grishin, Muraviev, Andrey Shklyaev’s wife Evgeniya Shklyaeva, and Valentina Andryushkova are the Invest-Alians owners. The thing is, Aleksey Merkushkin followed in his father’s footsteps once he became the owner of dozens of companies in the Republic. This path led him to the Mordovian government. That is how the entrepreneur turned into the Mordovian Deputy PM. He is still in office, too.

Merkushkin Junior had to nominally resign from his high-ranking positions in the companies. Valentina Andryushkova took on many of them. She is on the lists of the Delovaya Nedvizhimost Company, Smak Shopping Mall, and Advertis Advertising Agency co-owners, as well as on the list of and Aktiv Bank and Mezhregionalny Promishlenno-Stroitelny Bank Banks shareholders. The last one consists of family members and friends. One could map the Grishins’ family tree using its list of shareholders. Evgeniya Shklyaeva and Merkushkin Ivan Ivanovich are on the list, too.

Family ties

In the meantime, Aleksey Merkushkin remains the Ruskon-Mordovia Basketball Club and Sarmich Cheese Factory owner despite holding a public office. Nikolay Merkushkin found a new market outlet for Sarmich in 2012, namely the entirety of the Samara Region. All the (Samara) shop chains are literary flooded with Mordovian cheese, other dairy products, and chicken eggs, according to Samara Region Duma MP Mikhail Matveev. And it is not a coincidence.

Governor Merkushkin’s older son Aleksandr owns the Masloproduct Company, Saransky Canning Factory, and Atemarskaya Poultry Farm that regularly supply the Samara Region with its products. 3 local poultry farms went bankrupt under the current Governor. Moreover, ostentatiously announced opening of the Sergeevskaya Poultry Farm has been put off yet again.

Aleksandr Merkushkin’s business interests extend beyond the food industry. He owns 30% of AKTIV BANK Bank’s assets. His son and the Samara Region Governor’s nephew Sergey Merkushkin are members of the AKTIV BANK board of directors. Aleksandr and Sergey Merkushkin were on the list of the Mordovtsement Company’s affiliated persons until 2015. Mordovtsement is the official cement supplier for the Samara-Arena Football Stadium Construction Project. Aleksandr Merkushkin is also the Saranskstroyzakazchik Company Head. Saranskstroyzakazchik’s beneficiaries are unknown. Yet, Sergey Merkushkin owns several Saranskstroyzakazchik’s subsidiaries. One can have a look at Saranskstroyzakazchik’s projects implemented under public procurement contracts at the company’s web-site.

Aggressive expansion of the family in power literary forced the Merkushkins outside Mordovia, namely to Rublevka (a prestigious residential area in the western suburbs of Moscow, translators note). The Merkushkins, Grishins, Shklyaev, and Muraviev who are friends with each other built their ‘family seats’ there. It was Aleksey Grishin’s mother Lyudmila Grishina who initially owned 4 neighboring land lots in the Dmitrovskoe village. 3 out of the 4 were later passed to Merkushkin Junior, Shklyaev, and Muraviev. The total square area of the land lots amounts to 3.15 hectares. Their cadastral value is more than 880 million rubles. One could get a better picture of just how profitable the Merkushkins’ business is by simply looking at their mansions rather than at any type of financial records.

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Houses on Rublyovka (source: FBK)

Snatched business

Nikolay Merkushkin did not stop with supporting his family’s dairy business. Making Aleksey Grishin a part of his team was the 1st thing the newly appointed Samara Region Governor did. It is worth mentioning that Grishin got employed as a public official as far back as in 2006. By 2012, he was spotted governing the Oboronstroy and Olimpstroy Companies. Both companies found themselves in the public eye due to corruption scandals on multiple occasions. Grishin became the Samara government Minister of Construction. The (local) construction market was soon to undergo changes.

Only the S.I.T.I. and SK Evroalians Companies won the largest local construction tenders once the new people were introduced to the government. The companies were registered in 2008 and 1998 respectively. They did not operate since then. However, the 2 companies won tenders worth the total of more than 15 billion rubles over the last 3 years. For example, SK Evroalians built: engineering systems for several public institutions; facilities for the Tolyatti Special Economic Zone; regional perinatal center; some other facilities. S.I.T.I. signed contracts for: construction of the Zhigulevskaya Dolina Technopole; reconstruction of a road to the Kurumoch Airport; some other construction projects.

Nominally, the 2 companies have nothing to do with either Nikolay Merkushkin or Aleksey Grishin. However, in his letter to Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation Yuri Chaika, State Duma of the Russian Federation MP Aleksandr Khinshtein pointed to confirmed instanced of corrupt procurement practices  under contracts won by S.I.T.I. and SK Evroalians. This includes both lack of competition for several tenders and violations by the contractors when performing under contracts.

This is why close attention should be paid to a staff reshuffle mentioned by Khinshtein. For example, SK Evroalians Deputy CEO Svetlana Moravskaya was appointed the Upravlenie Kapitalnogo Stroitelstva Public Company CEO. Moravskaya supervised preparation of bid documentation for the tenders later won by SK Evroalians. The Samara Region Ministry of Construction Industry did the same trick for S.I.T.I.. The Company Deputy CEO Artur Maksimov was appointed the Stroykontol Public Company Head in October of 2015. Now, he is in control of the contracts he signed on behalf of S.I.T.I. Finally, Grishin told him he had a hand in lucky contractors’ business in a private conversation, according to Khinshtein. One cannot help but recollect Grishin has never had a personal business project the Merkushkins did not have a hand in.

The Prosecutor General’s Office’s reaction to the information contained in the letter has yet to be known. Yet, the Samara Region Ministry of Construction Industry has been searched; several criminal cases were opened as a result. This includes accusation of swindling committed by S.I.T.I. when reinforcing banks of the Saratov Reservoir near Rozhdestveno village. The police estimated damages at 36 million rubles. Aleksey Grishin rushed away from the ‘troublesome’ Region. However, he did not go to his home city of Saransk, as one may have expected. Instead, he made a bee-line for Moscow. This means Moscow residents may be lucky enough to have a taste of Mordovian cheese and cement.

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