Vneshprombank as criminal heritage of kingpin from Russian 90s
The investigation of financial fraud in one of the largest Russian banks, Vneshprombank, has been ongoing for six months. Its former president, Larisa Marcus, has been arrested, while her brother Georgy Bedzhamov is hiding from the prosecution in Monaco. New facts of this case gradually rise to the surface: the bank's founders turned out to be children of a notorious kingpin Avdysh (Alexander) Bidzhamo, known under the nickname Alick Assyriyskiy.
Since December 2015, there has been an ongoing investigation into a high-profile criminal case on the collapse of one of the largest Russian banks - Vneshprombank. The downfall was so swift and devastating, that even its top clients still cannot believe this happened. The violations revealed by the Central Bank led to recall of a license on January 21, 2016.
The information regarding the first difficulties in Vneshprombank became public in early December 2015. However, at that time nobody could assume that already on December 18 the Central Bank would find a huge ‘hole’ worth billions of rubles in the bank equity and introduce external management. Three days later, the Chairman of the Board and founder of Vneshprombank Larisa Marcus would be detained on suspicion of fraud, and a month after that, without attempts at reorganization, the license of the credit institution would be revoked. Her brother, Georgy Bedzhamov, head of the Federation of Bobsleigh and Skeleton of Russia, managed to slip away from the investigation during this whole mess, and escaped to Monaco.
The list of the victims contains such major companies and institutions as Rosneft, Rosneftegas, Transneft, Russian Olympic Committee, and Russian Orthodox Church.
Various economists, journalists and law enforcement officials examined in detail the history of fraud committed at Vneshprombank. However, if we dig deeper, to the origins of the bank, it becomes clear that there was no other way this story could unfold.
Forbes reported recently that Georgy Bedzhamov and Larisa Marcus are children of a kingpin from the Russian criminal 90s, a notorious gangster Avdysh (some sources mention him by the name of Alexander) Bidzhamo, better known in the criminal underworld as Alik Assyrian, Alick Assyriyskiy and Alik-Zver (Beast). Starting from the Soviet Union, Bidzhamo was a member of the Assyrian organized crime group, which also included a crowned thief Vyacheslav Sliva (nicknamed Sliva) and the criminal mastermind Mark Milgotin (nicknamed Marik). The gang started off with providing protection racket services to shoe shiners and meat traders at the markets, and committing petty burglaries. The criminal were steadily gaining influence, and by the mid 90's they already mastered the major crime areas such as trade in oil, weapons, drugs, and revenues from the casino network.
An influential member of the gang Alick Assyriyskiy was killed in 1995 in the center of Moscow. According to the materials of the criminal case, which have been obtained by the CrimeRussia, the murder took place on August 5, in a summer cafe at Tverskaya Street 8. The kingpin, accompanied by several members of the Assyrian gang, went there to discuss the redistribution of spheres of influence with the infamous Orekhovskaya gang. Later it was found that criminals from Orekhovskaya did not even think of any "business negotiations" with the Assyrians. They simply decided to deal with the issue with brute force. A killer Pustovalov, nicknamed Sasha Soldat (Soldier), and two Orekhovskaya militants, Kirillov and Kunambaev, were sent at the meeting instead.
The history of the Bedzhamov clan, in a sense, is very indicative and shows the continuity of criminal generations: the children of the kingpin were guided by the same principles and values as their respected father, but acted differently.
The massacre of the Assyrians is described in the materials of the criminal case as follows:
- According to the plan, at about 19 pm the same day, Pustovalov - armed with an unidentified TT pistol and a gun of Hungarian production of not established model with 9mm caliber - and Kirillov - armed with a PM pistol with a destroyed number – arrived at the vehicle driven by Kunambaev to a specified place, a summer café at the address mentioned above. While, Kunambaev remained in the car, providing an escape route, Pustovalov and Kirillov were met by an unidentified man, who pointed to the table where Bidzhamo, Utkin, Lazarev, and Mkhitaryan were sitting. Moving closer to the table, Pustovalov and Kirillov decided to facilitate the murder and go beyond the developed plan, killing all those who were at the table, because none of the two knew how Bidzhamo looked. Approaching the table, Pustovalov, oblivious to the large concentration of people in a cafe, made 8 shots from the pistol of the Hungarian production of not established model with 9mm caliber into Bidzhamo, Utkin and Lazarev, while Kirillov, also aware of a generally dangerous method of killing, made a single shot from the PM pistol into the same targets, and then 7 shots at the fleeing Mkhitaryan. Afterthat, thekillersfled.
Three of the four members of the Assyrian gang died from injuries on the spot. Mkhitaryan was provided timely medical care, he managed to survive.
That same year, the children of the deceased Avdysh Bidzhamo founded Vneshprombank with registered capital of 6 million rubles, which presumably consisted of revenues from Moscow casinos. It was then that Georgy Bidzhamo became Bedzhamov, to get rid of the unwanted associations between the new bankers and notorious gangsters.
The kingpin’s children turned out to be prodigious and talented businessmen. Due to the connections of their influential father, they were able to attract many powerful people to the bank. In time, the list of such people started to grow exponentially. One of the first members of the Vneshprombank Board of Directors was Elena Larina, the wife of the Minister of Taxes and Levies Georgy Boos. Successful human resources policy also played a vital role. For instance, the first vice-president of the bank Sergey Ryazantsev, who was at that time a son-in-law of the former owner of the Transaero Company Olga Pleshakova, managed to attract many politicians, businessmen and popular artists.
The bankers had connections in the oil industry, which also played an important role in the rapid rise of Vneshprombank. Among the bank's clients were such companies as Transneft and Rosneft. Vneshprombank also became sponsor for the golf tournaments, organized by the GlavUpDK (a subordinate organization of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs), which held about 6 billion rubles on the bank’s accounts.
As Forbes reported, the bankers were generous with their major clients: the elite alcohol alone, which Bedzhamov purchased for himself and his clients, cost about a million dollars per year.
Referring to a friend of Marcus, Forbes wrote that the children of the kingpin siphoned off about € 1.5 billion from the bank, and invested it in real estate in Monaco and Switzerland, as well as in yachts and private jets. The investigation revealed that Bedzhamov owns at least three yachts: Ester (made by Falcon, Italy; 35 meters), Ester II (51 meters; made by Codecasa Shipyards, put up for sale for $ 15.8 million), and Ester III (66 meters; made on one of the best shipyards in the world by a German company Lurssen; the estimated price is about $ 72.6 million).
An international arrest warrant was issued for Bedzhamov, who was charged in absentia for fraud in a large scale (art. 159 para. 4 of the Russian Criminal Code). On April 21, the banker was detained in Monaco, but on June 23, he was released on bail. Russian Prosecutor General's Office continues to seek Bedzhamov’s extradition to Russia, but so far the prospect of his return to homeland remains unlikely.
The history of the Bedzhamov clan, in a sense, is very indicative and shows the continuity of criminal generations: the children of the kingpin were guided by the same principles and values as their respected father, but acted differently. The criminals of the 2000s look nothing like moody guys in crimson jackets, who used every opportunity to reach out for their weapons. Now they are respectable entrepreneurs, philanthropists, investors, and owners of major businesses. However, even without bloody showdowns, the apple never falls far from the tree.
The Greek Areopagus upheld the decision of the court in Thessaloniki to extradite Russian Alexander Vinnik, who is considered the owner of the BTC-e crypto-exchange. RBC magazine found other of its possible beneficiaries and found out what Vinnik was doing.