18 guards and $35mn mansion: how quick Ukrainian oligarch Sergey Kurchenko "digests" Russia
Ukrainian businessman Sergey Kurchenko, who fled from Ukraine to Russia after the February coup d'état, immediately settled in the Russian capital. Apart from that Kurchenko organized a business in the Crimea, AR the same time being a “temporary administration” controlling Luhansk and Donetsk People's Republics. After a conflict with a Chechen entrepreneur, the 33-year-old oligarch is panicked of the assassination attempt and drives in a cortege of five cars with two dozen armed guards. CrimeRussia found out where a simple Kharkiv guy from a poor family got such a vast business empire and what he does in Russia.
Growth strategy: From a bicycle – up to $266 million
The name of Sergey Kurchenko became known to the public only in 2013, shortly before the coup in Kiev. Then a conditional group of companies Gas Ukraine-2009 was associated with him, and Kurchenko himself was called the “young oligarch” – he was born on September 21, 1985.
Sergey Kurchenko grew up in a low-income Kharkiv family. At the age of 15, he began working as a courier at the Kharkiv company Expogaz, where he delivered invoices by bicycle. But in the shortest possible time, he made a brilliant career, becoming deputy commercial director. In 2004, at the age of 19, Kurchenko went into the real estate and petroleum products trading business, investing $200,000 of his alleged savings and loans, and by 2008 he already had an annual turnover of $300 million. In 2013, a group of Gas Ukraine-2009 companies that belonged to Kurchenko merged their fuel and energy assets into VETEK Group, where the businessman became the head of the supervisory board.
Thus, in 2014, Sergey Kurchenko entered the top 100 richest Ukrainians: his fortune at that time was estimated at $266 million. He is called a man from the circle of oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, son of President of Ukraine Alexander Yanukovich, ex-Prosecutor General of Ukraine Viktor Pshonka, etc. Is this true?
From the stories of people dealing directly with Kurchenko, it is known that such an impressive evolutionary path of the “young oligarch” became possible, in particular, because he often acted as the nominal owner of companies — various enterprises were written to him for making questionable transactions. For example, a young, flexible child was taken into the scheme of Kharkiv businessman Igor Gumenny, the owner of the company UBC Group, engaged in the production and distribution of beer equipment all over the world, which included the non-core company Expogaz, through which money was laundered for the main companies of Gumenny. Becoming a part in the process of laundering dirty capital, Kurchenko earned his first million.
And this is what Sergey Kurchenko himself tells about his real estate business in the period 2006-2008 in one of the interviews: “Land purchase from residents of the Kharkiv region, who received it under the free privatization program. This were, as a rule, ordinary people not thinking in business categories. We created a network of agents who bought land from them. It was easy, people did not understand what to do with this land. They did not have the opportunity to mortgage it, invest in it, build something on it, combine plots, build cottage villages, and create infrastructure. Somewhere they bought at the market price, somewhere they traded and bought cheaper. This made it possible to quickly resell the land."
"Social climber on trust"
Being engaged in land "affairs", Kurchenko met the chairman of the board of Donetskoblgaz, Nikolay Mass, whose children — Yevgeny and Oksana Mass — soon became his partners. Further, the business schemes brought him together with the ex-head of Naftogaz, Vladimir Sheludchenko, who was called Viktor Yanukovich’s “favorite energy worker.” At that time, Kurchenko simply ditched Gumenny for several million dollars, leaving himself part of the amount that was laundered through the fictitious companies registered on him. Then he fell into the orbit of Gennady Kernes, an influential man in Kharkiv, having passed all the turnouts and passwords on Igor Gumenny to him. Then Sergey Kurchenko got to the Dnepropetrovsk oligarch Igor Kolomoisky, at the same time getting into the trust of the oligarch Dmitry Firtash and his friend Yury Boyko. Further scheme of "growth" is as follows. Yury Boyko introduced Kurchenko to Sergey Molitsky, who at that time was Deputy Prosecutor of the AR of Crimea Viktor Pshonka (the future Prosecutor General of Ukraine). Having made friends with Viktor Pshonka’s son Artyom, Kurchenko went to the finish line – to the family of Viktor Yanukovich, incidentally ditching oligarch Dmitry Firtash for $350 million.
Sergey Kurchenko – an inside man among the representatives of the Ukrainian elite
Thus, in December 2012, Sergey Kurchenko received the coveted "roof" of the Yanukovich family and the task: to buy the Odessa Oil Refinery and buy Metallist football club from Kharkiv businessman Alexander Yaroslavsky. Kurchenko fulfilled the task with great pleasure, after which he became the right hand of the eldest son of President of Ukraine Yanukovich, Alexander, also known as Stomatolog. Later, in a series of interviews, Kurchenko tried to refute even the very fact of his acquaintance with Yanukovich Jr.
Alexander Yanukovich is now also in Russia
Sources who know Kurchenko note that he had a dream: to outdo the powerful Rinat Akhmetov.
"By the way, an interesting fact: Akhmetov and Kurchenko were born on the same day — September 21. In his entourage, in private conversations, Kurchenko often said that this was a sign and that Akhmetov was a "sucker," whom he would outdo, since supposedly fate itself gave him this chance, because they were born on the same day. Then his words were perceived only as nonsense. But soon Kurchenko became the "grave-digger" of Akhmetov and his business in the Donbas," a source said.
After the events of 2014, Yanukovich’s entourage was forced to leave Ukraine. Sergey Kurchenko also escaped, on the sly leaving all the assets recorded on him: its former owners in the post-fuss turmoil had no time for Kurchenko. But the oligarch did not lose contact with Ukraine. We note that back in 2013, he acquired the UMH Group media holding from Boris Lozhkin, whose partner was Petro Poroshenko. In 2014, President Poroshenko appointed Boris Lozhkin as head of his administration.
Kurchenko Media Holding works in Ukraine in the interests of President Poroshenko
After the coup d'état, in spite of the Ukrainian sanctions against Sergey Kurchenko, the UMH Group still works on the Ukrainian media market and is considered Poroshenko’s pocket holding. Kurchenko also maintains contact with the oligarch Kolomoisky, who was one of the sponsors of Maidan, as evidenced by their telephone conversations, which Kolomoisky himself leaked to the Internet and where he openly mocks Kurchenko.
So, Sergey Kurchenko arrived in Russia in the status of an “advanced” oligarch (although not without an aura of an unreliable partner). It should be noted that when he was a friend of Yanukovich’s surroundings, Kurchenko rendered various “delicate” business services to Russian oligarchs, making it easier for them to do business in Ukraine, and as a result he enlisted the support of individual representatives of the Russian business segment.
In the spring of 2014, he became a co-owner of a network of gas stations in the Crimea, and in September of the same year he created the Skif-Media media holding on the peninsula, which included the Crimea Media news agency, as well as a number of printed and electronic media in Crimea. Then Sergey Kurchenko shared his plans for the future with journalists, in particular, stating that in the next two years he intends to engage in "the development of Russia and the CIS countries."
In March 2017, with the help of Russian curators, Sergey Kurchenko advanced into the Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics territory: a number of Donbass coal and metallurgical enterprises were transferred for “temporary administration” to the company Vneshtorgservis, which was controlled by him. In particular, the list included the enterprises of Rinat Akhmetov and Viktor Nusenkis: Donetskstal (Donetsk Steel) metallurgical plant, Enakievo and Makeevka metallurgical plants, Yenakiieve Coke and Chemicals Plant (Koksokhimprom), Yasinovka coke and chemical plant, Makeevkoks, Khartsyzsk pipe plant, and also Krasnodonvugillya (Krasnodon Coal), Rovenkyanthracite, Sverdlovanthracite and others. And after the death of the head of the DPR, Alexander Zakharchenko in August 2018, Kurchenko absorbed the DPR almost entirely.
Donbass for Kurchenko is just a business
Vneshtorgservis is responsible for the management of enterprises, and OOO Gas Alliance Company, also under the control of Kurchenko, for the marketing of their products. The Vneshtorgservis company is registered in Tskhinval, its general director is Vladimir Pashkov, who until 2014 worked as the vice-governor of the Irkutsk region. And the company Gas Alliance was registered in July 2014 in Nizhny Novgorod. Its authorized capital is 70,000 rubles ($1,000), the average number of employees is 12 people. Nevertheless, such a modest shell did not prevent the company in 2017 to become the largest exporter of coal exported from Luhansk and Donestk PRs. Gas Alliance supplies it to Russian and foreign consumers, including Poland, Romania and Turkey.
In March 2018, Russian media reported that the Ministry of Economic Development of Russia sent a telegram to RZD Logistics, which prohibits the export of coal from Luhansk and Donestk PRs to all companies, except for Gas Alliance. To derive profits from taxation, the company according to documents exports anthracite through British companies Supreme Business Group LP, Merkato (UK) Ltd (owned by Ukrainian citizen Vyacheslav Gorozhanin) and company from the Seychelles Islands Nredos Holding Inc.
Kurchenko-controlled company is a monopolist of coal exports from Luhansk and Donestk People’s Republics
A bit of arithmetic: the price of coal in the Luhansk and Donestk People’s Republics is $24-25 per ton, in the port of Rostov –– $60-80, and the export price of anthracite is in the range of $100-160 per ton, depending on the fraction.
To live well in Russia
In Russia, Sergey Kurchenko lives on a large scale. And this scale is so large that the “young oligarch” can afford to maintain offices occupying the 46th and part of the 47th floor of Block “C” of the Naberezhnaya Tower in Moscow City. Kurchenko lives in a luxurious White House mansion worth $35 million, located on Rublyovskoye highway in the elite gated community Zhukovka. The house has 5 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms, a living room with a fireplace, a wine cellar and a tasting room, a swimming pool with a spa area and gyms, a home cinema with a lounge and bar, and several elevators.
Sergey Kurchenko is often seen in one of the most expensive restaurants in Moscow, namely in the Turandot restaurant, where for $1,000 dollars you can only dine modestly without alcohol. He is married, but the fact of marriage (as, incidentally, his entire personal life) is carefully concealed. It is known that his wife, Elena Rimarenko, is an actress in the theater of Oleg Tabakov.
Sergey Kurchenko's spouse - Elena Rimarenko
Socialite and politician Ksenia Sobchak somehow chatted to the media that Kurchenko had an affair with a famous TV presenter Tina Kandelaki. However, it is difficult to confirm this information: Kurchenko does not comment on this, and Kandelaki denies a love affair.
Also noteworthy is the fact that now Kurchenko has a serious security guard: a businessman moves in a train of five cars, accompanied by 18 guards – Russian special forces, who are fighters of the Alfa group of the FSB of Russia.
Former oligarch driver in the comments to The Insider noted that “Kurchenko moves in the second car of the motorcade and has a habit of often asking how long they have to go. If he does not receive an immediate response, the driver will be fired. It was the worst job of my life.” He also said that Kurchenko often goes to the presidential administration and the government of Russia, the offices of Rosneft, Lukoil, Gazprombank, VTB, First Czech-Russian Bank, Roscosmos, goes to meetings at the Ministry of Economic Development and the Ministry of Natural Resources.
It is also known that Kurchenko often communicates with the son of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation, businessman Artyom Chaika, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Georgy Kalamanov and Senator Suleyman Kerimov. Some sources claim that he maintains relations with Alexander Yanukovych: in particular, one of these meetings recently took place in Sochi.
“One of the cars is equipped with a mobile communication silencer with a radius of 200 meters. Another car was converted into an ambulance with a doctor. He has several resuscitators on staff, work in shifts, one is always next to him,” said the source, stressing that Kurchenko organized all this after he “had a conflict with a Chechen businessman in a restaurant.”
The CrimeRussia found out that the “conflict with a Chechen businessman in a restaurant” mentioned by ex-driver Kurchenko was nothing more than a skirmish that occurred in November 2017 near the Oko Tower in Moscow City.
Recall that the shooting occurred on November 17 during the celebration of the anniversary of the crime lord, the leader of the Izmailovo organized criminal group, Dmitry Pavlov, known as Pavlik. The thieves in law, Sergey Aksenov (Aksen), Oleg Shishkanov (Shishkan, Oleg Ramensky), the “authoritative” entrepreneurs Sergey Lalakin (Luchok), Alimzhan Tokhtakhunov (Taiwanchik) and Gavril Yushvaev (Garik Makhachkala) were present at the celebration.
Gavril Yushvaev in the company of thieves in law
The conflict occurred between the National Guard officers guarding the hero of the day, and the protection of Garik Makhachkala. The shooting started because of Yushvaev’s Maybach parked on the red carpet, whose driver refused to drive away the car.
In the course of the shooting that began, 6 guards were hit, including two employees of the FSUE “Guard” of the National Guard. Subsequently, one of the National Guard officers died in hospital from his wounds.
One of the National Guard officers that took part in the shooutout
Then it was reported that, while the doctors were dealing with bullet wounds, the incident participants hid on Maybach, Toyota Land Cruiser and Lexus cars – these cars made up the Kurchenko’s motorcade. By the way, according to sources of The CrimeRussia, Pavlik’s celebration was attended not only by representatives of crime and entrepreneurs, but also by State Duma deputies, which, in turn, explains the lack of publicly released videos from surveillance cameras.
At that time, many media outlets claimed that the Kurchenko’s motorcade was allegedly in the parking lot of the Oko tower because the oligarch’s office is located in this tower. But Sergey Kurchenko’s office is located in the Naberezhnaya Tower, respectively, his cars and security guards were at the scene of the incident due to the fact that Kurchenko himself was present at the banquet.
Sources said that it was after this incident that Kurchenko got a powerful guard. He is afraid of the assassination attempt and is driven by a convoy accompanied by 18 special forces fighters from the FSB of Russia.