Bronka pact. General Murov gets portion of oligarch Mikhalchenko’s business
The trial of St. Petersburg oligarch Dmitry Mikhalchenko is about to start in October. Two weeks prior to its beginning, it became known that the family of Evgeny Murov, ex-Head of the Federal Protection Service of the Russian Federation, has acquired the lion’s share of Port Bronka assets. The CrimeRussia was figuring out whether this was a strategic move of the businessman in order to protect his ‘pet project’, or the price of silence of the high-ranked enforcement functionary?
Road to the sea
The team of Dmitry Mikhalchenko is preparing for the final battle – his trial in the Kingisepp City Court. The recent events in relation to that litigation were pretty illustrative – the investigation failed to relocate the hearings to Moscow. But this was just a warm-up before the real battle. There is no doubt that the oligarch is going to fight to the bitter – especially taking that Port Bronka is at stake.
In the very beginning of the investigation of the elite alcohol smuggling case, CrimeRussia sources had supposed that the ‘pet project’ of Mikhalchenko – Port Bronka – is in the middle of behind-the-scene negotiations. According to the sources, Port Bronka was named the ‘price of liberty’ for the St. Petersburg businessman. Insiders understood very well that ‘Dima Krikun’ (Dima the Crier) would go to any lengths to retain control over Bronka. The news that Mikhalchenko may be charged under Article 210 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (creation of a criminal community (criminal organization) and participation therein) have dispelled the last doubts that the oligarch is not willing to part with his favorite asset. Various rumors and speculations around the port have dissipated. In other words, no one was demanding Bronka anymore.
Such a lull implied that the next move of the Mikhalchenko’s team is to be decisive and indicative. And it was, indeed: recently it became known that one third of the Bronka container terminal has been transferred to Lyudmila Murova, wife of general Evgeny Murov, ex-Head of the Federal Protection Service of the Russian Federation, while general’s grandson Nikita Murov has been appointed to a superior position in the company owning Port Bronka.
This was an important sign for the entire stevedore business of St. Petersburg, including Morskoy Port (Sea Port) Open Joint Stock Company of Vladimir Lisin. The phantom of the Center for Electronic Customs Declaration in Bronka and full control over the customs clearance in the Russian Northwest have loomed again over his empire.
It is necessary to note that the presence of such a formidable figure as Evgeny Murov, ex-Head of the Federal Protection Service, in this business means significant changes in the entire cargo export and import system. His appearance in the port is not coincidental. General has been in the business for a long time and all the people close to it were aware of this. As The CrimeRussia wrote earlier, being the Head of the Federal Protection Service, Murov has approved the Integrated Documents Center Project proposed by Mikhalchenko specifically in relation to the Port Bronka construction. The recent scandal with the wiretapping of this Integrated Documents Center has uncovered that the building was bugged with spying equipment. The large-scale installation works were performed during the construction of the center. It is obvious that the respective services were involved into this. Therefore, the information was, apparently, the oligarch’s return ‘friendly gesture’.
The Bronka Project has been approved back in 2009. At that time, the St. Petersburg Government has decided to design and build a multipurpose sea transshipment complex in Bronka, on the outskirts of Lomonosov. Forum Holding represented by Feniks (Phoenix) subsidiary company was the project initiator and investor.
The recent scandals around Port Ust-Luga and subsequent criminal prosecution of an entire clan of high-ranked smugglers have disrupted many commercial ventures of various groups and elites. Too many interests were focused there. At the same time, the footsteps of Turkish oligarch Jabrail Karaarslan were seen pretty clear. Overall, the smuggling case has taken an unpleasant, scandalous, and politically adverse twist in the context of international sanctions.
Ust-Luga and Bronka have been of interest for authorities for a long time. Ust-Luga had attracted the attention of the military during World War I: there were plans to deploy there a strategic navy base of the Baltic fleet. However, the Ust-Luga Project with the cost of some 15 billion rubles ($261.5 million) has reportedly fallen short of expectations. Then the government has revived the idea to build Port Bronka able to accept ships of unlimited sea tonnage. The project has been launched after the visit of Sergei Ivanov and Igor Sechin to Ust-Luga in 2011.
The events subsequent to the arrest of Dmitry Mikhalchenko have automatically put on hold many activities in Ust-Luga, thus, affecting numerous business interests. Some media even wrote that the case against Mikhalchenko “has triggered an infighting within enforcement structures”.
Evgeny Murov, the ex-Head of the Federal Protection Service, has lost his post amid that story. His patronage of Dmitry Mikhalchenko was not a secret anymore. The lull around Port Bronka in the first month after the arrest of Mikhalchenko and rumors about various interested parties ready and willing to seize Bronka from ‘governor 24’ had heated up the tension. However, the groups spreading such rumors have forgotten about KGB general Negodov who continued doing his job and boosting capacity without fanfare.
As the CrimeRussia wrote earlier, in that situation Feniks (Phoenix) Limited Liability Company, the management company of Port Bronka, managed to seize a profitable contract from the team of oligarch Vladimir Lisin; this was done demonstratively. In other words, Bronka continues growing and even thrives.
Of course, after the beginning of the trial of Mikhalchenko, this boom might end. Therefore, relatives of famous general Murov have appeared in this story. For all the players, this was a sign: “no outsiders are allowed here”. It is one thing to jail an overweening oligarch, and it is totally another thing to encroach on such a monumental figure as Evgeny Murov. The resignation of the Head of the Federal Protection Service is irrelevant in that case – because dozens of suitcases with compromising materials, connections, and ‘political debtors’ are still in place. Neither oligarchs nor all the business groups put together possess such resources.
The appearance of the Murov family members among the Bronka shareholders was a pretty clear sign. It became of special interest after the recent arrival of Lian Sua Hun bulk freighter belonging to Chinese company COSCO – the world reader in the bulk-loaded and general cargo sector – to Port Bronka.
This was the first such visit in the history of the Russian–Chinese trade relations. The ship has passed through the Northern Sea Route and brought subway construction equipment to our country.
Chinese company СOSCO Shipping Specialized Carriers Co., Ltd. has performed a transit passage through the Northern Sea Route, including a call at a Russian port, in fulfillment of the decisions made by the Russian and Chinese leaders during a bilateral meeting in Beijing in May 2017.
Statements about further development of relations have been made at the official meeting of representatives of Port Bronka and the Chinese company. Such relations may be possible only subject to a supreme political will – after all, the strategic political partners of the country are involved there. It is unlikely that outsiders would be allowed to occupy superior positions in the company – only battle-tested personal guards of the political leadership are suitable for such a job.
For all other parties (law enforcement structures, illegal entrepreneurs, and stevedore businesses) that day was a ‘black Friday’. Apparently, from now on, the future of Bronka is determined by political decisions.