Kovalchuk brothers’ method of bypassing sanctions is revealed

Kovalchuk brothers’ method of bypassing sanctions is revealed
Yury Kovalchuk

The entrepreneurs used the help of a biochemist from St. Petersburg.

The shareholders of Rossiya Bank, Yury and Boris Kovalchuk, found a way to bypass US sanctions. Or rather, a scientist from St. Petersburg, a biochemist Aleksandr Plekhov, who is a co-founder of Vital Development, a manufacturer of reagents for medical tests, which also owns a third stake in the leasing company LiRoss (a structure of Bank Russia), did this for them. Proekt has exposed their scheme. 

The publication's article notes that Plekhov was previously known to public as a successful businessman rather than a scientist. But “he has another, less public work. Back in the 90s, seeking for protection against criminal, he met the future shareholder of Rossiya Bank and a close friend of Vladimir Putin, Yury Kovalchuk,” the publication notes. 

The joint venture of the Kovalchuks and Plekhov Vital currently produces biochemical reagents - substances required by any laboratory for analysis. 

“In the 90s, a business investor “dumped” them, and they fell victim to threats from the criminal underworld. <…> Since then, numerous firms associated with Plekhov have been making strange and sometimes suspicious transactions that trace back to Kovalchuk and Rossiya Bank,” author of the article said. 

Thus, according to Fedresurs, the credit institution remains one of the main contractors and creditors of Vital. The company has pledged its property under ten loan agreements, three of which are still in force. In addition, from 2015 to 2018, Rossiya Bank issued Vital 12 guarantees for 8.6 million rubles ($131,752). 

Moreover, the publication noted that Plekhov was mentioned in the so-called Panama archive, which said that he represented cellist Sergei Roldugin, who is referred to as ‘Putin’s wallet’ in the media, in the Sonnette Overseas offshore from the British Virgin Islands. 

The connection between Plekhov and the companies Sandalwood Continental and Sunbarn Ltd (the first was eliminated in 2013, and the second was active at the time of publication of the Panama archive) can be traced. According to Novaya Gazeta, the turnover on bank accounts of Sandalwood alone was about 2 billion dollars. 

However, perhaps the most interesting is the fact that Plekhov, along with another shareholder of the aforementioned offshore companies, a businessman from St. Petersburg Oleg Gordin, holds a 33.3% stake in LiRoss, which is a major leasing operator.

Formally, LiRoss is an independent company, but in reality it is included in the Zest group of the top 30 Russian leasing companies. In turn, Zest is a leasing unit of Rossiya Bank, Proekt says. 

The withdrawal of LiRoss from the bank’s structure and the registration of the company into the names of Plekhov and Gordin allows Kovalchuk to bypass the sanctions, since the company is not on the “black list of the United States” unlike Zesta and Rossiya Bank itself. When Proekt’s journalist called Zest-LiRoss and asked whether it was possible to lease a foreign vessel despite the sanctions against Zesta, the consultant said: “Everything is possible.”

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