The rich also cry. How did 2018 go for the Russian billionaires?
2018 turned out to be extremely fruitful. Prices, taxes, the retirement age, as well as the incomes of Russian oligarchs has increased. However, it seems this profit glitters, but does not encourage them.
The winter is close
We all would remember 2018 as the year of an economic miracle. While being under US sanctions, the richest Russian billionaires not only managed to save their fortunes, but also significantly increased them. According to Bloomberg, Russian oligarchs have become even richer – for a total of $ 8.7 billion. The Russian government did their best for businessmen who asked to save their business. In spring, Alexey Mordashov and Viktor Vekselberg wrote their own “wishes”. The first one asked for 7.5 billion rubles from the government, the second - for 5 billion, but in dollars. Despite their "modest" requests were fulfilled, the billionaires did not enjoy this very long.
The fortune of Mordashov and Vekselberg decreased by 2 billion dollars and 3.2 billion dollars, respectively. The government order could not replace customers Solovye mashiny (Power Machines) and Renova lost. Vekselberg turned out to be the biggest ‘loser’. The billionaire literally did not find any place for himself: he left (partially) Renova structures, then he went for questioning to Prosecutor Muller in a case of interference with the US elections. Looking at Vekselberg's rush, the Credit Suisse Swiss bank decided to freeze 1 billion Swiss francs on his accounts, just in case. UBS and Julius Baer banks also froze the assets of the Russian oligarchs along with the assets of Oleg Deripaska. Thу banks refused to comment on the blocking of 5 billion francs on the accounts of Russian oligarchs.
However, it was only beginning for Deripaska. In early October, the US authorities froze everything he had in America: the assets of the companies UC Rusal and En + Group, as well as two mansions - in New York and Washington (located next to the US President’s). Trying to block Deripaska’s way to the US, Americans seem to have found his Achilles heel. After he has already paid for the possible interference in the President elections with interference in his private life and a divorce, Deripaska decided not to deprive the children of the neighborhood with Ivanka Trump and agreed to all the demands of the US Treasury. The businessman promised to reduce his presence in the American business to a minimum by the end of January.
Judge for yourself
Viktor Vekselberg did not give up so easily. He promised to sue the US authorities for their "unjust" sanctions. First, he has a chance to win. Secondly, Vekselberg does not get out of courts anyway. The oligarch's name has regularly appeared in documents of the Supreme Court of New York since 2014, when Leonid Lebedev filed a lawsuit against him for $ 2 billion. Then, Senator Lebedev, who has a Cypriot citizenship now, was trying to convince the court that Vekselberg did not pay him for some "secret" share in the already oversold TNC.
This year, another former Senator, Magomed Magomedov, joined this international conflict. In his counterclaim to Lebedev, Magomedov stated that Lebedev deceived him when buying a stake in Nizhnevartovskneftegaz (daughter of TNC) back in the 90s. And now Magomedov, spending his time a pre-trial detention center, requires 1 billion rubles for this.
Oleg Deripaska has also spent this year in courts. With the help of the Russian justice system, he covered up traces of the sex scandal and evidence that would be useful for prosecutor Muller. The High Court of London also considered the lawsuit of the scandalous billionaire against the co-owners of Norilsk Nickel: Vladimir Potanin and Roman Abramovich. Abramovich sold his stake in the Mining and Metallurgical Company to Potanin (2.1% of the 4% available), forgetting about the third shareholder. This started a conflict between Potanin and Deripaska, but the court stopped it taking the side of the latter.
Not all Russians were so lucky in London this year. For example, VIP depositors of the Promsvyazbank, who filed a lawsuit against Dmitry Ananyev to the High Court of London found new problems only. The freezing of assets in the amount of 15.6 million dollars and 11 million euros at the claim of depositors, nearly disrupted the sale of Bank Vozrozhdenie to VTB. The youngest of the Ananyev brothers went all in and started working with the British intelligence services. They helped Ananyev to convince the court and unfreeze the accounts. In exchange for this, the banker shared information about how and where his friends, acquaintances and the former depositors withdraw their money.
Gentlemen under attack
Russian law enforcement seems to be more ruthless when it comes to the cases with oligarchs involved. Dmitry Mikhalchenko, who had already been sentenced to two years earlier, faced new charges in 2018. Now, one of the most influential businessmen in St. Petersburg is accused not only of smuggling alcohol, but also of creating an organized crime group, which stole money during construction of the presidential residence in Novo-Ogaryovo. The damage was estimated at 1.5 billion rubles.
Along with the businessman, several generals of the Federal Security Guard Service are also defendants in the case. According to some information, investigation needs Mikhalchenko only to get the former head of the Federal Security Guard Service Evgeny Murov, who took control over all the businessman’s assets, including the Forum holding and the port of Bronka. Mikhalchenko seems to lose the hope for his release.
The owners of the Summa group, Ziyavudin and Magomed Magomedovs, are not very optimistic either. For nine months now, the brothers have been working with lawyers and investigator Nikolai Budilo, who led the notorious Magnitsky case. The criminal case of the Magomedov brothers involves eight episodes of embezzlement totalling 2.8 billion rubles. Suleyman Kerimov, and the head of Transneft, Nikolai Tokarev, and even Igor Sechin are considered the interested parties in the arrest of the brothers. By the way, 50% of Novorossiysk Sea Trade Port (NCSP) Magomedovs sold to Transneft. This, however, has not yet been reflected in the investigation.
However, the legal issues do not make the brothers forget about their personal lives. Magomed Magomedov recalled the old grievances and told the investigation that he had not been involved in his brother’s business for a long time. While being in a pre-trial detention center, Ziyavudin Magomedov managed to get a divorce and present his former spouse a significant fortune. France authorities considered such a gift too generous and initiated a criminal case against Olga Magomedova on charges of money laundering.
The French police also drew attention to another Dagestan billionaire, Suleyman Kerimov. Like the ex-wife of Magomedov, the French police accused Kerimov in money laundering and tax evasion. According to investigators, the oligarch found a friend in France - the Swiss financier Alexander Shtudhalter. They were so close that Shtuddhalter bought villas Hier, Medy Roc, Lexa and Fiorella located one after another, and then sold them to Karimov for a mere song. The French treasury estimated the damage at 100 million euros.
French authorities kept Kerimov in jail for a day, and then seven months under house arrest. They also took 40 million euros from the oligarch as a bail and threatened with five years in prison. However, the summer visit of Emmanuel Macron to Russia made a revolution in the minds of the French investigators. All charges against Karimov were suddenly lifted and the bail was returned. The billionaire immediately returned to his homeland, which mysteriously contributed to his release, and declared his intention to start a business in Dagestan.
The ex-owner of Uralkali, Dmitry Rybolovlev, found himself in a similar situation. The billionaire has been living in Monaco for a long time. The extravagant acts of the oligarch, including special dinners for the ex-Minister of Justice Philip Narmino, attracted attention of the local authorities. On November 6, Rybolovlev was detained by the police of the principality on charges of corruption and abuse of influence.
The New-Year, old-style
Along with him, several judges, whom Rybolovlev also lured and presented with tickets for the matches of his own Monaco football club, also faced charges. The billionaire needed support of the judges in order to win a trial against art dealer Yves Bouvier. Despite loud accusations, Rybolovlev got off lightly. He moves freely around the world, being under the judicial control of Monaco, and seems confident of his full acquittal. Thus, in the end of November Rybolovlev returned to the principality to attend the match of Monaco FC. Who knows who got an "extra" ticket from him?
After Russian oligarchs found out about the humanity of foreign courts, many of them moved closer to the border. Even Roman Abramovich, who increased his fortune by more than $1 billion over the past year, suddenly remembered that he is a Jew. In Israel, investment climate is more stable, and tax holidays for repatriates last 10 years. Congratulations to Abramovich: he managed not only save his funds, but also save some.
Boris Mints, observing the process of nationalization of the banking sector, decided not to take a risk. He personally invited Central Bank senators to save Otkritie FC, sold the remaining assets and left for London with his three sons. The latter, though they assured that their debts were “good and long,” immediately followed their father. In England, the Mints family runs a hotel business and does not feel homesick. And only the ‘Kings of State Order’ remain under sanctions and get richer. East or West, home is the best.
Last week, the entire world has celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Internet. In the meantime, the Russian legislators have adopted new laws restricting the development of the Russian-speaking segment of the world wide web. The 'fake news' and 'internet insults' laws adopted under the pretext of protecting the society from manipulations and threat, including external ones, violate the Constitution and some federal laws in relation to the right to search for, obtain, and use information. Furthermore, the bill on ‘sovereign Internet’ passed in the first reading by the State Duma leads us directly to self-isolation.