Businessman from the 1990s to complete Golden Mile 

Businessman from the 1990s to complete Golden Mile
Greetings from the 1990s to Ostozhenka Photo: The CrimeRussia

Some progress is expected with the completion of a never-ending deluxe construction project – Golden Mile residential complex. Little-known businessman Sergei Popov is about to take charge of it. Former elite co-investors rejoice – their dream to live on Ostozhenka street may finally come true. Only Oleg Deripaska is not happy with the news – Sergei Popov may attract public attention to some dark episodes in the billionaire’s biography that he would like to forget for good.

Builder from Perestroika

One of the most expensive and concurrently desolate streets of Moscow – Ostozhenka – is about to become vibrant again. Instead of a white banner covering an old mansion at 9/14 Ostozhenka street, deluxe Golden Mile residential complex is finally going to emerge there. Sergei Popov, owner of Idil Development, promises to turn the bourgeois dream into reality. However, no specific completion date was provided.

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Project of Golden Mile residential complex

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Current state of Golden Mile residential complex

Initially, the housing complex was supposed to be commissioned in 2015. The previous project owner – Mikhail Babel, President of NBM Group – was not only a developer but also a major shareholder of infamous Peresvet Bank. Instead of the construction, he was pulling off financial operations and approved loans granted to his own company in the amount of 12 billion rubles ($190.9 million) on behalf of Peresvet Bank. After spending a few months in a pretrial detention facility, Babel was released on bail of 10 million rubles ($159.1 thousand) and immediately flew to Israel leaving behind several unfinished projects and a criminal case.

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Fugitive businessman Mikhail Babel

Babel gave Golden Mile to Popov on account of debt repayment; the amount of this debt remains unknown. Experts estimate the total cost of Golden Mile construction at 1.5–1.9 billion rubles ($23.9–30.2 million). Would Sergei Popov be able to complete the project abandoned by Honorary Builder of Russia Mikhail Babel? Popov is not familiar to Moscow developers – they only know that he definitely has money. On the other hand, Popov is familiar with such people as oligarch Oleg Deripaska, businessman Mikhail Chernoy affiliated with Izmailovskie organized criminal group, and Sergei Lalakin believed to be the leader of Podolskie gang. Evil tongues call Popov the underboss of Podolskie.

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Sergei Popov and Oleg Deripaska

The official ties between Popov and Lalakin are pretty scarce. Both of them finance the Podolsk Tennis Academy. The philanthropists don’t like to remember their past – the primary capital formation periods – and feel upset when somebody else does so. In that period, Sergei Popov was sentenced to 2.5 years behind bars for racketeering. However, upon gaining primary capital, Popov easily reinstated his good name – in 1998, the court has re-examined the case and found no elements of crime in businessman’s deeds. 

High relations

While serving his term in a penal colony, Popov became a friend of Anatoly Lukyanov, former member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and future Chairman of the Committee for Legislation and Court Reform of the State Duma. Podolskie gang had reportedly appreciated the ability of Popov to make friends – and after the release, he became responsible for ‘public relations’, including friendship with Izmailovskie organized criminal group. The new duties drastically changed his circle of acquaintances – Popov started communicating with Mikhail Chernoy and future ‘Forbes billionaire’ Oleg Deripaska. Popov always warmly remembers his friendship with Deripaska. The billionaire does not share this warmth.

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Anatoly Luk’yanov

The unparalleled publicity became the billionaire's karma long before the publication of memoirs about his private life and Internet discussions dedicated to it. In 2006, the entire Great Britain had watched weird friendly ties of Oleg Deripaska. The saga about the Russian business was unfolding in the High Court of London chosen by ‘authority' Mikhail Chernoy, who had given up upon the Russian justice system and relocated to Israel, for his lawsuit. Sergei Popov had also visited London in that period to support Chernoy morally and testify for him. 

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Mikhail Chernoy

The ‘authoritative’ plaintiff, who had retired at home, told the London Court that Deripaska has defrauded him of $3 billion. According to Chernoy, since the foundation of RUSAL, he owned 20% of its shares. However, because of his notorious reputation, his portfolio had officially belonged to Deripaska. As a result, Oleg Deripaska and Roman Abramovich had formally owned RUSAL in equal shares of 50%.

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Boris Berezovsky in London

In 2001, Chernoy decided to retire. He considered his portfolio in RUSAL his retirement savings. But Deripaska was of a different mind and paid Chernov much less than he had expected. Five years later, Chernov addressed the London Court with support of Sergei Popov. Concurrently, another London judge was examining a lawsuit filed by another ‘unofficial’ RUSAL shareholder – Boris Berezovsky. His claims against Abramovich were similar to those brought by Chernoy against Deripaska – according to Berezovsky, he was defrauded of $5.5 billion. Apparently, the lawsuit filed by Berezovsky against Abramovich inspired Chernoy to seek justice in the UK as well.

Victim of capitalism 

The Head of RUSAL has provided his version of the events to the court pretty blatantly. Deripaska told the High Court of London about such specific Russian terms as ‘organized criminal group', ‘cover', and ‘share'. Deripaska explained to the court that Mikhail Chernoy and Sergei Popov were leaders of Izmailovskie and Podolskie organized criminal groups respectively and terrorized Moscow and the metropolitan area in the 1990s. According to Deripaska, the main business of Izmailovskie and Podolskie gangs was protection racketeering of large businesses – and he became one of their victims. In 2001, he paid Chernoy $250 million as a ‘retirement allowance’ and stopped using the services of Podolskie gang. To prove his claims, the billionaire brought more than 10 witnesses – all of them wanted to remain anonymous and be covered by the witness protection program.

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Excerpt from the speech delivered by Lord Justice Lewison on October 3, 2012  

Such ‘frankness’ shocked Chernoy and Popov. They presented family photo albums to the court. The pictures showed the ‘victim of bandits’ entertaining at family celebrations of criminal ‘authorities’. Popov even was the godfather of Deripaska’s daughter. Furthermore, billionaire’s close ties with Podolskie gang have resulted in the revocation of his American visa back in 2007 – long before the sanctions. But Deripaska explained his weird behavior by Russian traditions regulating the communication with bandits.

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Oleg Deripaska with Chernoy and Popov at a family celebration   

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Excerpt from the court file listing photo evidence

Popov provided to the court another explanation of their relations with Deripaska. According to him, the future billionaire had gladly used his connections and ascended to power thanks largely to Popov – but after marrying a relative of Boris Yeltsin, he turned his back on old friends. The friends were upset. A true ‘smear war’ has begun between Chernoy and Popov on the one hand and Deripaska on the other hand. The oligarch remembered numerous massacres targeting owners and directors of aluminum plants. Popov and Chernoy, in turn, remembered Yuri Rogov, the closest associate of Deripaska controlling many financial operations of Aluminum King.

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Yuri Rogov (in the circle) at Deripaska’s wedding

Popov and Chernoy did not have to disclose all the delicate details – after hearing the name of Rogov, Deripaska promptly agreed to settle the lawsuit. In addition, after seeing Berezovsky leaving the courtroom empty-handed, Chernoy has reduced his claim to $400 million. Shortly after the end of this high-profile litigation, Yuri Rogov died at the age of 45. Sergei Popov still abstains from communication with Deripaska – however, the developer gladly shares his memories about the billionaire: the old friendship with Deripaska is more beneficial for his Moscow business than the current friendship with Chernoy.

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