'Russian mafia again'. American lobbyist manages Mark Bronovsky's assets in Russia
In December 2017, a New York company has filed a lawsuit against St. Petersburg businessman Mark Bronovsky to recover a debt over 2.1 billion rubles ($37.3 million). Back in 2014, the ICR has charged Bronovsky with embezzlement of more than 4 billion rubles ($71 million) under the pretence of a value added tax refunds and creation of an organized criminal community. The CrimeRussia has found out that after the institution of a criminal case in Russia, his father Aleksander Bronovsky, known for his ties with ‘Russian mafia’ in Brooklyn, started transferring family assets to his partner Grigory Solovei. This story has all elements of a detective fiction: from smuggling of stolen American cars to Russia to governmental contracts with Russian customs authorities and U.S. investor visas.
Lincoln cars from Bronovsky
Aleksander, father of Mark Bronovsky, has immigrated with his family to the U.S. in the 1990s and settled in the Jewish community of Brooklyn. At that time, members of ‘Russian mafia’, including Evsei Agron, Marat Balagula, and Boris Nayfeld, had wielded significant power in the immigrant world (The CrimeRussia wrote about them earlier). According to the Russian law enforcement authorities, Bronovsky senior has established good friendly and business ties with these people and founded, jointly with them, Sotby Transocean Line Inc. (currently Sotby Inc.) whose Vice President was some Grigory Solovei. In 1994, Aleksander Bronovsky and Grigory Solovei have founded SKM Company in St. Petersburg; 90% of its shares belonged to Sotby Transocean Line Inc.
According to the media, Solovei is a prominent member of the Brooklyn Jewish community; his role in the family business of Bronovsky includes contacts with the U.S. authorities and allocation of donations to American politicians. For instance, in 2014, he has donated a large amount of money to Republican Senator David Storobin. In addition, Grigory Solovei manages St. Petersburg assets of the Bronovsky family – although two years ago, Aleksander Bronovsky had controlled these assets himself.
In 1998–1999, entire batches of luxury foreign-made cars started disappearing from major American dealerships. For example, on September 27, 1998, six Land Rovers were stolen from a Scarborough, Maine enterprise in one night. On October 28, nine Lexus cars have disappeared from Prestige Lexus dealership located in Ramsey, New Jersey. On November 29, nine Lincoln Navigators and one Lincoln Town Car have been stolen from Burdick Lincoln Mercury located in a New York suburb. The investigation carried out by the FBI jointly with Russian law enforcement authorities has found that above-mentioned ‘Russian mafia’ from Brooklyn was behind these thefts. The stolen cars were shipped to Russia by Sotby Transocean Line Inc. belonging to Aleksander Bronovsky under the disguise of used car tires and tubes. There were no issues with the customs clearance in Russia because Dmitry Zinland, a partner of Bronovsky senior, had good connections in the State Customs Committee of the Russian Federation (later reorganized into the Federal Customs Service).
According to the case file, the new (although stolen) American cars were purchased by the 123rd Aircraft Repair Plant of the Ministry of Defense State Unitary Enterprise, MPK Iron Processing Plant, and Avrorovets ST Limited Liability Company.
In 2002, operatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the Russian Federation have arrested several persons involved into the trafficking of the stolen cars – but masterminds of this criminal business remained beyond the control of the law enforcement authorities.
Unlike his father, Aleksander Bronovsky’s son Mark is not too successful in business. In the last three years, his name was mentioned in several criminal cases. In 2014, the Investigations Directorate in the Northwestern Federal District of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR) has charged Bronovsky junior, together with lawyers of the St. Petersburg College of Advocates Aleksander Shved (he had run in 2011 for a Deputy of the Legislative Assembly of the Leningrad Region from Edinaya Rossia (United Russia) Party) and Tatiana Makarova (she earlier was a deputy head of an inter-district tax office of St. Petersburg), under part 1 of Article 210, part 3 of Article 30, and part 4 of Article 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (Creation of a Criminal Community and Attempted Swindling).
According to the investigation, Tatiana Makarova was the coordinator of a fraud scheme based on illegal value added tax refunds totaling some 4 billion rubles ($71 million). In order to give a veneer of legality to their operations, the accomplices had used more than 75 legal entities officially belonging to nominal directors under their control. The clearly structured criminal community had operated since 2009 and until 2014. The investigation believes that Mark Bronovsky and Aleksander Shved were its leaders.
Value added tax refund scheme. Source: Fontanka.ru
*according to Investigative Committee
1st stage: foundation of subsidiary company; appointment of a CEO
2nd stage: preparing a package of documents on conclusion of agreements on delivery of goods to Russia
3rd stage: package of documents is declared as VAT refund request to tax office
Tax agency makes decision to make refund; the money is cashed and redistributed among the participants
Mark Bronovsky is a member of the Board of Directors of Bank Bereit Closed Joint Stock Company (a corporate bank of Sotrans Group of Companies). Interestingly, in December 2017, Sotby Transportation incorporated in New York and belonging to Bronovsky senior has filed a lawsuit against Bronovsky junior to recover a debt over 2.1 billion rubles ($37.3 million).
After the arrest of Mark Bronovsky in Russia, the St. Petersburg assets of the family came under the control of Grigory Solovei.
“New York is the best place for investments. The place where dreams come true,” – states the official web site of EB-5 Consulting Group assisting Russian-speaking investors in obtaining immigration visas, residential permits, and U.S. citizenship under the EB-5 Program. This governmental program is in effect in America since 1990. Its mechanism is simple – for instance, a Russian citizen invests money into a project implemented with the support of the American authorities, and in exchange, he gets a possibility to quickly obtain a legal status in the U.S. The minimum amount of investments is $500 thousand.
Consulting companies, including EB-5 Consulting Group, help applicants to transfer assets and produce required documents. According to the company’s web site, its President Grigory Solovei was an advisor for Dean George Skelos, former Majority Leader of the New York State Senate. He had also participated in the election campaign of David Storobin, the first Russian speaking New York State Senator, and donated large amounts of money to him.
“Gain support of the most respected member of the Russian-speaking community in the U.S.,” – offers the web site of EB-5 Consulting Group.
The CrimeRussia obtained the list of assets entrusted to Grigory Solovei by the Bronovsky family. According to our information, since 2015, he owns 50% of shares in St. Petersburg-based Petropolis Limited Liability Company; the other 50% of shares belong to Lyudmila Bronovskaya. Petropolis has been founded by Sotrans Limited Liability Company and Pb-TRANS; Aleksander Bronovsky was its sole proprietor since 1996.
Currently Sotrans Limited Liability Company belongs to Petropolis and Cyprus-based Teamline Limited offshore company.
Since 2015, Grigory Solovei owns PiterBusTsentr Limited Liability Company. Earlier it had belonged to Mark and Ekaterina Bronovsky. In the last few years, this car dealership has won 162 governmental contracts totaling 2.4 billion rubles ($42.2 million). Under one of the last contracts, PiterBusTsentr has supplied in 2017 vehicles worth 3.5 million rubles ($61.6 thousand) each to the St. Petersburg Committee for Nature Use, Environmental Conservation, and Ecological Security and school buses for 5 million rubles ($88 thousand) each to the High School № 291 of St. Petersburg. All the governmental contracts were awarded to it on a sole source basis.
In addition, Bereit Consulting Insurance Company and Tekhtsentry Sotrans Limited Liability Company founded by Aleksander Bronovsky in 2014 and 2010 respectively have been transferred to Solovei in 2015. The total amount of governmental contracts awarded to Tekhtsentry Sotrans is some 500 million rubles ($8.8 million). Its clients include the Mariinsky Theatre, State Hermitage Museum, Baltic Customs, and Beloe Solntse (White Sun) Health Resort of the Federal Customs Service of Russia.
Apparently, the Bronovsky family has been maintaining close ties with the Russian customs authorities since the time when they were smuggling stolen cars from the U.S.