Raider and billionaire Mikhail Mirilashvili bankrupts Filmmakers Union
After a lengthy litigation, the St. Petersburg Filmmakers Union ceased its activities and has been recognized a bankrupt. This court verdict was a result of operations of a company linked with billionaire Mikhail Mirilashvili, a prominent Russian businessman, owner of a casino chain, and raider known in the criminal world as ‘Misha Kutaissky’. The CrimeRussia has investigated the role of Mikhail Mirilashvili in the bankruptcy of the St. Petersburg Filmmakers Union, which used to unite 800 moviemakers.
In summer 2016, it became known that St. Petersburg branch of the Filmmakers Union of the Russian Federation ceased its existence because of a debt accrued in the last decade. Initially, the Institute of Management Consulting Autonomous Noncommercial Organization had filed a lawsuit to recover 5.5 million rubles from the Filmmakers Union. Then Kurort Development company started purchasing debts of the Filmmakers Union from its creditors. It had acted in the arbitration litigation instead of Nevafilm Company, which the Filmmakers Union had owed over 2.5 million rubles.
Ultimately, Kurort Development has requested some 10 million rubles from the Filmmakers Union to compensate losses related to the Artist Resort in Repino. In turn, the moviemakers stated that the company had spent this money for its own needs and its claim is illegal.
Then the creditors requested to recognize the Filmmakers Union a bankrupt. The debts hadn’t been paid out, and in April 2016, bankruptcy administration has been imposed for the organization. As a result, Sergei Snezhkin, the Chairman of the Filmmakers Union since 2014, has been removed from his post, while Aleksander Babayan, the Director of the Cinema Hall on Karavannaya street, dismissed. Aleksander Shalygo has been appointed the insolvency administrator; currently he acts as the Chairman of the St. Petersburg Branch of the Filmmakers Union of the Russian Federation.
The debt of the St. Petersburg Filmmakers Union is some 20 million rubles; it has accrued during the last decade. The majority of this amount are utility arrears and maintenance costs of Repino Artists Resort.
However, upon a closer examination, this bankruptcy looks like a purposive smashup masterminded by Mikhail Mirilashvili, an authoritative businessman, philanthropist, and ‘uncrowned king’ of St. Petersburg also known in the criminal world as Misha Kutaissky of MMM. After serving an eight-year term in Kresty Maximum Security Penal Colony, Mirilashvili has returned to St. Petersburg in the beginning of the 2000s. PetroMir holding belonging to the convicted billionaire has switched from the banned gambling business to construction of cottage settlements in the Leningrad region, including the territory of Repino Artists Resort located on the Gulf of Finland shore, 40 km from St. Petersburg, and belonging to the St. Petersburg Filmmakers Union.
According to a CrimeRussia source, prior to his arrest, Mirilashvili managed to seize a land lot in Repino from the Filmmakers Union and construct a mansion on it.
After his release in 2009, the billionaire sold the home to Omar Gurtskaya, the Head of Imperia Pharma Closed Joint Stock company, and business partner of Sergei Matvienko, son of Valentina Matvienko, the ex-Governor of St. Petersburg and Chairperson of the Council of the Federation.
In November 2010, Kurort Development obtained a permit to perform survey works on a two-hectare lot in Repino (northwest from 23 2nd Novaya street) for construction of an equestrian center.
The founder and General Director of Kurort Development is Mikhail Miropolsky, brother of Dmitry Miropolsky – an old business partner of Mirilashvili. He was also the head of Repino Development company; according to the Consolidated State Register of Legal Entities, it is a part of PetroMir holding belonging to Mirilashvili.
The links between Mikhail Mirilashvili and the territory of the Artists Resort in Repino – where the construction was planned – could be also illustrated by the fact that Vladimir Shaidakov used to be the Director of the Artists Resort in the period of 2002–2010 (since 2011 he is the Director of Lenfilm Studio). According to the CrimeRussia source, Mikhail Miropolsky was a good friend of Vladimir Shaidakov. Miropolsky has also made Dmitry Meskhiev the Chairman of the St. Petersburg Filmmakers Union in 2008. A ‘bankruptcy team’ for the Filmmakers Union has been formed.
In 2007, Repino Artists Resort belonging to the St. Petersburg Filmmakers Union signed a contract to render resort services to employees of Beta company in the Repino hotel complex. The company paid 2.5 million rubles for the accommodation of its staff – but due to some unknown reasons, Repino Artists Resort has failed to render the prepaid services. According to the documents, Vladimir Shaidakov, then-Director of the Artists Resort, had made an arrangement with Beta, including the repayment of the 2.5 million rubles in 3 years with the interest rate of 17%.
Aleksey Komrakov, a cofounder of Beta, is well-known in St. Petersburg as an expert in bankrupting enterprises. He could be involved into the seizure of lands belonging to the Filmmakers Union. Later Aleksey Komrakov has sold his share in Beta and transferred the debt of the Filmmakers Union to his Institute of Management Consulting Autonomous Noncommercial Organization.
The management of Repino Artists Resort, which was friendly to Mikhail Mirilashvili, had done nothing. It has also become known that the Director of Repino Artists Resort had borrowed a large sum from Kurort Development for reconstruction of the resort. In 2011, Vladimir Shaidakov, then-Director of the Artists Resort, has issued a power of attorney granting Mikhail Miropolsky the authority to represent the Artists Resort in all matters related to the ownership of a real property located at 3 2nd Novaya street, Repino, St. Petersburg.
By 2013, the accrued debt of Repino Artists Resort has reached 5.5 million rubles. However, the Management of the Filmmakers Union in the person of director Dmitry Meskhiev had ignored this. In 2012–2014, the Filmmakers Union did not defend its interests related to Repino Artists Resort in court. The investigation has found that representatives for the Filmmakers Union had mostly skipped the court hearings. “All lawsuits have been lost. All the debts have been recognized real, – Sergei Snezhkin, the next after Meskhiev Chairman of the Filmmakers Union, has commented the situation. – Why did not they attend the court? Because it was a raiding takeover. It turns out that this is a primitive, dumb scheme designed to seize assets”.
Sergei Snezhkin, the Chairman of the St. Petersburg Branch of the Filmmakers Union of the Russian Federation
Apparently, the former management of the Filmmakers Union had pursued their personal interests. In the beginning of 2016, investigators of the Kurortny district – where Repino Artists Resort is located – have initiated three criminal cases based on the resort documents. Fontanka.ru reported that one of these criminal cases has been initiated against an “unidentified member of the resort management”. According to the investigators, in 2010–2014, the suspect had decided to appropriate a land lot with the area of 4.5 ha belonging to the Filmmakers Union on an indefinite lease right. The criminal scheme included a loan over 2 million rubles allegedly taken to purchase (based on the documents) coal for the resort boiler station. The “unidentified person” had deliberately violated the terms of the loan – which resulted in a lawsuit from the creditors and subsequent bankruptcy of the Artists Resort and St. Petersburg Filmmakers Union. Dmitry Meskhiev was one of the creditors providing loans to Repino Artists Resort.
Meskhiev has resigned from the post of the Chairman of the St. Petersburg Filmmakers Union and in June 2016 filed two petitions to the court of arbitration to be included into the register of creditors of the Filmmakers Union. The ex-Chairman of the Union requested to collect 13 million rubles from the organization.
Dmitry Meskhiev, the ex-Chairman of the St. Petersburg Filmmakers Union
Surprisingly, but the uncovered violations and newly-initiated criminal cases have not affected in any way the bankruptcy procedure and verdict of the arbitration court. The court has ruled that there is no way to restore the solvency of the Filmmakers Union, and the only solution is to sell its assets.
Sergei Snezhkin, who has become the Chairman of the St. Petersburg Filmmakers Union in 2014 and was removed from his post in 2016, explains the court decisions by good connections of Mikhail Mirilashvili. “Our city is very complicated – the atmosphere, traditions, legacy of the 1990s. There are many links that haven’t been severed yet. Take the Mirilashvili and his company – it turns out that they have strong connections, including courts. It is difficult to struggle with them, this fight is unequal”.
“Now these people decided to wrest away not only Repino, but also the Cinema Hall,” – Sergei Snezhkin said.
Cinema Hall in St. Petersburg
Sergei Snezhkin told that the current management of the Filmmakers Union had submitted a petition to Georgy Poltavchenko, the Governor of St. Petersburg, stating that the Cinema Hall would be transformed into a multimedia center.
“This is a good, spacious, and historical building – a former insurance company headquarters. The Filmmakers Union had resided in this building for 60 years – and now those people have occupied it and are trying to change something, – Snezhkin noted. – They have demanded from the city nothing less than 100 million rubles for it”.
Sergei Snezhkin has addressed the parent organization – the Filmmakers Union of the Russian Federation chaired by Nikita Mikhalkov – for help. The St. Petersburg Filmmakers Union has become a branch of the Filmmakers Union of the Russian Federation. In the beginning of 2016, the Filmmakers Union of the Russian Federation has decided to develop an action plan to pay out the debts of Repino Artists Resort and return it to the Filmmakers Union.
In August 2016, the Filmmakers Union has paid over 16.5 million rubles to the creditors (some debts had been paid our earlier) and addressed the court to recognize the full payout.
However, Kurort Development, which is claiming ownership over Repino Artists Resort, has proved in its appeal that the Filmmakers Union still owes it at least 9.3 million rubles. This debt is related to a loan taken to pay for heating and water supply of the Artists Resort occupying over 5 ha in the prestigious Kurortny district. The court of the first instance had questioned the legitimacy of the loan contract, but Kurort Development has appealed the verdict.
The CrimeRussia has become aware that St. Petersburg moviemakers are going to transfer the Cinema Hall to the Filmmakers Union of the Russian Federation: “in order to prevent any machinations it would be managed from Moscow; we will ask the central union to relocate our activities there”.
Repino Artists Resort
With regards to other contributors to the bankruptcy of the St. Petersburg Filmmakers Union: Vladimir Shaidakov is in charge of Lenfilm Studio, while Dmitry Meskhiev is an Aide to the Governor of the Pskov Region for Culture and Arts and concurrently makes movies. For example, he had cinematized The Wall novel by Vladimir Medinsky, the Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation.
However, according to the CrimeRussia source, the associates of Mikhail Mirilashvili – Miropolsky, Meskhiev, and Shaidakov – have got into quarrels because of the asset worth 500 million rubles – Repino and its territory.
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