Russian chess master turns into a criminal shoe dealer 

Russian chess master turns into a criminal shoe dealer
Vladimir Myronovych Palikhata Photo: the official website of Vladimir Palikhata, president of Moscow Chess Federation, philanthropist and public figure.

After “attracting” top-menegment of a popular shoe holding CentrObuv, a well-known raider Vladimir Palikhata drove the company to bankruptcy, withdrawing remained assets to the structures under his control. Leonid Venzhik – Palikhata’s playmate, who is in his turn supported by the company’s shareholders, is conducting current management of the holding.

The long history behind the planning and conducting a forcible takeover of property that belonged to the richest Russian shoe empire was revealed only in October 2015. Within two months, a number of individual entrepreneurs and legal entities filed a bankruptcy petition for the CentrObuv Trade House Joint Stock Company.

Among those eager to drive the company to bankruptcy there happened to be a seemingly unremarkable Eddyprom company, which in fact initiated the bankruptcy proceedings in the first place. The company was registered in late April 2015 and immediately started to "fit in the shoe case."

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Photo: information about Eddyprom company

Five months after creation of Eddyprom, the company had already acquired a debtor – Limited Liability Company (LLC) CentrO (with a debt estimated at 1,5 mln. rubles), which belongs to the CentrObuv Trade House (0,01%) and to a Cyprian offshore company Plazia Consulting Ltd (99,99%).

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Photo: CentrObuv ownership scheme 


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Photo: information about Plazia Consulting Ltd

This debt was created on a completely fictitious pretext — such schemes are quite common nowadays. First, the Eddyprom Limited Liability Company allegedly concluded a contract with the CentrO LLC. In reality, the latter had no clue about it, but was to fulfill the obligations of the fictitious contract. Pretending to be duped, Eddyprom appealed to the pre-selected arbitration court of St. Petersburg, and the cute judge Alina Sladkovskaya delivered a pre-paid judgment, which also remained a mystery for CentrO.

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Photo: Alina Igorevna Sladkovskaya – arbitration judge.

Since CentrO failed to do anything about the situation and did not repay fictitious debts, Eddyprom referred to the Arbitration Court of Moscow. In the middle of October 2015, the company received an execution writ to enforce the arbitral award. After that, tired of waiting for the "promised" payback, Eddyprom applied to arbitration and filed a bankruptcy petition for the CentrO LLC.

Among the creditors of the shoe holding was a number of banking institutions, which was not convenient for the other creditors, most of which were controlled by the notorious Vladimir Palikhata. Through them and by creating fictitious debts, Palikhata used his extensive raiding experience in an attempt to knock the banking institutions out of the bankruptcy estate, to deprive them of all possible income from the sale of the debtor’s property (CentrObuv Trade House and CentrO LLC), as well as to appoint a loyal arbitration manager for the relevant case.

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Photo: Vladimir Palikhata, master of illegal takeovers.

This time Palikhata attacked from both sides: in addition to seeking control over the creditors, he exercised his influence over all of the top management of the companies facing bankruptcy, namely CentrObuv and CentrO.

The shoe company was founded in the 2000s by the U.S. citizens Dmitry Svetlov and Anatoly Gurevich, who were also shareholders of the CentrObuv group of companies and together controlled more than 55% of the company’s shares. Later, the shareholders’ group expanded, including Leonid Makaron, Vladimir Leviy, Sergey Lomakin, and Artyom Khachaturyan as the new members. Soon they also appointed a new chief manager, Andrey Nesterov, and even gifted him 0.5% of the shares. However, Nesterov had stayed a shareholder for only two years. In late 2013, he was removed from the shareholding committee, receiving a solid compensation of $ 3 million. At the same time, Nesterov's efforts as CEO were called into question. During his reign, Nesterov took out multiple loans, was caught misusing company’s funds and framing-up the operating rates to demonstrate better business results and thus receive bonuses. The Board of Directors had to dismiss Nesterov, who wandered into the wilderness.

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Photo: ownership scheme 

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Photo: information about CentrObuv Trade House

Once the miserable manager left, the company started climbing up the hill, preferring to avoid taking loans, unlike Nesterov. Still, in 2014 the company found itself in a quandary, so the shareholders started planning a voluntary bankruptcy.

At that time, Dmitry Svetlov suddenly recalled Nesterov as ‘a light in the darkness.’ The old new 'savior of the company' promised to pay $ 50 million to shareholders in exchange for 100% of the shares, and offered to make him the owner. The shareholders obviously did not expect such impudence and flatly refused. However, in less than a month, at the end of April 2015, they changed their minds upon receiving ‘strong advice’ in the form of threats and blackmail. They subsequently agreed to transfer their shares to Nesterov and Svetlov and refused to participate in the management by signing a corresponding agreement.

It was through Andrey Nesterov, Dmitry Svetlov and Anatoly Gurevich that Vladimir Palikhata decided to fulfill his wish and ‘broaden his horizons’ by becoming ‘the master of the shoe business.’ Palikhata promised to invest about 4 billion rubles in CentrObuv. However, having infiltrated the management, he immediately changed the rhetoric and began appointing loyal men for key positions.

Vladimir Palikhata managed to appoint his childhood friend Leonid Venzhik a new director general of the CentrObuv Trade House. The company is currently managed by a person who is implicitly executing all sorts of orders from Palikhata. One phrase is enough to describe Venzhik’s personality — ‘master of catering.’ Being paid decent salary as the director general of a large company, he actively pulls all the remaining funds from the operating accounts and transfers them to his patron. He seems to be a suitable man for the job, judging by his criminal record for hazing (art. 206 para. 2, p. B of art. 244, p. V of art. 244 of the Criminal Code of the Soviet Union).

Right after appointing Venzhik as head of the company, Palikhata made two attempts to eliminate CentrObuv on a voluntary basis, aiming to steal the company’s property and avoid meeting the creditors' claims.

To his great regret, those attempts were thwarted by the leadership of the Moscow Tax Inspectorate, who qualified his actions as an attempted theft of the CentrObuv’s property.

Starting October 2015, Vladimir Palikhata began to actively withdraw money from the company, transferred all clearing accounts into Binbank, and used CentrObuv’s funds for satisfying his personal needs and those of the ‘obedient’ managers, who were covering the tracks of his embezzlement. At the same time Palikhata started to threaten the former shareholders of the shoe company, reminding them of his connections in the central apparatus of the Federal Security Service (FSB). He demanded from the shareholders to pay back the company’s bank loans and to officially transfer the shares of CentrObuv to him, without waiting for the final settlement.

Before the takeover, the CentrObuv Company purchased goods from the foreign supplier, SinaiTradingLimited, while CentrO LLC served as a mediator. After that, the trading house sold the received goods in Russia through a network of retail stores. But in mid-2015, sensing the easy money, Palikhata recruited ‘shoe managers,’ and together they brought down the whole balanced system. Next the CentrObuv Company started carrying out fictitious purchases of goods from third-party organizations, increasing its colossal debt. As a result, the company’s debt to the Russian suppliers is now almost 1 billion rubles. Almost $ 100 million more is owed to foreign suppliers.

Additionally, the CentrObuv Trade House owes more than 35 billion rubles for the credits taken in Sberbank of Russia, Credit Bank of Moscow, VTB, Gazprombank, and other banks. All this money, thanks to Venzhik’s assistance, was allegedly used to purchase goods and for other needs, while in reality it got transferred to the organizations controlled by Vladimir Palikhata. In a short period of time, the businessman was able to reimburse the money he spent organizing the forcible takeover.

One of the CentrObuv shareholders told the CrimeRussia that before initiating the bankruptcy process Palikhata had planned to transfer the assets of the CentrObuv group of companies (1.5 billion rubles, 150 equipped points of purchase, trademarks, etc.) to the Russian company Zenden, owned by Andrey Pavlov and Mikhail Lysenko. However, this scheme was foiled by a number of shareholders who still cared about the fate of a dying company.

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Photo: Zenden company

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Photo: information about Zenden company

At the time being, Palikhata, along with Nesterov, Svetlov and Venzhik, is struggling to funnel as many assets from the company as possible and to prepare it for bankruptcy. He is fathering all the problems on the toppled shareholders of the company who are still trying to negotiate debt restructuring with creditor banks.

Few people are even surprised by such schemes. If you happen to find a profitable business with poor level of protection, Palikhata and his raiding team are always there to seize the opportunity. His notoriety exceeds him, and the chess master is unlikely to get rid of this stigma.

Some sources on the Internet imply that in the 90s Palikhata was a member of the Ukrainian criminal gang Ternopolskaya. Later, after moving to the Moscow region, Palikhata became a defendant in a criminal case under the articles “Fraud” and “Forgery.” Palikhata was arrested, but soon released on bail, and the criminal case was soon closed. This was the starting point in the life of the future raider.

Over the next 10 years Palikhata hit it big. In the early 2000s Palikhata already owned two LLCs with a minimum capital. He then acquired a cottage near the village of Zhukovka for a few million dollars, and invested in real estate in England and France.

Palikhata appeared in quite a number of scandals, such as a dramatic story around the Univermag Moskva, the struggle with the businessman Kerimov accompanied by frame-up criminal cases and kidnapping, the seizure of the Ukrainian mechanical engineering enterprises, a criminal case on police extortion from Palikhata, the seizure of the Moscow Institute for the design of basic chemical industry plants (one of them was subsequentlt obtained by Palikhata’s brother Ivan), the illegal takeover of the Ulyanovsk plant Contactor and the building of the Novoye Vremay magazine on Pushkin Square in Moscow, the organization of raider attacks on the Elastomeric Materials and Products research institute, and many more.

Before the article was published, the CrimeRussia editorial staff had asked Vladimir Palikhata and Leonid Venzhik for comments. The two had deflected inquiries, so the article was published in its original edition.



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