Whose law enforcement ‘cover’ is better? Stavropol entrepreneurs divide business of slain Head of Rosneft
Aleksander Chernukhin, ex-Head of Rosneft Stavropol’e, left behind a massive and secretive business empire. He was killed over assets and bank accounts with large amounts of money nominally belonging to third parties. Four years after the murder of Chernukhin, the inheritors still continue dividing his legacy and sometimes lay hands on assets he had never owned officially. After exchanging threats, the conflicting parties decided to gain support of law enforcement structures.
Stavropol businessman Roman Suvorov addressed the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR), Prosecutor General's Office, and Boris Titov, Presidential Commissioner for Entrepreneurs' Rights, accusing the widow of slain Aleksander Chernukhin, ex-General Director of Rosneft Stavropol’e, of raiding takeover. According to Suvorov, many ventures of Chernukhin had officially belonged to third parties. After his murder, widow Tatiana Chernukhina started retrieving assets of her late husband. At some point, she has claimed a business Chernukhin had nothing to do with.
In 1996, Aleksander Chernukhin became the General Director of Stavropol Neftebasa Limited Liability Company (Mikhailovsk). Then he was appointed a Deputy General Director of Stavropol’e company established by the regional government. In 1998–2000, under the rule of Governor Aleksander Chernogorov, he was a leading specialist in the secretariat of the regional vice premier. Then Chernukhin transferred to Rosneft Stavropol'e and became its General Director. Over time, he was elected the Chairman of the Board of Trustees and Deputy Chairman of the Board of Directors. In 2004, he took charge of Rosneft Stavropolneftegaz specializing in crude oil production.
Scene of the murder of Chernukhin
The work of Chernukhin in the subsidiary company of Rosneft was marked by a high-profile scandal. Former employee Vladimir Tyurin (he had administered a gas station earlier belonging to Rokada) has published information compromising Chernukhin: allegedly, he started appointing his relatives and friends to supreme positions in the company and forced managers of more than 120 gas stations to install new fuel metering software for cash desks and fuel dispensers in 2007. According to Tyurin, the software included a special algorithm dispensing to clients 500 ml of fuel less per each 10 L of gas purchased by them. Tyurin calculated that this ‘underfilling bug’ had generated 35 thousand rubles (some $1.4 thousand at the exchange rate of that period) per day on each gas station. Vladimir Tyurin claims that the ‘saved’ funds were distributed directly between company’s top managers, including Aleksander Chernukhin, and ‘right persons’ in the Prosecutor’s Office and police covering up these machinations.
Dmitry Gudkov, a Deputy of the State Duma from Spravedlivaya Rossiya (Just Russia) Party and member of the Public Council of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the Russian Federation, joined the probe launched to verify the published information. Shortly after that, a criminal case was instituted against Tyurin for extortion of 8 million rubles (some $320 thousand at the exchange rate of that period) in exchange for non-disclosure of information compromising Rosneft.
Shortly before the end of the investigation, Vladimir Tyurin went on the run and was put on the federal wanted list. Ultimately, he was sentenced in absentia to 8 years in a penal colony. In addition, the Kislovodsk City Court has ruled that the published information about unlawful actions “was not substantiated and the purpose of its publication was not to discharge civic duty or protect legitimate rights and interests of citizens – but only inflict damages to the plaintiffs and compromise their dignity and business reputation”. Territorial managers of the oil company filed lawsuits against Tyurin to compensate moral damages – and the court ordered to recover from him 50 thousand rubles (some $2 thousand at the exchange rate of that period).
In the aftermath of that story, on December 26, 2011, Aleksander Chernukhin has voluntarily resigned from Rosneft Stavropol’e and started a business. In January 2015, he was killed near his mother’s home by four pistol shots in the chest. His body with four wounds in the back and chest was found in the Toyota Land Cruiser belonging to the businessman. It was established that the killers were his personal driver Andrei Mazko and his son of the same name – Andrei Mazko junior. Chernukhin has registered in their names real properties, cars, bank accounts with large amounts of money, and 0.5 kg of gold stored in one of the banks. All these assets had belonged to the slain businessman. Chernukhin had completely trusted the killer. The total value of assets transferred by Chernukhin to father and son Mazko was 61 million rubles (some $1 million at the exchange rate of that period). The driver decided to murder his boss in order to appropriate this wealth. Mazko senior has secretly entered the car and was hiding there. The unsuspecting businessman has got behind the wheel – and the assassin opened fire through the back of the driver’s seat. Chernukhin died on the scene. Father and son Mazko have been charged under paragraph “h” of part 2 of Article 105 (murder committed out of mercenary motives), part 5 of Article 33 and paragraph “h” of part 2 of Article 105 (preparations to murder), paragraph "b" of part 4 of Article 158 (theft committed on an especially large scale), and Article 222 (illegal acquisition, transfer, sale, storage, transportation, or bearing of firearms) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. In May 2018, Mazko senior was sentenced to 21 years in a maximum security penal colony, while Mazko junior – to 17 years behind bars.
Andrei Mazko senior and his son
Shortly after the tragic event, the widow started retrieving businesses of her late husband from his confidants – official owners of properties and assets.
Tatiana Germanovna Chernukhina currently owns eight operating companies; she became a shareholder in the majority of these legal entities after 2015. Her main assets include Flagman (Flagship) Trade Center, Europark Trade and Office Center, and a residential complex of the same name in the center of Stavropol.
Flagman Trade Center
Businessman Roman Suvorov claims that Tatiana Chernukhina had repeatedly demanded him to transfer his business to her threatening with criminal prosecution. After his yet another refusal, law enforcement structures have carried out a series of checks and searches and questioned him. Neither breaches of the legislation nor indications of Chernukhin’s involvement with the business run by Suvorov were identified. Still, Tatiana Chernukhina hasn’t abandoned her claims and continued threatening him. The businessman had to submit a complaint against her actions to the law enforcement authorities.
Roman Suvorov used to be a cofounder of Start Development Closed Joint Stock Company specializing in construction; in February 2016, it ceased its operations. On the same day, a limited liability company of the same name was established; its cofounders were Tatiana Germanovna Chernukhina (widow of late Aleksander Chernukhin) and German Aleksandrovich Chernukhin (apparently, Tatiana’s father). The same person – Igor Gennad’evich Gaponenko – was the director of both companies.
Cheeseberry restaurant chain
In the same year of 2016, Roman Suvorov got rid of another profitable business – Cheeseberry restaurant chain. He ceased to be a cofounder of TD Cheeseberry Limited Liability Company. Currently, he is just an individual entrepreneur, Deputy Chairman of Pillar of Russia Stavropol Regional Organization, and member of the Public Council of the MIA General Administration for the Stavropol Krai. Apparently, Suvorov has support in regional law enforcement structures – but, for some reason, he decided to escalate a commercial dispute to the federal level by submitting complaints to the ICR, Prosecutor General's Office, and Boris Titov.
According to Suvorov, Tatiana Chernukhina enjoys the patronage of high-ranked law enforcement functionaries: reportedly, she has booked an appointment and “even gained the support” of Igor Ivanov, Director of the Investigations Directorate in the Stavropol Krai of the ICR, and ICR Chairman Alexander Bastyrkin.
Suvorov claims that Chernukhina had tried to meet with heads of law enforcement structures to make complaints against illegal actions of law enforcement operatives Suvorov had never heard of.
In other words, the business operators are trying to engage law enforcement structures in their commercial dispute. The outcome of this conflict still remains uncertain.