King without port
The trial of oligarch Mikhalchenko for alcohol smuggling has begun. But during the hearings, questions have popped up not only about the further fate of the businessman but whether he still is or ever was an oligarch.
The trial of Dmitry Mikhalchenko in Basmanny District Court of Moscow has begun with a surprise. The defense had prepared to sharp twists and aggressive stance of the state prosecution – but no one was ready to the events that occurred during the first hearing. According to sources, nothing foreboded the speech delivered by the businessman – at the first court session, it was planned just to determine the order of proof for the prosecution and identify the suspects.
The direct speech of Dmitry Mikhalchenko has caught everybody unawares, including the judge and defense. The billionaire said as follows: “I am not the mastermind behind the smuggling. I had contributed to its exposure”. The businessman has also partially admitted his guilt and apologized to those affected by his “injudicious actions”.
Dmitry Mikhalchenko in court
Then the judge has interrupted the oligarch because he did not expect to hear confessions so early, prior to the completion of all the mandatory formalities of the first hearing. In the end of the court session, Aleksei Mishenko has admitted his guilt partially, while Ilya Pichko – in full. Only Boris Korevsky still remains in denial.
The unexpected confessions of Dmitry Mikhalchenko have screwed things up for his defense. According to some information, the defense attorneys had planned his admission of guilt – but later. The impromptu of their client was a complete surprise. The sources state though that the relations between the oligarch and his defense are pretty unusual. The CrimeRussia already wrote that the team of Dmitry Mikhalchenko does not have a general picture of the situation. Only Mikhalchenko has it. In any case, it is necessary to understand that these confessions were not accidental or driven by emotions. The true reason behind that speech were some events occurring around Dmitry Mikhalchenko and these events relate to his trial only partially.
The suspects in the smuggling case have been detained in March 2016. According to the investigation, Dmitry Mikhalchenko, General Director of St. Petersburg-based Forum Holding, was the mastermind behind the smuggling of expensive wines and other elite alcohol. The products were purchased in stores of EU countries, gathered in the Hamburg port, and shipped to Russia under the disguise of sealant materials. It is known that Dmitry Mikhalchenko has already compensated the damages inflicted to the state in the amount of 18 million rubles ($306.9 thousand).
And Then There Were None
In fact the statement that he “had contributed” to the exposure of a criminal group running smuggling operations made by Dmitry Mikhalchenko confirms conclusions of our sources that in the case against well-known brokers Igor Khavronov, Aleksei Marchukov, Boris Avakyan, and high-ranked law enforcement officers loyal to them, this is a counterblow delivered by Mikhalchenko as a revenge for Khavronov’s testimony against him.
Broker Igor Khavronov (escorted from the courthouse after arrest)
The oligarch does not want to become a suspect in further criminal cases that can be easily instituted by the investigative authorities. It is not a secret that there were plenty of cases pertaining to smuggling in the Northwest in 2017. Prominent figures in the customs and stevedore commerce disappear one by one similarly to the 10 statues from the novel by Agatha Christie.
Our sources believe that the main reason behind the confessionary statements of governor 24 is the fear to share the fate of his St. Petersburg predecessor Vladimir Kumarin-Barsukov.
Such gloomy prospects made the businessman to chicken out. “Should the charges be reclassified and the organized group excluded, I am ready to admit the guilt in full and ask for the special procedure,” – he told in Basmanny court. In fact, this is an invitation for the investigators to start lengthy conversations.
It is not a secret that the team of Mikhalchenko had initially considered this criminal case an attack against his pet project – Port Bronka. But we know that today the port does not belong to the billionaire anymore – it has been transferred to the family of Evgeny Murov, ex-Head of the Federal Protection Service of the Russian Federation.
Experts estimate investments required for Port Bronka operations at 118 billion rubles ($2 billion). As of today, the total investments into the port are estimated at 60 billion rubles ($1 billion), including 43.7 billion rubles ($745.1 million) from private investors and 15.9 billion rubles ($271.1 million) from the state.Robbed as a sheep among the shearers
Concurrently with the surprising confessions of Dmitry Mikhalchenko, the media have published information that the businessman is, in fact, broke. It was reported that another project of the oligarch – the Multifunctional Documents Center – has also been transferred to the Murov family via Lyudmila, spouse of Evgeny Murov. She turned out to own a share in Izmeron Limited Liability Company, another asset of Dima Krikun (Dima the Crier). In addition, she now owns 50% of Fenix Company (Port Bronka), and, according to Sobesednik newspaper, the luxury country home of Mikhalchenko in Ovsyany village.
The wealth of Dmitry Mikhalchenko is estimated at 18 billion rubles ($306.9 million). His main company – Forum Holding – has assets in various spheres, including the Universal Documents Center, Kirov Textile and Threads Plant, commercial real estate management in passenger terminals, elite restaurants Buddha-Bar Saint Petersburg, IL Lago dei Cigni, and Tse Fung, brand-name clothes stores, Izmeron factory (one of the main equipment suppliers for Gazprom), and Baltstroy company – the leader of the restoration services market.
By now, the oligarch and his family have lost almost all their assets. Experts comment this information differently, and the opinions are divided. Some sources believe that this is a wise trick, others – that this is a bitter forfeit, while still others suppose that the oligarch could have nothing from the very beginning.
Version one. Salvation
Immediately after the arrest of the billionaire, independent experts had forecasted issues not with the holding as a whole – but with individual businesses run by its companies. In fact, Evgeny Murov used to be the ‘high-ranked patron’ of Dima Krikun and supervised both Port Bronka and the Multifunctional Documents Center. The CrimeRussia already wrote that the oligarch had, in fact, wangled the Multifunctional Documents Center out of Murov in the framework of the Bronka project. The transfer of assets to the former enforcement functionary seems a logical move – although his positions have weakened, very few would dare to challenge Murov even now. Should the series of criminal cases against governor 24 continue, all his assets might be seized and confiscated. Because the oligarch hasn’t been convicted yet, the only way to save the assets is to transfer those to a trusted confidant.
Evgeny Murov, ex-Head of the Federal Protection Service
Version two. Payment for mitigation
According to another version, the oligarch has been plainly robbed. Due to the current stalemate situation with unknown consequence, Mikhalchenko had to part with his assets to avoid life imprisonment. Rumors about the sale of Bronka had circulated since summer 2017. Then it was reported that allegedly no one is demanding the businessman to give up the port. Some sources believe that the majority of his assets were a kind of ‘payment’ for the assistance and compensation for troubles sustained by the Murov family due to the criminal prosecution of the oligarch. It is not a secret that Evgeny Murov had to resign amid the criminal case against Mikhalchenko.
Lyudmila Murova, spouse of Evgeny Murov
Version three. Frontman
The ascension of Dmitry Mikhalchenko was completely based on the connections in law enforcement authorities. It is a widely known secret that the oligarch had promoted the ‘patronage’ of enforcement structures in the business circles and covered up shady businesses of enforcement functionaries. Therefore, some sources believe that the lion’s share of businesses officially owned by Dmitry Mikhalchenko, as a matter of fact, had never belonged to him. In other words, Port Bronka, Multifunctional Documents Center filled with wire-tapping equipment, and other assets could belong to the Murov family from the very beginning. At that time, these assets had to be concealed due to the supreme position held by Murov. Now he is a retiree, while the businesses of Dmitry Mikhalchenko are in jeopardy – so, it is time for Murov to set things straight and grab what is rightfully his. The oligarch’s role in this entire story is pretty unfortunate – he may become another ‘frontman-turned-scapegoat’.
The prosecutors want the former Russian Federation Council member to go to prison for 14 years instead of 9 and pay a 500-million-ruble ($8.8 million) fine instead of 70 million rubles ($1.2 million).