The Liechtenstein prosecutor's office is investigating the former owner of Vneshprombank (VPB) Georgy Bedzhamov on suspicion of money laundering. It began at least in 2016, according to Liechtenstein's financial intelligence materials (RBC has it, their content was confirmed by a source familiar with the proceedings between the Deposit Insurance Agency (DIA) and Bedzhamov in the High Court of London). DIA acts as the receiver of the bankrupt VPB, which owes creditors over 200 billion rubles.
According to the documents, the Liechtenstein financial intelligence (subordinate to the country's prosecutor's office) established that the companies associated with Bedzhamov and his sister Larisa Markus, who headed Vneshprombank, transferred more than $ 140 million (about 10 billion rubles) to bank accounts in Liechtenstein and Switzerland in 2012-2015. ... In particular, these accounts received more than € 130 thousand from the International Bobsleigh Federation and about € 1 million from the Russian Bobsleigh Federation (Bedzhamov headed it before leaving abroad in 2016), follows from the materials.
"In Liechtenstein, an investigation is underway on suspicion of money laundering in connection with the above facts," the Deputy Prosecutor General of the Principality Frank Haun said in response to the request of RBC, adding that at this stage of the investigation he could not provide more details, including the names of the suspects , names of companies and banks.
Haun noted that “the investigation is ongoing” and “being conducted by an investigating judge” (in a number of jurisdictions, investigating judges deal with cases during the preliminary investigation phase). "There are incoming requests for mutual legal assistance (MLA. - RBC) from Russia and outgoing MLA to Russia," said the Deputy Prosecutor General of Liechtenstein.
The Central Bank revoked the license from Vneshprombank in 2016, during the bankruptcy it owed 200 billion rubles to creditors. In Russia, Georgy Bedzhamov was arrested in absentia, and his sister Larisa Markus was sentenced in 2017 to 8.5 years in prison. DIA is suing Bedzhamov in the High Court of London. The agency is demanding $ 1.75 billion from the banker; its assets within this amount are frozen. Bedzhamov's well-known property is estimated much cheaper: the banker himself told the court that his fortune was about $ 500 million, and his annual income was $ 2 million.
Bedzhamov's well-known assets include a villa in France and real estate in London, but these are pledged to creditors. According to the DIA, the collateral is fictitious and created to protect assets from Vneshprombank. In September 2019, a High Court judge noted that after the sale of a stake (33%) in the Badrutt's Palace Hotel AG on the shores of Lake St. Moritz in Switzerland and the deduction of expenses for lawyers, Bedzhamov's accounts left $ 12 million.
To find the allegedly hidden assets, DIA hired A1 investment company (part of Alfa Group), and in addition to providing legal support to the case, it launched an advertising campaign to find the assets of Bedzhamov and Markus in Russia and the UK.
The DIA "is aware of the initiation of a criminal case against the former co-owner of Vneshprombank Georgy Bedzhamov by the law enforcement agencies of the Principality of Liechtenstein," a representative of the agency told RBC. "The agency has no right to comment on information about investigative actions against Bedzhamov in Russia and about the agency's filing of statements with law enforcement agencies," he added. RBC sent a request to Bedzhamov's lawyer.
What the financial intelligence of Liechtenstein found out
The investigation into Bedzhamov and Markus is mentioned in an analytical report from 2016 by the Deputy Head of the Financial Intelligence Unit of Liechtenstein (Financial Intelligence Unit) Michael Schöb (since 2019 he has been the head of FIU). According to a source familiar with the course of the dispute between Bedzhamov and the DIA, the documents signed by Schöb were intended for the Liechtenstein banks Valartis and LGT, which turned to the Liechtenstein prosecutor's office. They became interested in the operations of Bedzhamov and Markus after the ex-owner of the VPB left Russia for Monaco and declared him on the international wanted list in 2016. The report may include, among other things, the money withdrawn from Vneshprombank, writes the deputy head of the Liechtenstein financial intelligence.
More than 90 million Swiss francs were transferred to accounts associated with Bedzhamov and Markus, the Liechtenstein financial intelligence service said. Basically, as follows from the report, the money went to the account of the Panamanian Orange Tree Investment, created in the interests of Bedzhamov, in the Liechtenstein Valartis Bank; There are also indications that another 40 million francs have been transferred to the company's account with the Swiss bank Vontobel. In US currency, all together is more than $ 143 million.
In Valartis, ten accounts were opened for different companies - eight in the interests of Markus and two in the interests of Bedzhamov, according to the data in the Shoba report. One of these companies was called Markus Larisa.
DIA accuses fugitive banker of creating a scheme for transferring assets to offshore
Funds came to Markus's accounts from the Swiss bank Vontobel, to Bedzhamov's accounts from Estonia and Switzerland, Liechtenstein's financial intelligence believes. “The money was mainly used to buy luxury yachts and real estate,” the report said.
Panama's Orange Tree Investment, in particular, received € 31.9 million from Eurotex, about € 18.8 million from Sliverrow, € 12.8 million. from IMET Group and € 10.6 million from Venus Corporation, about 40 million more francs were transferred to the Orange Tree's Swiss account, the document says.
The report also states that intelligence considers British Silverrow and Eurotex to be "offshore companies that were controlled from Moscow," both have the same email address. The companies were registered in Birmingham and Edinburgh, Silverrow was liquidated on September 6, 2016, according to the British register.
Separately, the Liechtenstein financial intelligence indicates that in 2013 Orange Tree received about € 1 million from the Russian Bobsleigh Federation (the description states that the purpose of the payments was an advance payment for sports equipment) and more than € 130 thousand from the International Bobsleigh Federation from an account in the LGT bank ( in the description of payments we are talking about "prize" and "contributions" in favor of the Russian Federation).
Regarding the outflow of funds, Schöb notes, among other things, that Orange Tree transferred € 21 million to the German shipyard Lurssen, and the transfers to Lurssen are most likely related to the construction of the luxury yacht Ester III. The specialized portal Superyachtfan called Bedzhamov the owner of Ester III, in 2016 it was sold in connection with the lawsuit of the French bank BNP Paribas against Bedzhamov in the Gibraltar court. The yacht was bought by the owner of the Liverpool football club John Henry, the portal estimates its cost at $ 90 million.
Among the relatively small expenses, the materials include the transfer of € 1.1 million to the British company Basel Properties, which is directly owned by Alina Zolotova (also called Bedzhamov's wife).
Schöb noted that the prosecutor's office for the canton of Zurich in Switzerland is conducting its own investigation. It cannot be ruled out that a large amount of assets was withdrawn from Vneshprombank or from the accounts of its clients using offshore companies and through accounts in Liechtenstein and Switzerland, the deputy head of financial intelligence wrote in 2016. Then he offered to initiate proceedings against Bedzhamov and Markus.
The press service of the prosecutor's office of the canton of Zurich later reported to RBC that since 2016, the prosecutor's office has been investigating two cases - one against Bedzhamov and one against Markus - on suspicion of money laundering. “As always, the presumption of innocence is valid until the final completion of the process,” they added.
The CEO of the Liechtenstein bank Bendura (the new name of the Valartis bank) Andreas Inzam told RBC that information about customer accounts is a bank secret. “We cannot disclose the fact whether the financial intelligence report was made - and if it was, then when,” he added. RBC sent inquiries to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the TFR, the Russian Bobsleigh Federation, the International Bobsleigh Federation, as well as the Vontobel and LGT banks, the prosecutor's office of the canton of Zurich.
“A1 considers it necessary to bring to the London court all aspects of Bedzhamov's illegal activities on the withdrawal of Vneshprombank's assets and to achieve a fair outcome of the project - the return of all his debts to creditors. To achieve this result, we will use, among other things, the results of the investigation conducted against Bedzhamov by the Liechtenstein prosecutor's office, ”said Kirill Babayev, a member of the A1 board.