Benjamin Grabar did not hide in the shadow of "Ladoga"

The Sun confirmed the prosecution of the unofficial owner of a large company.
The five-year confrontation between the Federal Tax Service and the owner of one of the largest producers and importers of alcohol in St. Petersburg - the Ladoga group Veniamin Grabar - ended in a victory for the service. The case went through all judicial instances and ended in the Supreme Court (Supreme Court): in its determination, it is stated that Mr. Grabar, despite the lack of formal evidence of this, is the owner of a business that was deliberately bankrupt, and how his beneficiary should bear subsidiary liability. The amount of tax debts of the bankrupt Ladoga is 1.5 billion rubles. Lawyers believe that this is one of the largest disputes forming the practice of bringing to subsidiary liability.

The Federal Tax Service has succeeded in bringing the sun to the subsidiary liability for bankruptcy of the shadow beneficiary of a business reorganized to evade taxes. We are talking about the owner of the Ladoga group of companies, Veniamin Grabar. Five years ago, the Interregional Inspectorate of the Federal Tax Service for the largest taxpayers No. 3 issued a decision to hold the Ladoga industrial group (SG) (production and distribution of alcoholic beverages) liable. The claims of the Federal Tax Service were based on the results of declarations and tax audits of 2014-2015. The inspection revealed that the Ladoga PG bought containers at inflated prices from front suppliers and "decorators" - one-day firms. The leaders of these companies explained that they were only nominee directors, most of the funds received were withdrawn through a Cyprus bank to a foreign company.

Debt to the budget according to the results of tax returns and field tax audits conducted in 2014-2015 amounted to more than 1.5 billion rubles.

The case in which the Ladoga PG went bankrupt and its owners made asset transactions was considered for a long time in the judicial system. Last week, the judicial board of the Supreme Court finally confirmed: Veniamin Grabar was the beneficial owner of the Ladoga PG - and bears subsidiary responsibility for its debts.

According to Kommersant, Veniamin Grabar himself (now the president of Ladoga Distribution), he “disagrees” with the definition of the judicial board of the Armed Forces. The opinion that he is the owner of the Ladoga PG, in his opinion, was created by journalists who misinterpreted his words. Mr. Grabar told Kommersant about his intention to file a supervisory appeal with the Presidium of the Armed Forces to review this determination in a supervisory order.

“This is an important case-law decision to bring shadow beneficiaries to subsidiary liability, which will be used in the future,” says Svetlana Tarnopolskaya, partner at the Yukov & Partners Bar Association. According to her, there are few such cases right now, because, firstly, it is difficult to establish valid beneficiaries (who are not legal business owners) - they do not advertise themselves, and secondly, even in relation to those who publicly position themselves as beneficiaries of companies, For example, in communicating with government agencies and the media, it is extremely difficult to prove control over the debtor and the relationship of their key decisions with bringing the company to bankruptcy. Therefore, usually either former directors or majority participants are held accountable.

“The decision of the court on the owner of the Ladoga group of companies is important because at the level of the highest court it establishes the inadmissibility of applying a formal approach to establishing the role of a controlling person,” says Ms. Tarnopolskaya. "you should not read only the job description, but you should identify concerted actions to manage assets and take into account the result of these actions." According to the lawyer, “this is what we lack in courts that apply a formalized approach on the principle of“ what is documented - that is, what is not fixed - that isn’t ”.”

In itself, the precedent in the practice of subsidiary liability of the Federal Tax Service received almost exemplary. We are talking about a specialized business in which tax evasion is traditionally widespread, the business itself is more or less asocial in the eyes of society, and the service clearly did not focus on the scenario of a quick and show trial - five years on the trial of such a large case (this, in essence, the first major subsidiary liability case involving a relatively large business) looks quite “European”. Finally, the actions of the opponent of the Federal Tax Service look quite demonstrative: selling someone’s property complex on their own daughter’s day on bankruptcy can hardly be considered as “formal observance of the rules of the game”.

Subsidiary liability brought the budget more than 10 billion rubles
According to the Federal Tax Service, over the past three years, more than 10 billion rubles have been received from dependent and controlling entities in the budget. So, in 2019, the shadow beneficiary of the Krasnoyarsk company Incom was brought to subsidiary liability by the efforts of the Federal Tax Service and the bankruptcy trustee. In the case of Metallglavsnab LLC (No. A32–54256 / 2009), the Krasnodar Territory Arbitration Court, after supporting the FTS position by the Supreme Court in September 2019, granted the application and brought subsidiary liability to the real business owners - as a result of their concerted actions in anticipation of bankruptcy, the company's property was bred to affiliated beneficiaries. In the framework of this dispute, seizures were made on accounts, real estate and other property of business owners, the amount of claims against them amounted to more than 813 million rubles. In the case of Impulse LLC (No. A12–41074 / 2016), the arbitration courts of three instances upheld the statement of the Federal Tax Service on bringing its final beneficiaries to subsidiary liability, whose concerted actions led to the withdrawal of more than 1.1 billion rubles. (the company was a subcontractor of works for PJSC RusHydro) - although the beneficiaries also transferred the activities and revenues of the enterprise to affiliated and interdependent entities. Assets of the defendants are seized for the entire amount of debt to the budget. In these cases, liabilities to the budget arose due to the withdrawal of funds from the company through one-day firms on the basis of formal workflow. In the framework of the case of New Tobacco Company LLC (No. A41-592 / 2018) about bringing to subsidiary liability in March 2018, more than 600 million rubles were received in the budget, tax officials in court proved the transfer of the debtor's assets to a company controlled from Cyprus.

At the level of the Armed Forces, a number of criteria have already been developed to establish actual ownership and control, among them - synchronized actions of subjects in the absence of objective economic reasons; the contradiction of these actions to the economic interests of the debtor with a simultaneous substantial increase in the property of persons held liable; the fact that these actions could not take place under any other circumstances, except in the presence of subordination of one to the other, etc., indicates Svetlana Tarnopolskaya from Yukov and Partners. According to her, the more such practices, the easier it will be to establish the responsibility of shadow owners in bankruptcy of companies.