On Wednesday morning, employees of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Federal Tax Service (FTS) made a seizure of documents at enterprises of large agro-industrial holdings. Joint events, in which several hundreds of operatives of the central office of the FSB took part, were carried out on the territory of 13 subjects of the country and affected more than two dozen participants in the agroexport market, including such giants as the Cherkizovo group and Rusagro.
The formal reason for the inspection of agroholdings that was large-scale in its geographical scope was the violation by some enterprises of the agro-industrial complex (APC) of the Charter in the sphere of agricultural products turnover, which was adopted in order to prevent unjustified tax optimization schemes, in particular, unreasonable VAT refund schemes for grain exports.
The Charter, which was signed by several thousand enterprises of the agro-industrial complex, provided for simplification of fiscal control over grain exporters subject to the purchase of products directly from producers paying the single agricultural tax (UST), which excluded the subsequent possibility of offsetting or refund of VAT.
However, during the verification of compliance with the charter, as explained in the press service of the Federal Tax Service, five of the largest sites of unscrupulous suppliers were identified, “whose activities are aimed at creating conditions for legalizing VAT, declared as part of tax deductions by processors of the grain market.”
Butt VTB with the Ministry of Agriculture
The on-site inspections of the tax authorities with the support of the FSB were held simultaneously with the takeover of the United Grain Company (UGC) and the Novorossiysk bread factory by the state VTB.
The UGC was established more than ten years ago as a result of the transformation of the Federal State Unitary Enterprise Federal Agency for Food Market Regulation under the Ministry of Agriculture. The company was vested with the authority of an exclusive state agent for grain interventions, with the help of which it was planned to maintain high prices for grain. A couple of years a significant package (50% “minus” 1 share) was transferred to the Summa group by the brothers Magomed and Ziyavudin Magomedovs, and the general director was appointed subordinate to then presidential assistant Arkady Dvorkovich Sergey Levin.
In many respects thanks to OZK, Magomedov managed to become the largest players in the field of grain export logistics. In fact, they were able to create a vertically integrated holding for exporting products: the Transgrean railway operator owned by them was engaged in transportation, the UZK was in storage and supply, and the transshipment took place through the Novorossiysk bread-making plant (NKHP).
Last spring, the Magomedovs were arrested on charges of creating a criminal community and embezzling budget funds, and their assets became the subject of interest of lenders and large financial and industrial groups.
Back in the fall, Summa’s shares in OZK and NKHP effectively departed from VTB, which held a significant part of its brothers ’assets as collateral. By that time, the State Bank already owned the Novorossiysk Grain Terminal (NRT), the second and last point of transshipment abroad, and the absorption of NKHP, in fact, made its position in the market a monopoly. Last year, grain exports through the Novorossiysk Sea Transport Port amounted to 12–14 million tons, moreover, the cost of customs “cleaning” tons of grain reached $ 28 (for comparison: neighboring Ukraine handles tons for 8–10 dollars).
However, the state bank failed to remain the sole owner of a “narrow neck” to Europe.
Last spring, when an investigation was launched against the Magomedovs, the head of the Agricultural Bank, Dmitry Patrushev, was appointed Minister of Agriculture.
Peres in the chair of the federal minister, the son of the Secretary of the Security Council of Russia for a long time sought a rotation in the leadership of the UGC.
In October, UZK was left by its director, Mikhail Kiyko, who was appointed a few years ago thanks to the support of Ziyavudin Magomedov and the former head of the Federal Drug Control Service Viktor Ivanov. However, the post of the head of the company was taken by the representative of VTB, and Patrushev Jr. could only be introduced to the board of directors of his deputy Dmitry Sergeev.
In early February of this year, VTB seems to have taken a majority in the council, electing four representatives headed by President Andrei Kostin (two people were elected to the council from the Ministry of Agriculture, another delegated by the Federal Property Management Agency), but Dmitry Sergeyev will be appointed Director General The directive has already been prepared.
This appointment will make it possible to balance the forces between the ministry and the bank, which has a dominant position in the share capital and the board of directors of UGC, but the struggle for the enterprise development program and the transshipment of grain through Novorossiysk terminals will continue.
Billions are at stake
Simultaneously with the beginning of the redistribution of the infrastructure that provides for the transportation and export of grain, the Ministry of Agriculture was concerned about restoring order in the market for the production and supply of agricultural products. So, at the end of last year, within the ministry, it was decided to create a new union of producers and exporters of grain, which should replace the current Russian grain union. Being a non-profit association, this union is an effective mechanism for artificially regulating exports: it distributes transfer quotas, sets the conditions for fumigation (that is, purification from harmful insects) of export lots.
You can have any amount of grain, but if it has not passed the phytosanitary control and you have not received a transshipment quota, you can only sell it in the domestic market. It is clear - with a big discount.
When the methodical part of establishing a new vertical of grain sales was rebuilt, the state moved to the practical part.
The same Charter in the sphere of agricultural products turnover, non-observance of which led to large-scale checks, in fact, is a declarative document, if not to say conceptual. Signed by agroholdings and accepted under the pressure of the Federal Tax Service, it only recommends exporters to buy grain products directly from producers without subsequent refund or offsetting VAT (for which it seems that it guarantees simplified fiscal control). In this regard, many market participants continued to purchase products from traders, stated VAT to offset or return.
This absolutely legal operation from the point of view of the tax code turned out to be questionable from the point of view of the signed charter, allowing the regulatory authorities to find a formal reason for conducting the inspection.
It is noteworthy and the division of the FSB, which is charged with promptly accompany this tax raid. By virtue of internal instructions, counterintelligence at the enterprises of the agro-industrial complex is carried out by the 7th Division of the SES FSB Office P, however, in the development of agro-producers, the operational initiative belonged to employees of two departments of the K Department of the FSB Federal Tax Inspectorate and the banking sector.
This is particularly symbolic in view of the background of the current top of the Ministry of Agriculture - the minister and his subordinates, right up to the heads of departments, come from the Agricultural Bank. The bank through which subsidies were given to large agricultural holdings and, therefore, knowing all the ins and outs of their financial operations.
The practice of recent years shows that any measures of state support in the form of direct subsidies or tax incentives allow supervisory authorities to consider tax optimization or benefits as embezzlement. And owners of agricultural holdings, most of whom are regional elites, who until recently quietly lined up protection through the Rosselkhoznadzor and Rospotrebnadzor and found a common language with the management of tax inspections, have to fear the consequences - they are now in the counter-intelligence service of the financial and credit sector.
"According to the results of these activities, an assessment will be made of the degree of involvement of the largest mills, livestock, feed and other processing plants in the illegal scheme to minimize tax liabilities and thereby gain unjustified competitive advantage over other market participants who conduct transparent procurement activities without tax risks" - stated in the FTS on the results of inspections.
The main question: what is the war? The answer is obvious: for a lot of money. And in currency.
Grain is becoming a more important source of export revenue than oil and gas. Here are the numbers: in 2019, with a total planned volume of agricultural exports of $ 25 billion, 10 should be given directly by grain, and another 7 - by oil and fat products produced on its basis. That is, it is about 15-17 billion dollars a year - a lot of money by the standards of our besieged fortress.