On Thursday, March 28, Viktor Ishayev, the former governor and ex-plenipotentiary in the Far Eastern Federal District, was detained. He is suspected of embezzlement in Rosneft structures. However, the media also linked the policy with the machinations of the forest in the Far East. A few weeks before Ishaev was detained in the government of the Khabarovsk Territory, searches were conducted in the framework of a criminal case initiated against the deputy chairman of the regional government Vasily Shikhalev and businessman Alexander Pudovkin. According to investigators, Shikhalev lobbied for granting the preferential status of Asia Forest LLC, which was led by Pudovkin. The estimated amount of damage is about 10 billion rubles. Together with Asia Forest, other companies also received benefits from the regional government, which are also associated with the persons involved in the criminal case. The state granted privileges to foreign firms and companies owned by Roman Abramovich.
Tidbit for China
“The share of the Khabarovsk Territory in the volume of untreated wood production in Russia is 6%, in the Far Eastern Federal District - 51%. Over 350 enterprises are engaged in the development of forest resources for all types of use in the Khabarovsk Territory, ”the website of the regional Ministry of Economic Development says.
China plays an important role in the forest industry of the Far East. According to the Federal Customs Service, total exports of raw wood from Russia in 2017 amounted to 19.4 million cubic meters, more than 66% of deliveries (12.9 million cubic meters) fell on China.
Despite the large volume of legal wood supply to the Middle Kingdom, the region is not spared from the problems associated with reforestation and “black cuttings”. In November 2018, due to these reasons, politicians seriously thought to temporarily limit the export of wood to China.
“China is the main market where wood is exported [from Russia]. I told the [Chinese] minister one simple thing. If we do not put things in order in the near future, including from China, we will close wood exports to China completely. <...> I’m not saying that this needs to be done, but probably it will have to be done for a certain period of time, ”the Russian Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology Dmitry Kobylkin said, responding to the speaker of the Federation Council Valentina Matvienko when asked about when the problem of illegal logging and export of timber for export will be solved in the Russian Federation.
Key players of the Far East
Untreated wood exports remain the most attractive for entrepreneurs, although the government of the Far East is trying to focus on processing.
In January 2017, Vyacheslav Shport, who served as the governor of the Khabarovsk Territory, ordered to provide state support to two companies: Lesprom DV LLC with the project to create a timber processing complex in the Lazo region and Logistic Forest, which proposed to build a wood processing plant in the region worth 3.4 billion rubles.
Priority status allows businessmen without an auction to receive forest land necessary for the implementation of projects. In turn, the cost of rent will be reduced by half until the company reaches full payback.
According to the regional Ministry of Economic Development, as of September 2017, several enterprises received state support - these are OJSC Dallesprom, Rimbunan Hijau, JV Arkaim, Amur Forest, Vostochnaya Trading Company and Asia Forest. We will tell about the most interesting of them.
Dallesprom JSC - one of the largest enterprises of the Khabarovsk Territory - is part of the RFP Group, which is registered in the Cyprus offshore. According to the structure of the share capital posted on the company's website, the holding’s investor is the Russian-Chinese Investment Fund, established in 2012 by the Russian Direct Investment Fund and China Investment Corporation.
In 2013, Vedomosti wrote that the owner of a 33% stake in the RFP Group is Roman Abramovich. The publication also named Alexander Abramov and Alexander Frolov, co-owners of Evraz Group, and Stephen Jennings, owner of the Renaissance Group structure, as shareholders.
According to SPARK-Interfax, the revenue of the company RFP Forest Logging, which is managed by Dallesprom JSC, in 2017 amounted to 5.8 billion rubles, Dallesprom itself earned 5.6 billion rubles during this period.
The state support company Rimbunan Hijau is also a state-owned Malaysian holding that operates in Russia. The holding is controlled by several Russian companies, whose revenue for 2017 exceeded four billion rubles. “Rimbunan Hijau” appears in the media infrequently, as well as its general director Tiong Chiong Hung.
Benefits did not help
However, not all businessmen are doing well in the Far East. For example, LLC JV Arkaim, which received state support, is in the process of liquidation.
According to Novaya Gazeta, in 2011, Arkaim signed a contract with Vnesheconombank's subsidiary, ZAO Kraslesinvest, for the supply of special equipment worth 104 million rubles. Arkaim did not fulfill its obligations, so Kraslesinvest appealed to the court.
Moreover, the equipment was not the property of Arkaim, but was acquired by it in leasing, and therefore could not be sold. According to this fact, in 2014 a criminal case was initiated by the UK office in the Krasnoyarsk Territory. According to "New", at the moment the investigation on it is suspended.
However, the fame of the whole country JV “Arkaim” LLC received in 2013 during the press conference of Vladimir Putin. Tatiana Sedykh, editor-in-chief of the newspaper My Coast, told about the plight of the company and the fact that three thousand people could be left without work.
According to Novaya Gazeta, Alexander Lepikhov, who at that time held the position of general director of Arkaim, wrote a letter to the president, in which he accused the Vnesheconombank leadership of its plight. He concluded his letter with a proposal to sell Arkaim (on the verge of bankruptcy) to VEB's subsidiary, ZAO Kraslesinvest.
Oleksandr Lepikhov is a defendant in the criminal case on the fact of non-payment of wages to employees of the company from December 2017 to April 2018. "Kommersant" writes that a criminal case is currently being considered in court against the management of the enterprise of the timber industry enterprise on the fact that more than two billion rubles in taxes are taken away. Now in “Arkaim” the owner is changing, the rebranding of the project in “Novy Les” is expected.
Persons involved in criminal cases and their communications
“Logistic Forest” and “Asia Forest” are of much greater interest - these companies are interconnected. Logistic Forest is owned by two brothers, Ivan and Alexey Pudovkin. Based on the data of "SPARK", in 2018, the first entrepreneur held the position of CEO of Asia Export. Now, according to Kommersant, the company is headed by Vasily Shikhalev, the youngest who previously worked in RFP Group structures (we wrote about her above), the son of the former first deputy chairman of the Khabarovsk Territory government, Vasily Shikhalev.
Among the co-owners of Asia Export LLC is the president of one of the largest timber processing enterprises of the Far East, BM Group, Alexander Pudovkin.
In mid-March, FSB operatives searched the government of the Khabarovsk Territory. This is a criminal investigation into abuse of authority and fraud. The estimated amount of damage is about 10 billion rubles. Figures of the case were the former first deputy chairman of the regional government Vasily Shikhalev and businessman Alexander Pudovkin. According to the investigation, Shikhalev lobbied for granting preferential status to the project of Asia Forest LLC, a member of BM Group. On March 20, the Khabarovsk court arrested the men for two months.
Eight days later, the former governor of Khabarovsk and the former Plenipotentiary of the Far Eastern Federal District Viktor Ishayev were also detained. At the time of the official’s detention, the media wrote that the security forces had visited him precisely because of the machinations with the forest. However, later it became known that Ishayev may be involved in the theft in the structures of Rosneft.