Russian money in Western jurisdictions becomes a kind of "toxic" asset. This phenomenon has a political nature and a wide range of consequences. In particular, for those processes involving Russian citizens who prefer to resolve their commercial disputes in London or New York, rather than in Moscow or in Tyumen. Russia is now perceived as a source of threat. The less leniency one should wait for separate "legal customs", for example, the initiation of criminal cases as a tool in a commercial conflict. And even more so to attempts to cross-border use of powers of law enforcement agencies in the interests of one of the parties.
That's why it seems to me that soon one of the most scandalous "Russian" processes will be the trial between ex-Senator Leonid Lebedev and his former business partners Viktor Vekselberg and Leonid Blavatnik. My forecast is based not on the sonority of the names and not on the price of the matter ($ 2 billion), but on the fact that the court in New York will be presented with documents that show how, on the instructions of American lawyers, Russian police demand from colleagues from Ireland and from Cyprus to provide them with exhaustive information about the activities of local companies. It will be an excellent occasion to speak absolutely not unfounded about corruption in Russia and about attempts to export it to Europe and the United States.
"Knocked" in Telegram.
- Are you Irek Murtazin?
- Can you confirm that it's you?
"Call, we'll talk ..." I suggested to go to the audio connection.
My unknown interlocutor continued to ask questions.
- Are you a Novaya Gazeta journalist, the author of the article "Duplicate to Dublin"?
I did not have time to reply when a new message arrived:
"Perhaps this will interest you."
The message was attached to several files. This was the correspondence of lawyers from the US and Russia discussing (in English) the "Request for Legal Aid", sent to the Ministry of Justice of Ireland by the police captain from Tver, Nikita Matveyev, and other materials from criminal cases brought in Tver and Yaroslavl. Judging by the dates and content, both the request and the materials of the criminal cases were at the disposal of lawyers long before my publication.
While working on the publication, I also met Leonid Lebedev. He did not comment on the preparations for the trial in New York (Andrei Shtorkh, spokesman for Renova Vekselberg and Blavatnik also declined to comment). But Lebedev answered questions about the past. In particular, about the criminal case on the smuggling of weapons from Ukraine to the warring Yugoslavia, the figure of which was Lebedev 15 years ago. One of the Ukrainian "weapon barons", before taking up the supply of a deadly product, worked for a company whose small stake in the early 90s belonged to the ex-senator.
In early 2004, the Turin court put an end to this process, having come to the conclusion that Leonid Lebedev was not involved in arms smuggling. But a few years earlier, when negotiations were under way to sell a stake in TNCs to British BP, it was the status of a suspect in the criminal case that prevented Lebedev's legalization as a shareholder in the Russian oil company. Then Vekselberg and Blavatnik's request to remain in the shadow in order not to upset the deal with the British seemed to Lebedev adequate, because they had always fulfilled financial obligations to him before the "informal shareholder" before him.
These obligations arose in 1997, when an auction was held to sell 40% of TNK shares. Lebedev lost, but became a partner of Blavatnik and Vekselberg and contributed several tens of millions of dollars to the "common pot", his own shares of TNK (1.8%) and TNN's main production company, Nizhnevartovskneftegaz (10.5%). And in return, de jure received nothing.
In 2001, the partners gathered in New York and agreed that Lebedev is entitled not only to 15% of TNK shares, but also to the same share in all revenues of the oil business. And for a long time Lebedev received pre-agreed money - and dividends, and a share from the sale of TNCs to the British. Payments were made through the Irish company Coral Petroleum Limited, to which the firms controlled by Vekselberg and Blavatnik, for three years passed bills of $ 600 million.
But when TNK-BP was sold to Rosneft, during the year Lebedev tried to get a payment of two billion dollars - 15% of the amount received by his partners from the deal with Rosneft. But to no avail. I had to go to court. And since the negotiations on the distribution of shares in profits from the activities or sales of TNCs were conducted in the US, the lawsuit was filed in the court of New York.
"Cancel the claim, or everything will be bad"
Today it no longer looks like an accidental coincidence that shortly after filing a suit in court in New York Leonid Lebedev started to have problems in Russia. So serious that in May 2015 he was forced to resign from the senator. And on September 7, 2016 Lebedev became a figurant of the criminal case.
Back in March of this year in the publication "The Echo of New York on the Volga," I talked about how law enforcement bodies managed to build an international criminal case from a banal dispute about who did not pay whom for gas. In particular, on February 25, 2013 the SU of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia in the Tver region instituted criminal proceedings against the management of companies of Tver Utilities (TKS) and Territorial Generation Company No. 2 (TGC-2).
According to the story of the criminal case, TKS concluded a gas supply contract with Gazprom Mezhregiongaz Tver and did not pay for it. The fact that the end consumers owed the company an amount exceeding the debt to gas suppliers, the investigation did not notice.
Three months after the start of the trial in New York, on May 16, 2014, another criminal case was opened in Russia - already against the managers of TGC-2 and TKS.
In May-October 2015, the former TGC-2 top manager met with Andrey Korolev, the chairman of the board of directors of TGC-2, who joined a company controlled by Vekselberg. Two meetings took place in Moscow, one in Brussels. According to Korolev, the "negotiator" strongly advised persuading Lebedev to withdraw the New York lawsuit. Like, otherwise "it will be bad."
"He said that if the suit in New York was not withdrawn, then I and Lebedev would be in the prison cell by the end of the year," Andrei Korolev told me earlier this year.
Lebedev did not withdraw the claim. But the "negotiator" did not deceive. A few days passed, and the status of the Queen in the "debt" criminal case changed from a "witness" to a "suspect".
However, it is obvious that the focus of the investigation was not Korolev and certainly not the managers of a lower status, but Leonid Lebedev himself. In the course of the investigation, dozens of managers of the enterprise were questioned. And everyone was asked whether Lebedev participated in the company's management, whether he gave orders. But all the interrogated persons testified that Lebedev "did not participate", did not "give orders".
As a result, he was able to attract Lebedev in the status of a suspect only upon the application of the offshore company Lonicera Participation Corp, which owns 0.0045% of TGK-2 shares (perhaps this is also an accidental coincidence, but Lonicera Participation Corp turned out to be closely related to the Renova group controlled by Viktor Vekselberg ). The head of the investigative department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia in the Tver region, Lieutenant-Colonel Alexei Pushkarev took less than 24 hours to check the arguments of the Cypriot company and to issue a 23-page decision to open a criminal case in which Lebedev was listed as a suspect.
According to the version stated in the resolution and signed by Pushkarev, in 2013 TGC-2 concluded a number of agreements with offshore companies, for which it paid large advances. But the agreements were not implemented, and the money in TGK-2 did not return. At the same time, there was no preliminary verification, and Pushkarev ignored that since 2008 43% of TGK-2 shares owned by Leonid Lebedev were transferred to trust management, and the ex-senator did not participate in the operational management of the company. Pushkarev did not pay attention to the fact that money returned to TGK-2 for a long time, and even with a gain, that is, there was no financial damage to the company.
Days of Ireland in Tver
I will not tell you anything about this criminal case itself, because its circumstances do not seem to bother even the investigators in whose production it is located. Tver policemen set themselves completely different tasks. In particular, the captain Nikita Matveev, who is the senior investigator for particularly important cases of the Investigative Department for Investigating Organized Crime Activity of the Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia for the Tver Region, sent a request to Ireland for legal assistance.
As an experienced officer, Captain Matveyev could not help but imagine how much work his Irish colleagues needed to collect to collect hundreds of pages of documents on the financial and economic activities of companies registered in Ireland, on banks and depositories in which their accounts were opened, information about individuals, managing accounts. Matveyev actually asks the Irish colleagues to conduct interrogations, searches and seizures.
In the document there is also a long list of questions that must be asked the people who are interested in the captain.
Here, for example, one of the questions from dozens of similar ones:
"Who was / is from the moment of foundation to the present shareholders / members, controlling persons, principals, beneficial owners, full beneficiaries, real beneficiaries of Agragorn Holdings Limited, Coral Petroleum Limited? Who initiated the creation of Agragorn Holdings Limited, Coral Petroleum Limited? What documents took shape in the light of this? What projects Agragorn Holdings Limited, Coral Petroleum Limited carried out in the context of financial and economic activities? Identify the main counterparties? What is the relationship between Coral Petroleum Limited and Agargorn Holdings Limited? Did Corral Petroleum Limited control the activities of Agragorn Holdings Limited? If so, how?
All this has a very indirect relation to the plot of the criminal case, and I would never have been able to understand the reason for Captain Matveyev's interest in such details if I had not learned that one of the key issues in the New York process is whether the Irish company Coral Petroleum Limited received promissory notes as a payment for Lebedev's share in the sale of half of TNK shares to British Petroleum, and then for three years and dividends from TNK-BP.
The connection between Coral Petroleum Limited and the criminal case brought up in Tver is, frankly, ghostly. One of the managers, and not a suspect, but a witness, previously worked for Agragorn Holdings Limited, the founder of Coral Petroleum Limited. And this "catch", according to Captain Matveyev, is enough to put the Irish police on the ears. What can we say about how the criminal case in Russia is being investigated. About debts for gas, it seems, already and do not recollect.
For example, one of the witnesses told Novaya Gazeta that during the interrogation, he was asked 29 questions related to the companies Agragorn Holdings Limited and Coral Petroleum Limited. At the same time, the first question was: "Do you know the company Agragorn Holdings Limited?" But despite the negative answer, the next questions were: with whom of the representatives of the company you met, who initiated the meetings, how they contacted, at what address is the office of the company, who took you to work for Agragorn Holdings Limited, who managed the company, how many people worked in the company staff, the structure of the company, the banks in which it had accounts, could Leonid Lebedev manage the company's accounts, did you keep correspondence with your employees Agragorn Holdings Limited? ..
Question: and if the investigation succeeded in interrogating a witness who had anything to do with the activities of the Irish firm, how would she dispose of this information, if she, it seems to me, is not capable of influencing the progress of the investigation in the criminal case?
In a request sent to Dublin, Captain Matveyev stressed: "The SU of the Department of the Interior of Russia in the Tver region guarantees that any information and documents received as a result of the request will be used only for the purposes of the investigation in the criminal case to collect evidence in the criminal case during its consideration in court and will not be used for any other purposes ... "
If you compare this statement with the correspondence of American lawyers, which was given to me by an anonymous source, then I have to admit that either of them lies: either Anonymous or Captain Matveyev.
After all, in correspondence, lawyers from the United States and Russia, apparently realizing the legal faulty receipt of materials from criminal cases brought in Russia, are discussing how to "legalize" these materials at the trial in New York.
This includes, among others, the "Request for Legal Aid" by Captain Matveyev.
For example, on March 30, 2017, at 3/3/2013, three months before the date of publication of my publication, a letter was sent from the United States to Russia, the author of which specifies that from his "certified translations" received three documents:
"Firstly, this is a request for assistance filed by Russian investigators to the Irish authorities. Like other requests for legal assistance in collecting evidence, it contains a useful summary of <...>. Likewise, the second document is a request for legal aid to the Cypriot authorities <...>.
The third document that I'm interested in is the translation of the hand-written questionnaire (presumably by L.L. Lebedev), filled in for an English visa <...>.
I'm sure that there are still a lot of interesting documents (including testimony of witnesses), but I wanted to get these interesting information as soon as possible ... "
On the same day, March 30, but in the morning, at 11.46, a letter from Russia to the United States leaves, in which the author questions whether "we can file these documents with the court".
And here is what the recipient of this letter replied: "We are still working to determine whether we can use these documents in New York, but we do not have clarity on this issue."
This correspondence looks as if materials from criminal cases in Russia get to lawyers involved in the process in New York, as they say, first-hand. The Criminal Code of Russia for disclosure of the preliminary investigation data provides for liability - under art. 310. But if we assume that police officers in Tver receive direct instructions from the United States, what questions should be asked by witnesses and what documents and information should be requested in foreign jurisdictions, then another qualification of their actions is possible.
"Leakage" and CSS
Of course, I'm not ready to fully trust this anonymous source, but, firstly, the materials I received from it are in excellent agreement with other circumstances of the case. And secondly, my sources are already attracting serious interest not only from readers.
Speech is about what.
The "Duplicate Dublin" investigation was published in the "New" on June 26, 2017. And in the first days of July I got a call from the Ministry of Internal Affairs. A police officer who introduced himself, named his name, surname, position and rank, said that he needed to interview me about the publication of Captain Matveyev's request.
My interlocutor was interested in how I got a copy of this document.
- Send an official agenda, than I can - I will help. I can, for example, copy this request for you. But I want to warn you that we never name sources of receiving documents and information.
The agenda never came to me. But after the conversation in Telegram I was able to find out that the Irish inquiry was interested in the Department of Internal Security of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs. According to our source in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the materials collected by the CSS officers, including data on the "supply channel" of private American lawyers with documents from criminal cases brought in Tver, have been submitted for procedural decision to the investigative body and the General Prosecutor's Office of Russia. There is also a report on operational search activities in these materials, to which the screenshots of correspondence between lawyers of the United States and Russia, mentioned by me, are attached.