The Spanish prosecutor’s office accuses Mikhail Fridman of “economic siege” and attempted “raider seizure” of mobile operator Zed World Wide (ZWW) in 2016, writes the Financial Times, which had at its disposal court documents in this case. Anti-corruption investigator Jose Grinda Gonzalez, in a court statement, described Mr. Friedman’s attempt to seize ZWW as a “raid”. Mr. Friedman denies the allegations against him.
In court documents, it was noted that in 2016, the Russian billionaire tried to acquire ZWW at a ridiculous price of € 20 million, which is "much lower than its market value." Having been refused, Mr. Friedman, according to the prosecutor’s statement, launched a “siege” on ZWW and its parent company Zed +. For this, the billionaire allegedly influenced VimpelCom’s decision to terminate its cooperation with Zed +, which brought ZWW 40% of revenue. Owned by Mr. Friedman, LetterOne owns 47.85% of voting shares in VimpelCom, now called Veon.
In addition, according to the prosecutor, Mikhail Fridman played a “key” role in deciding one of ZWW’s potential lenders: the Russian billionaire has an indirect equity stake in Amsterdam Trade Bank (ATB), which was part of a syndicate of banks that refused to grant a ZWW loan, after why the mobile operator was forced to declare insolvency.
Mikhail Fridman himself denies all the accusations against him, and his representative said that he was sure that “the court will dismiss the case after the judge has the opportunity to listen to Mr. Fridman’s testimony and examine certain evidence in this case.” Mr. Friedman is scheduled to testify in October, notes the Financial Times. At the same time, the statement sent by Mr. Friedman’s lawyers to the court said that the billionaire “is not and never was a director neither legally nor in fact” of either Veon or Amsterdam Trade Bank, and also did not know about the latter’s participation in a banking syndicate working on a loan ZWW. ATB already noted that the bank itself was a minority participant in the syndicate and could not make decisions on granting loans alone. At the same time, as the bank assured, the shareholders, including Mr. Fridman, were not involved in the discussion of this issue.
The publication also notes that the case of the ZWW raider seizure is for the most part based on the testimony of the founder and former managing director of the mobile operator Javier Perez Dolcet. He told the prosecutor that "he received messages with threats that push him ... to sell LetterOne, and someone left a note on the glass of his car threatening his children." LetterOne has already stated that it conducted its own verification of these testimonies and concluded that neither Mr. Friedman nor the company itself has anything to do with threats against Mr. Dolset. At the same time, Mr. Dolset himself is under investigation in this case, and previously spent 21 days in a pre-trial detention center, being suspected of fraudulent activities.