Shadow of Berezovsky: why Abramovich became a threat to public security in Switzerland

The unseemly side of the big Russian business is well known and often recorded in court documents around the world. This is an additional risk factor for participants in high-profile processes of the nineties and naught, especially when Russian citizenship is becoming increasingly toxic.
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Seven years ago, Krysha and kinut with these concepts from the world of semi-criminal Russian business enriched the lexicon of judges, who in London considered Boris Berezovsky’s claim against Roman Abramovich. At the same time, other interesting details of the enrichment of both businessmen became known, for example, a bogus collateral auction of Sibneft and ties with the Kremlin. It is difficult not to draw a parallel between the events of those years, which have already begun to be forgotten, and the wording printed yesterday in the Swiss editions of Tages-Anzeiger and Der Bund. "The threat to Switzerland's public safety and reputation" - according to journalists, the federal police (Fedpol) reacted when Abramovich applied for a residence permit in the canton of Valais in 2016.

The fact that the billionaire, who had symbolized Russian money in the West for many years, fell out of favor with the Swiss authorities, the local press allegedly found out at the end of last year. But she published it only now - when the futility of Abramovich’s attempts to block the publication of details about the refusal to grant a residence permit became apparent. With such a lawsuit businessman, for example, turned to the media holding Tamedia (it includes Tages-Anzeiger and Der Bund).

What exactly does not like the Swiss law enforcement? Abramovich is allegedly suspected of money laundering and contacts with criminal structures - the Swiss media received such information in response to a request from Fedpol. What exactly these suspicions are based on is unknown. “Any suggestion that Mr. Abramovich was involved in money laundering or has contacts with criminal organizations is completely false,” said Abramovich’s lawyer, Daniel Glasl. “Mr. Abramovich was never accused of involvement in money laundering and had no criminal record.”

Lawyers interviewed by Forbes agree that the authorities in Switzerland do not have evidence of Abramovich’s connection with criminal organizations. "If the Swiss law enforcement bodies had this evidence, they would have already brought charges to Abramovich and frozen his accounts in Switzerland," says Sergei Litovchenko, a leading lawyer at Pinsent Masons LLP. Goldblum and Partners partner Dmitry Pichugin reminds that financial institutions should be the first to signal money laundering. "The bank or the management company, after discovering the violations, should apply to the Money Laundering Reporting Office (MROS), the Office - to the prosecutor's office, and the prosecutor's office decides whether the case will be initiated or not. Since banks are obliged to regularly update client files and information, it seems unlikely that the bank hides the facts of Mr. Abramovich’s money laundering from supervisory authorities, ”the lawyer said.

And with the fact that it is the past of Abramovich (including recorded in the documents of the High Court in London) that can cast a shadow on the origin of his capital, the interlocutors of Forbes agree. “Abramovich’s defense was based, among other things, on recognizing the fact of payments to Berezovsky for the“ roof ”- that is, illegal payments,” Litovchenko argues. - In this case, Abramovich, of course, can be considered a victim. But formally this, like many other facts recorded in a court decision of an English court, can be interpreted as participation in money laundering. ” Litovchenko recalls that Nikolai Glushkov, a former top manager of Aeroflot and Berezovsky’s associate, found dead in his home in London in March 2018, spoke at the trial in London. Glushkov claimed among other things that in Russia, in the criminal case against him in the early 2000s, transactions with Laren Trading Limited, owned by Abramovich, had to do with allegations of money laundering. But it is worth noting that the High Court of London recognized Glushkov as an unreliable witness.

Another parallel. A few weeks after Berezovsky lost to Abramovich, the High Court of London began to consider another process involving Russian businessmen. Then F 19 turned to Oleg Deripaska with his former partner Mikhail Chernoy, demanding recognition of his right to 13.2% of UC Rusal. This lawsuit was not so loud, but also highlighted many details. Like Abramovich, Deripaska argued that Chernoy was not the real owner of shares in the aluminum business, but provided a criminal roof. At the trial, the names of Anton Malevsky and Sergey Popov were heard, which were regularly associated with both Izmailovsky and Podolskaya organized criminal groups.

The unsightly wrong side of big Russian business, in which the border between criminal and legal is extremely blurred, is well known - including bystanders. Lawyers and sanctions experts have repeatedly told Forbes that the US authorities make decisions about sanctions, including on the results of Internet surfing. In April of this year, Deripaska, who has not been able to get a US visa for many years, got into the sanctions list of the US Office for Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Among the reasons - "regarding Deripaska there was an investigation of money laundering, he was suspected ... of involvement in extortion and racketeering."

And while Deripaska is trying to approve from OFAC a plan to reduce the stakes in his assets in order to withdraw them from sanctions, Abramovich is also restructuring his assets - as if trying to shield from future problems. How else to explain the symbolic reduction of its share in the company Crispian Investment (owns a stake in MMC Norilsk Nickel) to 49.95% after the sale of long-time associate David Davidovich a symbolic 0.05%.