The indicative arrest of Senator Suleiman Kerimov in France is an alarming sign for the entire Russian elite, which is united by a dark past and numerous compromising links. But even in this series, billionaire Andrei Melnichenko looks very impressive. His EuroChem has a corporate dream: in 2018, it is going to turn into the king of the fertilizer market - to become a full-fledged producer of them. These are considered to be corporations capable of producing the entire spectrum of existing types of fertilizers - nitrogen, phosphorus and potash. With the first two types, Evrokhim has everything in order. But potassium Melnichenko is not given.
The reasons are different, but the main one is a tough confrontation with solid opponents. Which, apparently, can "help" deal with the king of fertilizers. Recall that the problems of Suleiman Kerimov also began with an attempt to establish control in the potash fertilizer market. After that the entire empire of the Dagestan senator collapsed, and he himself was behind the French bars.
Dreams about the development of deposits of potassium salt "Eurochim" has been breeding for a long time. The first target was the Gremyachinskoye field in the Volgograd region. The largest field in the European part of Russia was supposed to be the first after the collapse of the USSR implemented from scratch project ... But it did not. "Eurochem" received a license for Gremyachinskoye back in 2005, from 2006 to 2009. Exploration and preparation for operation was carried out. Start the project, "EuroChem" planned in late 2013, but so it did not. In November 2014, the official launch period, defined by the license, expired. The first mining in the shaft of the Gremyachinskoye mine took place only in September 2016.
But the extraction did not start, and the official launch date has moved as far back as 2018. According to a similar scenario, events developed on two more territories of Eurochem - the Palashersky and Balakhontsevsky Verkhnekamskoye deposits. Their development began in the distant 2008, after EuroChem won at auction the right to extract potash and magnesium salts. Trial mining took place only in November 2016, after which the launch period was also moved "to the right", and now it is expected that production will begin this year.
All these long delays in the development of quarries take place in a very disputed field. Since 2012, Eurochem has been in litigation with the former contractor of one of the facilities of the Gremyachinskoye field, the South African company Shaft Sinkers. First, Eurochem reproached the contractor for using inefficient technology (which supposedly led to a delay with the commissioning of the mine). Then the tone rose sharply: the Russian company accused Shaft Sinkers of "undisguised fraud burdened with bribes." It is assumed that one of the employees of Eurochem allegedly was paid to implement the whole scheme. True, somewhat embarrassing the size of the amount paid - several hundred thousand rubles. That is exactly what, according to Eurochem, was enough to cover up the ineffectiveness of the work of Shaft Sinkers.
But apart from the insignificant (in terms of business scale) amounts in this case there are other interesting circumstances. South African Shaft Sinkers is controlled by a trio of Kazakh oligarchs - Alexander Mashkevich, Alidjan Ibragimov and Patoch Chodiev, none of whom, however, live in Kazakhstan. Those, in turn, also filed a lawsuit against Evrokhim, where they accused the owner, Andrei Melnichenko, of plotting to steal internal documents. The legal dispute with the ex-contractor was settled only in early 2016.
By this time, the housing of Andrei Melnichenko and his wife Sandra in Belgrade were shaken by explosions. Bombs were thrown in such a way that their detonation frightened tenants and neighbors, but there were no casualties. Thus, there is nothing surprising in the fact that the new yachts of Alexander Melnichenko, despite all the talk about their special design, actually look more like warships whose main task is to provide the owner with safety.
Between the KGB and the bandits
Andrei Melnichenko is a graduate of the legendary physics and mathematics boarding school for gifted children. Legendary this institution was made by operatives of the KGB, who were looking for talented young people to train future specialists in the field of cryptography. Andrei Melnichenko did not succeed in finishing the physics faculty: the era of "socialism with a market person" began, which pushed the physics student out onto the street (in the literal sense of the word). Melnichenko changed the vague prospects of the cryptographer to a quite real chair of the deputy head of the exchange office of the Moscow bank "Premier", and a couple of years later he managed the exchange network, which then turned into a MDM bank. The bank, in turn, has turned into a real monopolist in the wholesale currency market.
It was special, that still "market". Moscow airports regularly flew airplanes loaded with cash dollars, which were then transported to Russian banks, and they handed them to their customers who used cash in cash for settlements in trade transactions. In the opposite direction (but only for the most part from the Baltic ports), raw materials followed, as well as the remnants of Soviet weapons purchased for these dollars. Official statistics at that time recorded only the flow of goods, not taking into account the turnover of cash. This provided an opportunity for large-scale operations on "laundering" through the Russian currency market and the export of resources of any kind of money. MDM Bank, being in the center of these flows, actually performed the function of a regulator. How did the young specialist Andrei Melnichenko manage to find himself in this crucial place at such a crucial time?
More often, the young physicist's successes are explained by his contacts with reputable entrepreneurs, among whom the name of Anton Malevsky, who was called the real owner of MDM Bank, usually appears. So it or not, it's hard to say. Anton Malevsky himself crashed, skipping with a parachute in Africa. Even more strange are the tremendous successes of the Izmaylovo grouping, one of the leaders of which was called Malevsky. For a short time under her control were the best metallurgical and coal assets of the country. On the photos that were recently publicly available, authoritative leaders, without much hiding, posing with the leadership of the special services of that time.
By the way, the same path was passed by another Russian oligarch - Oleg Deripaska. Although, unlike Melnichenko, the aluminum king still graduated from the Physics Department of Moscow State University (Melnichenko was transferred to a more "profile" higher educational institution - the Plekhanov Institute of National Economy). Deripaska also suddenly climbed to the heights of business "in the vertical 90's", where support could only be provided by the siloviki, both systemic and non-systemic. The boundaries between them remain vague today.
Expressive confirmation, in particular, may be the recent shootout at the jubilee of Dmitry Pavlov, the Chevalier of the Order of Friendship and Honor of the Russian Federation, Doctor of Law, an academician of the International Academy of Informatization and a businessman. The academician was called one of the leaders of the Izmaylovo community, but guarded him as a national pride - the special forces from Rosgvardia. Strictly speaking, opponents of Andrei Melnichenko - "Kazakh Eurasianists" - also came from the same group of metallurgists, but then set off on their own path.
Of course, behind the scenes Melnichenko and his entourage are known in detail to Western law enforcement agencies. At one time, various people like Jalol Khaidarov (one of the closest managers to Iskander Makhmudov, who ran the Kachkanarsky Vanadium mining and processing plant, but after a change of interests was forced to leave Russia) testified there and Alexander Litvinenko (an FSB operative poisoned with polonium in London), but much more could be known to the special services that led the key players in Russian business, since they considered such links an important tool of political pressure. Now that the Russian game in the world has reached a new political level, the time has come for this. Andrei Melnichenko is among the "soft targets". He does not even have minimal political support, but he has tools to control key assets.
Protection "Eurochem" was to ensure the re-registration of the company, completed in September 2014. Instead of the Russian corporation, established in 2001, the Swiss appeared. It was established in Zug, the legendary Swiss town, which was chosen by the leading international traders. The re-registration took place after EuroChem signed an agreement on attracting targeted financing for $ 750 million for eight years to continue developing its potash project in Verkhnekamye. The funds were represented by the syndicate of creditors, but with the participation of an external consultant - the World Bank Group.
Obviously, in this situation in the summer of 2014 - at the height of the sanctions campaign - the Swiss corporate envelope looked preferable to Russian assets. But now such advantages are completely unobvious. Moreover, this makes the Russian oligarch Andrei Melnichenko an even more vulnerable target. And the availability of Western loans can effectively confiscate property, given that most of it is exported. Practically there is no reason to doubt that the scheme worked out by Suleiman Kerimov, the failed potassium king, may work this time too. And no yacht-battleship can not protect the oligarch with such a past.