The company for the production of Alevo batteries is haunted by scandals. The founder of the enterprise is wanted in Norway for non-payment of taxes, one of its leading shareholders is a drug dealer involved in a corruption scandal. In general, the business turned out to be criminal enough to attract the attention of Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev.
According to the European media, Rybolovlev not only invests in Alevo, which is called the "Swiss Tesla". He lobbied to appoint Vladislav Baumgertner, better known for his unexpected arrest in Belarus, as the company's CEO.
Baumgartner is not the only ex-employee of Uralkali in the company. In August 2016, Rybolovlev appointed Kuzma Marchuk, former executive director of Uralkali, and his adviser Mikhail Sazonov to work in Alevo. According to some sources, the billionaire has invested 35 million francs in the company.
A representative of a businessman confirmed the fact of these expenses. "There is a fact that the family trusts of Rybolovlev really invested in this company, assessing its potential potential. There are people listed above who are invited to work. All the rest is still without comment," he said, refusing to say the amount.
Alevo Group was founded in 2009 in Valais by the Norwegian businessman Jostein Eikeland. The company is engaged in the development of energy storage systems using GridBank technology and promises to "revolutionize" the global battery market.
Alevo announced in its press releases that it would build a high-tech 40 hectare factory near the Swiss Monte, where it was to be invested "from 400 million to 500 million Swiss francs." It was planned that a conductive electrolyte would be produced at the plant, which would be sent to the Concord plant in the United States, the former tobacco factory of Philips Morris in Concord, North Carolina, and the total number of employees of the company would reach 2.5 thousand within three years, and and 6 thousand in the long term. The purchase price, according to the investigation of the Norwegian newspaper Dagens Naeringsliv, was $68.5 million.
The electrolyte, which composition is kept secret, under the name Alevolyte will be used to create GridBank batteries, as promised Alevo. Batteries must store the energy generated by thermal or hydroelectric power stations and can be charged almost infinitely many times without loss of efficiency.
In October 2014, Jeff Gates, vice president of Alevo, promised that the plant would produce 100 GridBanks by the end of the year. The company also planned that by the end of 2015, shipments of batteries to China will start.
These promises were not meant to be realized, writes Forbes with reference to the Swiss newspaper L'Hebdo. Now Alevo has a factory in Martigny, where 21 people work. At the Concord plant, according to official figures, 200 people are employed, however, judging by satellite images, the nearby parking remains suspiciously empty. "Alevo has not sold any of its famous GridBank. The announced "strategic partnership" with China has sunk into oblivion," the publication says.
The publication notes that despite the lack of a visible result of the activities of Alevo, Rybolovlev invested 35 million Swiss francs in it with the help of two of its Cypriot offshore trusts. This amount makes him the second largest shareholder of Alevo after the founder of the company Eikeland. At the same time, Rybolovlev bought shares at a "friendly price" of 112 francs apiece, while other investors paid 120 francs per share.
For Eikeland, the investment of Rybolovlev is a great success, especially considering the fact that many of the previous initiatives of the Norwegian ended in failure. According to the Dagens Naeringsliv investigation, published in August 2016, his first computer company Telecomputing had attracted many investors, but after the take-off of capitalization, it burst with the technological stock market bubble in the early 2000s. Another his company, TMGI, which was focused on magnesium production, went bankrupt as a result of a sharp drop in capitalization amid an investigation into the manipulation of stock prices during the stock market crisis of 2007-2008. At the same time, the Norwegian tax authorities accused Eikeland of non-payment of taxes for NOK 117 million ($13.85 million). Eikeland refused to pay taxes, citing the fact that during the transaction (2003-2004) he was not a resident of Norway, since he spent most of his time in Switzerland and the United States. As a result of the tax scandal, he ceased to visit Norway, leaving there houses and a private island - later they were sold by tax collectors for debts.
Now the Norwegian businessman lives in Verbier and owns a beautiful villa overlooking the sea in Boca Raton near Miami. As journalists Dagens Naeringsliv found out, in 2011 one of the first investors of his current project was the drug baron Gjermund Cappelen, who bought more than 14 thousand shares of Alevo for 680 thousand Swiss francs. In 2013, Kappelen and his accomplices were arrested on charges of storing 1.2 thousand tons of cannabis, and then a drug lord, while in pre-trial detention, accused the Norwegian drug control agent of corruption and drug trafficking - this scandal is still being discussed in Norway. It should be noted that Dmitry Rybolovlev is not the first to use the Cyprus banking system for suspicious transactions. The deputy attorney general of the island state, Riccos Erotokritou, was convicted of bribes given to him by Rybolovlev's lawyers.