Source Companies associated with ex-Minister Mikhail Abyzov are trying to recover almost 9.5 billion rubles from Sovcombank through the courts. Lawyers doubt the success of this venture: even if the law takes the side of business, the Prosecutor General's Office and bailiffs can seize these funds as part of the ex-minister's common case, they point out. Moreover, the value of the shares of RES and JSC Elektromagistral, from which the court lifted the arrest as part of the recovery procedure, does not cover the total amount required from the businessman.
A claim for 9.4 billion
Five offshore companies associated with Mikhail Abyzov, ex-Minister for Coordinating the Activities of the Open Government, have filed a major financial lawsuit with the Moscow Arbitration Court. According to Regnum, they are trying to recover almost 9.5 billion rubles (9,464,195,874.76 rubles) from PJSC Sovcombank.
The reason for filing the claim has not yet been disclosed. According to the publication, the third parties in the case are the Prosecutor General's Office of the Russian Federation, the Federal Bailiffs Service and Mikhail Abyzov. The lawsuit was filed with the court on December 20, 2022.
The plaintiffs in the case are Vantroso Trading LTD, Cullen Holdings Limited, Besta Holdings Limited, Alinor Investments Limited and Lisento Investments LTD “.
Abyzov was detained and placed under arrest in March 2019. He is charged with organizing a criminal community (part 3 of article 210 of the Criminal Code), fraud on an especially large scale, illegal business and money laundering. The former minister himself denies all allegations.
In October 2020, the Gagarinsky Court of Moscow ruled to seize 32.5 billion rubles from Abyzov. The court came to the conclusion that the former minister earned these funds by illegally managing his company through Cypriot offshores.
The Prosecutor General's Office considered that, during his tenure as minister, Abyzov had been hiding from the authorities the ownership of five offshore companies since 2012 (their names are listed above – ed.). With their help, according to the department, he managed the Siberian Energy Company (SIBEKO), which was a key supplier of electricity in Siberia.
The share of the ex-minister in SIBECO (95.52%) was divided between offshore companies. And according to the Prosecutor General’s Office, Abyzov managed the companies themselves both personally and through “shadow offices” and proxies.
In April 2017, according to investigators, Abyzov decided to sell SIBECO shares. The buyers were JSC Khakass Service and Repair Company (KhSRK) and JSC Kuzbassenergo, whose functions of the sole executive body were performed by LLC Siberian Generating Company (SGK).
According to Kommersant, the ex-official personally participated in negotiations with representatives of SGC and Sovcombank PJSC. In February 2018, in Limassol, nominee directors of Cypriot companies Katsiarina Khrakovich, Olesandra Solonenko, Eirina Konnari and Tudor Gurdis concluded sale and purchase agreements with KhSRK and Kuzbassenergo, as a result of which 32.5 billion rubles were transferred to the accounts of Cypriot companies.
Later, according to the prosecutor's office, Cypriot companies acquired 268 million euros for 18.9 billion rubles, which were placed on the accounts of Sovcombank. Part of the funds was subsequently invested in German government bonds, which the Russian department also considered an attempt to “hide their corrupt origin.”
In addition, these companies were opened in this bank from January 2018 to June 2019 at least 22 accounts where the money received from the sale of shares was also transferred.
Abyzov's defense, however, insists that during his time as an official, he did not hide foreign assets. Lawyer Yuliy Tai, in particular, argued that, having received a post in the government, his client transferred the assets to trust management. Offshores were listed in the special declaration of the ex-official, he pointed out. Abyzov also had no obligation to report on this in regular income statements – due to the fact that offshore companies were “daughters” of the Russian company Ru-Com, the lawyer said.
In October 2020, the court granted the request of the UK and allowed the arrest of funds in different currencies held in the accounts of five Cypriot firms in Sovcombank. At the same time, the amount of the seized property was not disclosed. Abyzov's defense refused to comment on this decision.
In November 2021, it became known about Abyzov's debts to Alfa Bank. It was reported that the funds from the sale of SIBECO, placed on the accounts of Alinor Investments Limited and Besta Holdings Limited, the businessman allegedly used Pavel Durov and Gram tokens to invest in the TON cryptocurrency project.
It was also suggested that one of the leaders of Sovcombank advised Abyzov on the investment strategy for investing in TON. The ex-minister himself subsequently confirmed his meeting with the deputy chairman of the bank Alexei Panferov, however, he said that there was no talk of investing in crypto, and only possible investments in the bank's products were discussed.
What awaits Abyzov and Cypriot companies
In August 2022, Kommersant found out that the court had lifted the arrest from the shares of the companies RES JSC and Elektromagistral JSC, owned by Abyzov. It was reported that they would go to the state at a price of about 10 billion rubles, which the defense of the former official considered “30 billion rubles below the market.” And this means that he will not be able to pay off with shares in the claims brought against him. By that time, the ex-minister had paid more than a third of the amount recovered from him – 11 out of 32.5 billion rubles.
Currently, the investigation into Abyzov's case is ongoing (a total of 12 people are involved in the case), and he himself is in the Lefortovo pre-trial detention center. According to media reports, only one of the participants in the case, Ekaterina Zayats, was placed under house arrest.
“We don’t know what is happening in the case now, but it is a multi-episode one,” the partner said in a conversation with the Company. law firm “TM Defense” Yana Brutman. “From what he was charged with, based on current practice, it can be assumed that “Article 210 will fly off, since it is not used in economic cases.” And the totality of other alleged crimes indicates that Abyzov can be sentenced to 15 years, the lawyer believes.
Commenting on the chances of Cypriot companies to recover funds, the lawyer found them insignificant. “In this case, they are de facto trying to challenge the decision of another court in a different process, which is unacceptable from the point of view of procedural law,” she explained. there is still a collection of funds from Cypriot companies. However, the Prosecutor General's Office and the FSSP act as third parties in the case, which can seize the recovered funds.