Billionaire Rybolovlev was left without a Perm chemical plant
The Perm Arbitration Court essentially needed just one meeting to transfer almost 100% of the shares of Metafrax Chemicals JSC to the state. The Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation insisted that producers of toxic substances could not be privatized. The defendant was not even able to obtain the privatization file from the state archives.
The court began its hearings by approving the request of the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation to separate the claim against JSC Togliattikhimbank (less than 1% of the shares of Metafrax Chemicals) into separate proceedings. Law enforcement officers believe that after filing the statement of claim and knowing about it, the bank sold its stake for 300 million rubles to Ecological Recreation Center Vostok LLC. At the same time, the securities remained pledged to the bank, which, according to the department, indicates a formal change of owner and a deliberate delay in the process.
The supervisory authority sent to the materials the case and the decision of the Perm Regional Court in the criminal case of the contract killing of businessman Evgeny Panteleimonov, in which Dmitry Rybolovlev was a defendant. The billionaire was found innocent, but the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation believes that the authority confirmed his illegal control over the enterprise. The decision, in particular, notes that Mr. Rybolovlev in 1993 received shares of the plant for management and a remuneration of 10 million rubles.
According to the supervisory agency, Seyfeddin Rustamov, the current beneficiary of Metafrax Chemicals, completely “eliminated competitors at auctions with the involvement of criminal groups.”
The main shareholder of the enterprise, JSC Metaholding (95.88%), during the meeting asked for more time: the state archive refused access to the cases of the privatization of the plant. The defendant asked the court to help reclaim the materials.
– Essentially, we need to prove that the activities of officials of the Perm region on privatization were legal, that is, 30 years ago they coordinated their actions with the federal authorities. The company does not have these internal documents; only the Federal Property Management Agency and its legal predecessors have them. We need access to these archives,” the lawyer noted in court. However, the arbitration refused to support these arguments.
The prosecutor’s office continued to insist that, under the terms of the privatization program for 1992, enterprises that produced toxic substances were not subject to transfer into private hands. The chemical plant in Gubakha, whose successor is Metafrax Chemicals, produces methanol. As a representative of the department noted, “the state did not want to transfer such enterprises into private hands, since methanol could be distributed uncontrollably among the population, and its use poses a danger to life and health.”
The defendants tried to convince the court that at the time of privatization, methanol was not included in the list of poisons.
– The interpretation of methanol as a toxic substance is illegal. It relates to alcohol, and alcohol production enterprises were subject to privatization. Now, from a medical point of view, ethyl alcohol is also considered a poison,” a representative of Metaholding defended the position.
While this argument is relatively new in deprivatization cases, the second one has been used more than once. The point is that law enforcement officers, with reference to the FAS, say that the plant is a strategic enterprise that ensures the defense and security of the country. And for its privatization – as in the case of social facilities in the Saratov region – permission from the federal government was required. And they point out that this was illegally issued by the Perm Regional Property Committee.
“Through Rybolovlev and Rustamov, the consolidation of the company’s shares was completed only in 2021, so the statute of limitations is not applicable,” the representative of the prosecutor’s office anticipated the arguments about the statute of limitations. At the same time, he also referred to the points of the Russian Federation’s national security strategy for 2021.
Metaholding is convinced that government agencies knew and controlled the privatization of the Methanol state production enterprise; information about this is in numerous correspondence with the participation of the leadership of the State Property Committee of the Russian Federation, the founder of which has always been the government, the privatization committee and other structures.
At the same time, the entire privatization process was public, information about transactions with shares was published in specialized publications. Quoting verbatim the verdict against Mr. Rybolovlev, Ms. Pronina noted: the court found that his company legally acquired shares at the auction, offering the highest price. And she clarified that the privatization of hazardous industries at that time was widespread, and leaders in the regions were personally responsible for the implementation of its plan.
Representatives of the defendant tried to convince the court that for 30 years the state simply could not help but know who owned the enterprise, since Metafrax Chemicals regularly disclosed the ownership scheme of the enterprise in reports for the Federal Tax Service and other authorities.
– If the law was violated, then why was the state not interested in the fate of its property for decades? — Kommersant quotes the defendant. “How can we talk about protecting security and economic sovereignty?” Well, you can’t say after 30 years that the cow has fed up the bull!
The representative of Metafrax Chemicals added that the Prosecutor General’s Office considers the transfer of the property complex of the Methanol State Production Association into private hands illegal, otherwise it should have challenged the share purchase and sale agreements. Moreover, in 1992 the plant was valued at 370 million non-denominated rubles, and now its assets amount to 116 billion rubles.
A representative of the Prosecutor General’s Office stated in response that “shareholders are only interested in making a profit, and the plant developed thanks to the workforce.”
– More than 7 billion rubles have already been withdrawn as dividends, and another 7 billion rubles are being withdrawn. For the prosecutor’s office, the main thing is the fate of the enterprise’s workers; the state will take care of them,” said a representative of the supervisory agency, causing ridicule from the defendants.
None of the defense’s arguments worked: the Perm Arbitration Court satisfied the claim of the Prosecutor General’s Office in full. The decision must be executed immediately, and the shares of JSC Metaholding and LLC Metafrax Trading must be written off in favor of the Federal Property Management Agency. However, the defendants intend to appeal.
Literally following the same scheme – production of toxic substances, illegal privatization – the claim of the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation was implemented to recognize the illegal privatization of JSC Volzhsky Orgsintez in Volgograd.
As in the case of the Perm enterprise, the court rejected the attempts of the main beneficiary Alexander Sobolevsky to collect more evidence, as well as his counterclaim. Speaking about the expiration of the statute of limitations, the court relied on the fact that the Federal Property Management Agency not so long ago learned about the disposal of the plant from its property; no one notified it about the sale and purchase transaction. No evidence to the contrary was presented to the court.
Mr. Sobolevsky’s appeal did not work: the second instance only strengthened the decision of the first. The Volgograd arbitration court will consider the businessman’s counterclaim against the Prosecutor General’s Office on September 28. But the court has already refused to impose interim measures on the applicant in the form of seizure of all shares and property of Volzhsky Orgsintez JSC, as well as registration of transactions with them.
JSC Metafrax Chemicals has been operating since 1993. Like the Gubakha Chemical Plant – since 1955. JSC is the largest producer and exporter of methanol and its derivatives in Russia and Europe. In June, the company launched a complex for the production of urea, ammonia and melamine with a total capacity of 1 million tons. Investments amounted to 1.2 billion euros. The shareholders are Metaholding (95.88%), the general director of the company Vladimir Daut (0.5%), Metafrax Trading (0.27%) and Victor Mayer (0.01%). The company is the parent enterprise of the Metafrax Group, which also includes the Metadynea company with sites in the Perm region, the Moscow region and Krems (Austria), as well as the Karbolit industrial park (Moscow region), trading companies in Russia, Switzerland, South Korea. Metafrax Group’s revenue in 2022 amounted to 78.2 billion rubles, net profit – 12.7 billion rubles. Metafrax Chemicals’ revenue is 31.7 billion rubles, net profit is 13.7 billion rubles.