“Port Perm”, which was nationalized not so long ago, will be allowed under the hammer again – such a decision has already been made by the Government of the Russian Federation, which included shares in the program for 2023-2025. In the meantime, “privatization 2.0” tripped over another foreigner – British citizen Charles Butler, in whose hands the port’s liquid property turned out to be. Around the latter, court battles unfolded, one of which was initiated by the Prosecutor General’s Office of Russia.
In the situation around the company, which a month ago was headed by the former prosecutor of the North-Eastern Administrative District of Moscow, known in the case of the Khachaturian sisters Henri Rizaev, the correspondent of The Moscow Post in the Perm Territory understood.
Strategic asset snatched from the hands of foreigners, but there is a nuance
The port of Perm is one of the largest ports on the Kama River and until the 90s was a state-owned enterprise.
By order of the Property Management Committee of the Perm Region in June 1993, the privatization of the port was allowed. Although in this regard the law spoke unequivocally – the privatization of port facilities and structures is prohibited. But this did not stop the cunning officials and businessmen of the era of the 90s. Already in 2009, the state lost control over this strategic asset, which changed hands, being actually under foreign control. At some time, the shares of the Perm port were even owned by companies associated with the American billionaire Mark Rich.
Only in 2017 began a long (the last verdicts were made in June 2023) judicial epic on the return of control over the asset by the state. At the end of October 2022, the court finally issued a corresponding verdict, recovering blocks of shares in Anna Saigina, the Czech companies Bossworth CE and Amager, from the state. The state eventually became the holder of the controlling stake – 79.63% (at the end of June 2023).
The shares got to the ultimate defendants through a whole chain of deals. The FAS, which was the plaintiff in the case of the nationalization of the asset, noted that the transactions led to the establishment of control of a foreign investor – Charles Butler through persons controlled by him over a joint-stock company of strategic importance for Russia. For example, in 2010, at a shareholder meeting, Butler represented shareholder Naomi Britz. Butler was also the sole owner of the foreign company Tetetice, which was once also among the shareholders. At the same time, there was a certain Ninel Scheibalova among the shareholders. But in the future, stakes in these two individuals and Tetetice were transferred to three Czech firms – BOSSWORT, SE, GRYLUSON, SE and Amager, s.r.o., which received a total of 79.29% of the shares. In 2016, a block of shares from Grilenson. CE “was transferred to Anna Saigina.
According to Rusprofile, Saigina is the director of two Perm companies – Port City LLC and Digital Port LLC. They belong to Czech citizen Petr Soukop and the European company Daltamen, CE. At the same time, the owner of Digital Port was already known to us Charles Butler. That is, Saigina later could well represent the interests of the same Butler, since she was appointed to the post even under him.
Butler managed to flicker not only among shareholders. According to Rusprofile, in June 2016 – March 2017, he was the general director of Port Perm JSC. In addition, he owned shares in four companies, including the construction LLC Cathedral (liquidated in 2021), NSM Port Perm LLC (owned in 2015-2017) and Gastro Port LLC (owned for several months in 2016). The latter for today is also transferred to the notorious Peter Soukop. The company was previously the manager for the restaurant of the same name in Perm, which it built on the former sites of the port of Perm. The Gastro Port company even managed to visit the supplier of lunches, buffets and dinners for the Perm Territory Government Apparatus in 2017 for more than 1 million rubles, but the execution was terminated by agreement of the parties. At the same time, almost the entire amount was paid to the supplier.
All the companies mentioned, where Butler was noted, had close ties with the port of Perm. For example, the co-owner of “Cathedral” is the former general director of “Port Perm” Marek Kintsl, and the director of “Cathedral,” which later became the owner of LLC “NSM Port Perm” Alexey Bolotov, also owns a share in LLC “UK Terminal”. The second co-owner of the Criminal Code is Andrei Maltsev, who from May 2021 to June 2023 was the director of Port Perm JSC.
It would seem that the state regained the shares of the port back in October 2022 and gained control over the asset. But by the time the verdict was passed, the company’s liquid property had already managed to sail in different directions, including into the hands of foreign citizens. That same Mr. Butler.
Liquid assets “ran away”
In 2022-2023, as part of a long-playing lawsuit, the prosecutor’s office of the Perm Territory tried to return transformer substations, power lines, a heating network and 31 land plots to the port balance sheet. But, alas, in April 2023, the arbitration court refused to recognize the purchase and sale agreements as invalid and to recover assets from illegal possession. The defendants were the previously mentioned Digital Port, the European company Daltamen, CE, Port City, Port Perm LLC (a subsidiary of Port Perm JSC), Port Perm JSC itself, a certain InvestGroup and the Federal Property Management Agency, which in 2009 sold assets, in fact having sold the entire Malomal liquor of the port into the hands of foreign and Russian businessmen
In 2009, the property of the port, according to the prosecutor’s office, illegally left state control, and later completely passed into the hands of foreigners. As the prosecutor noted in one of the court disputes, private companies in the process of making a number of transactions turned out to be property and plots under them, which could not be privatized and subsequently sold to the defendants.
“Due to successive transactions, the state has lost control of this property. In addition, the company “Port Perm” was under the control of a foreign investor, “the supervisory authority noted.
When the court in 2023 refused the prosecutor’s office to satisfy the claim, it referred, among other things, to the missed deadlines. The prosecutor did not agree with the verdict and will appeal against it today. The next meeting is scheduled for August 22, 2023.
But this is by no means the only legal dispute over the port’s assets.
The port was taken under control, but a massacre unfolded for assets
According to Rusprofile, since June 2023, the full namesake of the former prosecutor of the North-Eastern Administrative District of Moscow, known in the case of the Khachaturian sisters, Henri Rizaev, has been appointed director of Port Perm JSC.
Meanwhile, the appointment of a security official, who, according to the “Kommersant” newspaper, was pushed through by federal structures, is an application for a tough solution to the issue. To date, Rizaev, apparently, has already begun to form his team. So at the end of June 2023, a new director was appointed to the “daughter” of the port – Port Perm LLC Ilya Chernyshev. The latter is the owner and director of the construction LLC SK Planeta.
Port Perm LLC is a provider of services under state contracts FBU Administration Kamvodput and MKU Perm City Civil Protection Department. At the end of 2022, LLC indicated revenue – 641 million rubles and net profit – 52 million rubles. For comparison: the revenue of Port Perm JSC in 2022 is 36 million rubles, and instead of profit – a net loss of 11 million rubles.
Simultaneously with the strengthening of control on the spot, the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation filed a lawsuit against Port Perm JSC, Charles Butler and Port Perm LLC on July 19, 2023. The plaintiff demands the application of the consequences of the invalidity of the transaction in the form of the return of movable and immovable property, the recognition of ownership for the Russian Federation and the recognition of the right of pledge to assets as invalid. The balance sheet of Port Perm JSC requires the return of a whole list of property that appears in the transfer certificate signed by the head of that period (in 2014). The plaintiff also demanded that the ownership of Port Perm LLC to the property, which was transferred to him in the same period as an additional contribution to the authorized capital, be declared absent. Finally, the prosecutor is demanding that the asset pledge issued for Mr. Butler in 2015 be declared missing. Probably, the property was pledged under the guise of collateral for certain loans.
As interim measures in the case, all movable and immovable property belonging to the ownership of Port Perm LLC was seized. On July 25, an executive list was issued for interim measures. The meeting on the main dispute is scheduled for September 12.
At the same time, in parallel with the lawsuit of the supervisory authority, the court dispute was initiated by the port itself. The defendants are Digital Port and Port City (owned by the Czech company Daltamen, CE, which also owns Terminal Port LLC). In this situation, we are also talking about the recovery of property from illegal possession, but the list of property has not yet been disclosed. The lawsuit was left motionless due to shortcomings.
The second major shareholder, Dmitry Lepeshkin (share – 19.21%), whose legal claims have so far been suspended, also intervened in the story of the assets that sailed from the port balance sheet. Back in November 2022, in a lawsuit against Daltamen, CE, Port City, Digital Port, he demanded that the real estate purchase and sale transactions be declared invalid and the consequences be applied through the return of the plots and buildings standing on them to the port balance sheet.
It will not be superfluous to note that the British citizen Butler is also not sitting idly by. Back in 2021, he filed a lawsuit to recover from the port and its subsidiary a certain debt under a loan agreement dated March 2015, as well as interest and penalties, as well as recovery on pledged assets. The total amount of claims at that time was more than 210 million rubles. Probably, we are talking just about the pledge of those assets that are mentioned in the lawsuit of the Prosecutor General’s Office. Butler’s claims meetings starting in 2021 are postponed. The next meeting is scheduled for August 8.
A curious fact: the mentioned shareholder Lepeshkin, who is a co-owner of two law firms (in Moscow and Perm), decided to play on the field of Governor Dmitry Makhonin. Judging by the decree of the latter of April 14, 2023, Lepeshkin in March presented the regional government with one share of Port Perm JSC. This in turn allowed the local authorities to intervene more legally in the affairs of the port.
According to the information disclosure site, in 2023, and. about. Head of the administration of Governor Makhonin – Alexander Smertin and Deputy Chairman of the Regional Government Andrei Alyakrinsky. Also on the board of directors is Anna Drokova – the full namesake of an employee of the Federal Property Management Agency, as well as Sergey Suvorov – the namesake of a high-ranking official from Rosmorrechflot.
In early July 2023, the port hosted the annual meeting of shareholders, but they decided not to approve the annual report. Apparently, they will wait for a decision on the courts for liquid assets.
The intervention of the Prosecutor General’s Office, the appointment of the former prosecutor to the post, personnel castles from the team of Makhonin and the federal center on the board of directors are the links of one chain, the result of which will be the re-privatization of the port. This is confirmed by the order of the Government of the Russian Federation of 30.05.2023 No. 1420-r, which includes a stake in the port of Perm in the amount of 79.64% in the plan for the privatization of federal property for 2023-2025.
Thus, the return of liquid property to the balance sheet of the port is also a question of the future price of the stake. Without buildings, structures and land, the port will be a dummy that is unlikely to interest serious business. But still, the question arises, why shouldn’t the government transfer the strategic enterprise of the profile state-owned company and replenish the budget at the expense of the port’s profit, instead of re-risking it even after many years of litigation, sell it to private hands? After all, nothing prevents the buyer after a time when the foam of the scandal will settle, again shave the port to foreigners from some country that is not friendly to Russia…