As it became known to Kommersant, in the debate held in the Preobrazhensky District Court of Moscow, the state prosecution proposed to sentence businessman Andrei Guskov to 8.5 years in a penal colony. The prosecutor considered the guilt of the defendant in the theft of shares of the largest oil products transshipment and storage complex in Crimea, the Marine Oil Terminal (MNT), to be fully proven. Mr. Guskov, according to the case materials, was hired as a consultant in a deal to acquire a terminal from the authorities of the region, then, secretly from the employer, stole MNT shares, transferring them to his mother’s company. The damage is estimated at more than 651 million rubles. The owner of the complex, Vladimir Kruglov, was recognized as the victim in the case.
The court has been considering the materials of the case on the theft of shares of the largest Crimean oil depot since July 2021.
During the debate, the prosecutor proposed to recognize the defendant guilty of especially large-scale fraud (part 4 of article 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation) and sentence businessman Viktor Guskov to 8.5 years in a penal colony.
The defendant’s lawyer, who never admitted his guilt, on the contrary, considered that his client deserved an acquittal. The court plans to issue a verdict on January 23.
The Main Investigative Committee of the ICR for Moscow began investigating the circumstances of the theft of the shares of the Marine Oil Terminal on April 1, 2021 after the appeal of businessman Vladimir Kruglov, the owner of the oil depot located in Feodosia, who announced the theft of the company’s shares from him. As part of the investigation, Andrey Guskov was detained and then arrested. He is still in jail. Interestingly, Mr. Guskov appears in the case file as unemployed, but he previously served as deputy general director of the North-Western Shipping Company, and headed the board of directors of SOTI. At the time of his arrest, the defendant was listed as the head of the board of directors of the Union for Integrated Design and Land Management of Rural Territories, as well as the chairman of the Russian resettlement movement “Chelovek. Earth. Russia”.
The case file refers to events that occurred between 2017 and February 2021.
As the investigation established, at the beginning of 2017, Vladimir Kruglov engaged Mr. Guskov as a consultant in a deal to buy the largest Crimean oil terminal.
The MNT can store up to 250,000 tons of fuel, and its capacity allows it to transship up to 10 million tons of oil per year. After Crimea became part of the Russian Federation, the base became part of Chernomorneftegaz, after which it was put up for auction.
For Mr. Kruglov, this was not the first oil and gas asset: he is the general director of OOO Nefteproduktservis, a large oil depot in the Moscow region owned by lawyer Viktor Khmarin, a longtime business partner of Mr. Kruglov. In addition, the latter is a co-owner of the companies Gaznefteservis, Baltic Methanol and the Baltic Gas Chemical Company.
At the same time, as follows from the case file, Mr. Kruglov intended to hide his ownership of the Crimean asset for fear of falling under international sanctions. However, during the discussion of his participation in the transaction, Mr. Guskov assured the employer that, having many years of experience and extensive “knowledge in economics and jurisprudence”, he is able to solve this problem. As a result, the consultant guaranteed the customer that the scheme he had built would allow him to first successfully acquire and then anonymously manage the Crimean company, making public only the managers he hired. The consultant assured that they would be “reliable managers” wholly under the control of the real owner of MNT.
The scheme proposed by the consultant was reduced to the creation of a so-called nesting doll, which was based on the Dolina closed-end mutual investment fund (ZPIKF), which belonged directly to Mr. Kruglov. The legislation, as the consultant explained, allows not to publish information about the owners and shareholders of ZPIKF in public databases. But in order to “hide” the ultimate beneficiary more reliably, at the suggestion of Mr. Guskov, ZPIKF, through the Mercury Asset Management Management Company, acquired Forum Trading House, and he bought 99.7% of the shares of Gunas Firm JSC, which, having submitted an application for the auction for the purchase of a tank farm, became its winner in December 2019, having paid 651.2 million rubles for 100% of the terminal’s shares.
However, according to investigators, the intricate ownership scheme was actually necessary for its author to steal MNT.
In February 2021, the consultant Guskov, according to the investigation, secretly from his employer prepared a “knowingly false” contract for the sale and purchase of terminal shares, according to which all ownership rights to securities were transferred from Gunas JSC to its LLC of the same name, the founder of which was the mother consultant. Moreover, this transaction was successfully completed and registered with the Federal Tax Service. It was only by chance that Vladimir Kruglov found out about the change of ownership in his company, after which he urgently turned to law enforcement agencies.