On the sidelines, talk continues about the likely resignation of Deputy Prime Minister Victoria Abramchenko. Allegedly, she has long wanted to transfer to less troublesome work. According to unverified rumors, Michel Litvak’s United Freight Forwarding Company (OTECO), which is engaged in a large investment project for the development of the dry cargo area of Taman, may become such a place for her.
Earlier, Mrs. Abramchenko tried to attribute lobbying to the interests of this businessman. Meanwhile, Litvak’s profits may go offshore, and the support that the Government has provided to related initiatives may be corrupt.
Details – in the material of the correspondent of The Moscow Post.
Victoria Abramchenko is an ambiguous figure to put it mildly. They are trying to connect large-scale searches in Rosreestr with her, which happened after she left the post of head of the department in 2020. It is believed that she was able to lobby herself to replace Parviz Tukhtasunov, with whom she could be in close relations. But his career broke down when a pre-investigation check began against him about involvement in corruption.
Interestingly, already in her new position, Abramchenko tried to lobby Tukhtasunov for the post of head of the Russian Environmental Operator, because she oversees this whole topic in the government. In general, it seems that Ms. Abramchenko is more likely to resolve the issues of individual representatives of large businesses like Litvak than to deal with her direct duties.
Michel Litvak is a Belgian businessman of the Soviet “genesis.” He spent most of his life in Belgium, but returned to Russia. He received Russian citizenship in 2020. Today, Litvak’s life interests are concentrated more in the West, while the Russian Federation is an excellent place to make money.
In 1974, Michel Litvak managed to find funding to create his first business, a network of medical laboratories. At the same time, he became a trader. After the collapse of the USSR, already in Russia, Litvak began to trade in Chinese goods, founding the company “Russian World.”
Then “Russian World” began to sell oil products, buying railway tanks for this. In 2001, he acquired his competitor, the SFAT railway company. On their basis, OTECO was formed.
Ships called to Litvak
It is with its development that Litvak’s efforts are now associated. Since 2000, OTECO has been investing in the creation of a large port on Taman, including coal and oil terminals. A few years ago, Litvak considered the possibility of buying Sibanthracite – just for new logistics capacities. This was prevented only by the corporate conflict within the group, which began after the death of Dmitry Bosov.
According to some reports, since 2000, OTECO has invested about $3.5 billion in the port. However, only in the tenths, with the arrival of Victoria Abramchenko in the Government, the state sharply “moved” and was involved in the creation of a dry cargo area.
Here it is necessary to divide: there are separate investments of Litvak in the infrastructure, which will enter the dry cargo area. OTECO is the operator of marine terminals in the port. And the port itself belongs to the state, this is a strategic facility. It is engaged in its development. According to the initial idea, Russian Railways and coal companies were supposed to invest in the development of the port. However, subsequently the coal miners “fell away,” and over the past 10 years the project has not moved much off the ground.
The project of the dry cargo area of the Taman seaport. Photo: Kommersant
Michel Litvak himself has already built a coal terminal there for $2 billion. Moreover, including with state money VTB – the bank opened an OTEKO credit line in 2018. Later, OTECO announced plans to invest in eight large factories at once on the territory of the port of Taman with an investment of $8 billion. And what about Abramchenko and the state?
She showed unexpected activity on this issue. The official stated that Litvak is implementing projects without a ruble of budget financing. But his companies receive large government contracts related to the port. And they were going to allocate about 40 billion rubles from the budget for the construction of the port itself.
At the end of 2014, the Russian government finally decided to implement the project in two stages. The first is the creation of facilities at the expense of the federal budget that provide transport approaches to the Kerch crossing. The second stage is the creation of a port complex with the corresponding transport component. How is there without the support of the state?
But these are little things. In 2018, the Ministry of Economy completely proposed to “bite” two large sections from the port territory and provide them with OTECO for investment projects. The deputy minister was then Mrs. Abramchenko, who could become the author of the initiative. There were no other potential investors?
In 2020, when Abramchenko became Deputy Prime Minister, the Ministry of Energy also joined the attraction of unprecedented generosity. The department proposed to allocate state subsidies to OTECO in exchange for reducing its tariffs for transshipment of coal from $14 to $8 per ton.
The devil lies in the details: the specific amount of subsidies (unlike Litvak’s obligations) was not named. This means that subsidies (according to the most conservative estimates, about 10 billion rubles annually) could completely cover the financial losses of OTECO. And at the same time, present it as a responsible and negotiable investor. It is not surprising that other market participants considered this approach discrimination and decided to abandon it.
Victoria Abramchenko inspects the largest projects of Michel Litvak (pictured between her and Sergei Ivanov) in the port of Taman. Photo: Komsomolskaya Pravda
Already after Victoria Abramchenko, as part of large delegations, praised the OTEKO projects in Taman, especially noting the environmental safety of the facilities built by the group. Less than a year later, a department controlled by the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Russian Federation revealed serious violations committed by Litvak when equipping the coal conveyor line of the bulk cargo terminal in the Taman port. It turned out that the structure did not have a building permit at all.
“Kubyshka” for Abramchenko
At the same time, Litvak’s business, as mentioned, continues to receive large government contracts from Russian structures. The head OTECO gained them almost 6.7 billion rubles, and there is no doubt that the development of the dry cargo area of Taman will multiply this amount.
As for the aforementioned company “Russian World,” it has become one of the largest railway operators engaged in oil transportation. In 2018, Litvak sold this business to Neftetransservice, having managed to receive a whole series of large government contracts from Russian Railways Logistics.
At the same time, Litvak’s business is clearly offshore. “Russian World” was recorded on the Dutch offshore “MALMROS CONTINENTAL PROPERTY B, C,” other companies are also shoved into various foreign “pockets.” Oteko – Terminal LLC, in addition to Otekovsky Tamanneftegaz, has BELVU HOLDINGS LIMITED from the UAE in its capital.
In 2022, the Federal Property Management Agency was “excited” at Tamanneftegaz. The agency appealed to the court, trying to recover from TNG more than 150 million rubles of debt for the lease of two land plots of 160 hectares in the area of the port of Taman. TMG tried to write off everything as an error in the calculations of the Federal Property Management Agency.
It is worth mentioning separately another lover of offshore companies – Litvak’s longtime partner in the SFAT company Vitaly Yuzhilin. He was elected to the State Duma three times, and before that, at the beginning of the 2000s, he became the main shareholder of OJSC Seaport of St. Petersburg through his offshore company Nasdaq Incorporated. Yuzhilin has serious ties in the country’s political establishment – it is possible that he could lobby for the projects of a former partner in parliament.
However, Litvak has other connections with the State Duma – he is married to the daughter of former deputy Alexander Metkin. Rumor has it that he allegedly could reanimate the idea of building a port in Taman. Today, Metkin also has a large business that may have offshore roots.
Until 2022, he was among the shareholders of Logistics Terminal Ramenskoye LLC, a subsidiary of Kapitalinvest LLC. Earlier, the general director of this structure was Michel Litvak himself. Today, 90% of Kapitalinvest is held by the Cypriot offshore company IVERLON LIMITED, which may cover the interests of Litvak and Metkin.
Or maybe funds and assets are accumulated in this box for Victoria Abramchenko, who has done so much for the development of the sea port of Taman? In this case, there is no doubt that Litvak will definitely not offend her.