Yacht of Vladimir Plahotniuc for $50 million
Welcome aboard! September, 2018. You are standing on a yacht worth almost 50 million euros. Your name is Vladimir Plahotniuc and you are the most influential person in the Republic of Moldova.
The concept of honor may not be foreign to you, which is why you call your luxury ship Honor. [с англ. — честь]. But in just a year, your idyll will begin to crumble.
The existence of a yacht owned by Vladimir Plahotniuc became known in 2020 as a result of a trial that took place in Cyprus. Lawyers Oksana KildescuPlahotniuc’s ex-wife, published an article in which they expressed their disagreement with the decision of the Nicosia court, which dismissed a lawsuit against several individuals and legal entities from Cyprus, the United Arab Emirates, China, Spain and the Seychelles.
This investigation began with the name of the yacht, which we learned from the decision to open a criminal case against Vladimir Plahotniuc. The prosecutor’s office valued this property at 32 million euros, although in reality the yacht is worth much more.
The investigation is based on official documents obtained from national and international databases, including Luxembourg, Gibraltar and Cyprus. Some documents were provided by the Organized Crime and Corruption Research Center (OCCRP ID).
In the beginning was Vicky
year 2012. A brand new ship sails through the waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The pearl of the seas, 73 meters long, was built by the Turkish shipbuilding company Turquoe Shipyard. This is the largest yacht built by Turquoe at that time.
The yacht is called Vicky and was designed by order of the owner, who named her after his daughter, Victoria.
Owner Vicky — Andrey Goncharenko, a Russian businessman who in seven years will become one of the beneficiaries of the Chisinau International Airport concession. However, Goncharenko himself never owned Vicky personally, but stood behind a shell company. We are talking about Continental Maritime Limited, registered in Gibraltar, on behalf of which a loan was taken from the bank for the ship.
June 3, 2011. Continental Maritime Limited takes out a loan from a British bank in the amount of about $ 23.4 million. “Agreement to mortgage a ship under construction,” one of the company documentswhich were at the disposal of RE Moldova. From the document we learn who builds the yacht, the approximate length of the vessel and other obligations of the company to the creditor bank.
July 3, 2012. Continental Maritime pledges the ship against the money received. This time the ship is presented to the bank with the name and official registration number – Vicky, no. 743711.
December 21, 2012. A consortium of three firms from Switzerland, Luxembourg and the Bahamas undertakes repay a €23.4 million loan on behalf of a Gibraltar firm. One of the creditor companies is PMB REAL ESTATE SA, the real beneficiary of which is Russian Andrey Goncharenko.
Thus, Continental Maritime Limited is the first official owner of the yacht. In sea waters, the ship sailed under the flag of the Cayman Islands until it passed to a new owner.
When does Vicky become Honor?
The yacht changed its name in July 2018. Then it was registered under the flag of the Isle of Man.
Two months after the renaming to Honor, in September 2018 to be exact, the ship passes through a string of offshore companies whose registration date belongs to the same period. So the yacht moves from Continental Maritime to Eastern Yachting LTD, which, like the previous owner, is registered in Gibraltar.
In fact, it was a transition from Goncharenko to Vladimir Plahotniuc. At that time, the Moldovan oligarch was in the midst of an election campaign and was preparing for parliamentary elections.
But back to the yacht. By itself, the chain of offshore companies around Honor could give us little if the companies were not also engaged in real estate transactions in Chisinau. While they were castling in Gibraltar, several objects belonging to Plahotniuc’s firm Finpar Invest, moved to companies with which the Gibraltar structures were associated (Querious Holdings LTD, and then Eastern Holdings LTD). We are talking about an urban villa with the status of a historical monument near the Parliament, a land plot of more than 10 hectares in the area of the Northern Bus Station and the Global Business Center.
The total cost of the three objects is 608.5 million lei. So, if Querius received the yacht Honor from Eastern Holdings, then the second Gibraltar company got the Chisinau real estate of Plahotniuc. Read more about transactions in investigations “GBC – from offshore Plahotniuc to Gibraltar” And “From Plahotniuc to Moldasig via Gibraltar”.
Honor – luxury and splendor
The yacht has four floors with a lift, automatic opening doors and remote-controlled curtains, marble bathrooms, TVs that drop from the ceiling or rise from the floor, and a helipad. In addition to all this splendor, the yacht has seven rooms that can accommodate at least 14 guests, and the crew itself consists of 18 people.
The first floor (from bottom to top) is intended for recreation, the crew members’ rooms are located on the same level. There is a spa center, Turkish bath, jacuzzi, massage room and area with sports equipment. There is also a movable wall that opens and closes the deck, where guests can enjoy water adventures, whether it be swimming or riding jet skis and boats, which the vessel is equipped with.
On the second floor there is a living room with an open ceiling. There is natural light on this floor thanks to panoramic windows. The living room has a minibar and a Steinway&Sons piano. RE Moldova wrote in Oligarch’s Secret Payments that in October 2018, Plahotniuc paid about $300,000 in two installments for “a piano and related services.”
This level also has a living room and six guest bedrooms, including two VIP cabins, each with a wardrobe, two double bedrooms, a double cabin and a children’s room, each with its own bathroom and unique design.
The next floor – the third – is the “owner” floor. It has a mini-living room overlooking the lower floor, and next to it is a spacious study with its own bathroom. Access to the office is possible both from the corridor and from the spacious owner’s cabin, which includes a bedroom and living room, two balconies, a huge bathroom and a spacious wardrobe.
We rise to the last floor. Here we are met by a bar and a DJ zone. This is the place to have fun! There is a swimming pool, an area with sun loungers and a sofa. Also above the top floor is a helicopter and a helipad. This means that if the yacht was at sea, Plahotniuc could reach it by air.
From Al Capone to James Bond
In July 2019, after Plahotniuc lost power and fled the country, the yacht was put up for sale. Implemented by a yacht broker. In the news, published on August 15 on one of the specialized sites, it was written that the yacht was sold 20 days after entering the market. The ship was sold for 48.5 million euros (about one billion lei).
Shortly after the change of ownership, the yacht also changed its name. Now it has become known as Quantum of Solace. The ship ended up in the hands of the famous American businessman John Staluppi. The 75-year-old businessman owns several yachts and is known for naming his boats after James Bond films.
Immediately after the purchase, it was announced that the former Honor will become a charter vessel – that is, it can be rented out. A week of sailing on this yacht costs from 560 thousand dollars and can reach up to 630 thousand dollars. However, already three months after the purchase, Staluppi put his yacht up for sale, asking for 56,400,000 euros for it. A buyer was found only at the end of 2022.
We reached out to John Staluppi through his Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. We asked him if he knew that the yacht belonged to the oligarch Plahotniuc and why he put it up for sale so quickly. However, the businessman did not respond to our messages.
Litigation in Cyprus
As can be seen, Honor was not sold directly by Plahotniuc, as his name never appeared as a direct beneficiary of the yacht. In this case, the Plahotniuc-Kildescu family also turned to mediators. However, this time the intermediaries pulled off a trick, as a result of which the oligarch was left without his jewel for almost 50 million euros.
Honor was sold by Ilyana-Mihaela Burcea, a Romanian living in Dubai. In 2020, journalists from the Center for Investigative Journalism found out that Burcea managed several businesses associated with Vladimir Plahotniuc.
Oksana Kildescu appealed to the Cypriot court in Nicosia with a lawsuit against Burchi and a number of other persons. It happened in October 2019. It is noteworthy that the American Staluppi exposed her yacht for sale at the same time that Kildescu applied to the Cypriot court with a complaint that she had been deprived of her property.
In Cyprus, Plahotniuc’s ex-wife demanded to restore her rights to her assets and explained to the court why she turned to intermediaries. [Владимир Плахотнюк] reside in Miami, USA, with their family, where they applied for political asylum. During the divorce proceedings (2010-2011), due to the involvement of the vice-chairman in politics (in 2011, Vladimir Plahotniuc became the first vice-speaker of the Parliament – ed. note), they made an amicable division of property through corporate structures.
[…] they held most of their assets through various corporate structures with nominee shareholders and directors to ensure confidentiality regarding their property, in order to protect the political career of the vice chairman from political attacks, as well as to protect him from the high risk of the Moldovan business environment,” the statement reads. decision issued by the Court of Nicosia.
According to what was stated to the Cypriot court, Plahotniuc and Kildescu turned to Burcea and another Romanian citizen, Andrei-Bogdan Georgiou, who helped them set up companies and open bank accounts in various jurisdictions to hide their wealth. Thus, Burcea and Georgiou “convincingly informed (…) that the assets should be in a company, the effective beneficiary” of which should be themselves or persons close to them.
“Since the plaintiff and the VP considered them […] with your acquaintances […]they entrusted them with various assets, including a yacht […]which was to be managed by a family office in Dubai.”
“[Иляна Бурча и Андрей Георгиу] abused the trust and friendship on the part of the plaintiff and, taking advantage of her and her family’s difficulties, engaged in the complete sale of property, ”the statement of claim says.
In court, Burcea denied that she was dealing with the affairs of the Plahotniuc-Kildescu spouses, and claimed that the yacht belonged to her, since it was bought “with her own funds and money.” Moreover, she stated that she “sold the yacht not in August 2019, but much earlier.”
Finally, in March 2020, a court in Nicosia dismissed the claim. The Court concluded that the majority of the defendants were not residents of Cyprus and therefore could not rule against residents of other jurisdictions. Moreover, “the applicant’s version that she is in fact the ultimate beneficiary (…) is an admission that she deliberately disregarded internationally accepted prohibitions on certain activities that constitute, among other things, violations in relation to the prevention and combat of money laundering money,” the court decision says. We asked Ileana-Mihaela Burcea why Kildescu accused her of depriving her of her yacht, and also what services she provided to the Plahotniuc-Kildescu family.
Ileana-Mihaela BURCEA: As a result of the commercial relationship that I established with Ms. Kildescu, my company lost about 7 million euros (…). The lawsuit was a completely unsuccessful and completely false attempt to find a way to avoid paying this debt.
I repeat that I have never provided services to the Plahotniuc-Kildescu family, as I have never had any commercial or personal relationship, and I have never known Mr. Plahotniuc. The commercial relationship was exclusively between me and Ms. Kildescu – one of my companies provided her with company registration services in various jurisdictions.
In Chisinau, Ileana-Michaela Burcea appears in two criminal cases. She is a defendant in what is known as Bank Fraud for being an accomplice in fraud and money laundering in especially large sizes. According to the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office, Burcha is hiding from the criminal prosecution authorities and is on the wanted list.
Burcha was also heard in another case, but in that case she does not currently have the status of an accused. This is a money laundering case.
“At this stage, no charges have been brought against the indicated person in this case, and a decision on this matter will be made after requests for international legal assistance sent to Singapore, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates,” the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office told RE Moldova.
In turn, Burcea claims that she does not know that she is under investigation in Chisinau, and that she is wanted by the Moldovan authorities. However, she says that she was heard as a witness.
“I don’t know anything about the accusations you refer to [по делу о «Банковском мошенничестве»]because they were not brought to my attention by the criminal prosecution authority. I have always cooperated with the authorities in investigations where my participation or assistance was needed to the extent that I knew the relevant information.”
To Dubai for the Truth
In 2019, Kildescu began a new lawsuit. This time, she turned to the Dubai International Financial Center Court (DIFC), an institution that specializes in resolving civil and commercial disputes.
Despite the fact that most of the decisions taken by the DIFC are public, the decision in the Kildescu case could not be found on the Internet.
There are two “private cases” in Kildescu’s lawsuit, as the representative of the DIFC Tribunal called them. The first appeal refers to 2019 and we already wrote about it above, and the second was initiated in 2020.
The Kildescu case was mentioned by three British law firms that represented Plahotniuc’s ex-wife in a Dubai court.
Pallant Chambers, UK law firm
Ileana-Michaela Burcea claims that Kildescu lost her case in Dubai.
Ileana-Mihaela BURCEA: It is true that initially in both cases it was decided to partially freeze some assets, but this measure was an insurance / preventive measure, possible only on the basis of the judge’s first impression of the stories perfectly prepared by Ms. Kildescu.
(…) What is really important is that in two different jurisdictions the courts have decided – definitively and irrevocably – that Ms Kildescu’s claims, being unfounded, have no bearing on factual reality.
Vladimir Plahotniuc fled the Republic of Moldova in June 2019. In September of that year, he put on the international wanted list. There are six cases on the table of prosecutors in which the politician is accused of fraud and money laundering on an especially large scale, creation and management of a criminal organizationillicit enrichment, abuse of authority, active corruption and falsification of government documents.
In the case under the general title “Bank Fraud”, the prosecutor’s office seized assets worth 2.3 billion lei. None of the cases have yet gone to trial.
Back in November 2022, we contacted Vladimir Plahotniuc through his lawyer and asked a number of questions regarding, among other things, the yacht and the origin of the money for its purchase, but there was no answer.
In April of this year, we again turned to the oligarch’s lawyer for a reaction. Lucian Rogac did not want to answer and asked us to forward him the questions, which he would forward to Plahotniuc.
Lucian ROGAK, Plahotniuc’s lawyer: He certainly received them, if you gave them to me, I will forward them. But perhaps something has changed in that time. Can you give me [вопросы] one more time and I’ll redirect them. (…) I’m telling you that I don’t want to comment, I don’t want to give a reaction or answer questions. If you give me questions, I will forward them, and if there is a response from my client, then yes, but I would not like to comment.
We sent questions to Plahotniuc again through a lawyer, but this time we did not receive a response.
In October 2022, Vladimir Plahotniuc announced that he was returning to Moldovan politics. “I am a politician who knows how to solve crises, and now my time is coming,” he said in an interview, but after that he no longer appeared in the public eye.
GBC – from Plahotniuc to Gibraltar
A few months ago, Finpar Invest SRL, the main company in the real estate empire of Moldovan oligarch and leader of the Democratic Party Vladimir Plahotniuc, sold three properties in Chisinau worth more than half a billion lei. As RE Moldova journalists found out, among the sold objects was Plahotniuc’s business residence Global Business Center (GBC), where he was planned to be assassinated.
The transaction was not carried out directly, but through the assignment of the company. The buyer is an offshore company from tax haven in Gibraltar, the real beneficiaries of which are hiding behind shell companies. The property is currently managed by a Russian citizen who previously worked for businesses affiliated with the energy giant Gazprom.
Recently, one of the properties acquired from Finpar was sold to companies that were previously controlled by the scandalous banker. Vyacheslav Platonsentenced in the first and second instances to 18 years in prison for participating in the “theft of a billion.”
July 2018. Finpar Invest establishes Real Concept Imobil SRL and transfers three objects to its authorized capital. We are talking about a city mansion with the status of a historical monument near the parliament, a land plot of more than 10 hectares in the area of the Northern bus station in Chisinau and the GBC business center.
The pre-assessment of the facilities was carried out by Soclu, which had previously provided similar services to Finpar. The total cost of the three objects amounted to 608.5 million lei (more than 32 million euros).
Offshore deal. Do not disturb me
In July 2018, a few weeks after the creation of the Real Concept Imobil, Finpar sells 100% of the shares to the offshore company Querious Holdings LTD from Gibraltar. Finpar is officially owned by a Cypriot Asirapal Enterpres LTD.
The agreement on the sale of the authorized capital was signed in the presence of the notary Olga Bondarchuk. In the past, she certified several transactions involving firms and people from Plahotniuc’s entourage.
The administrator of Finpar Invest, Mihai Poknia, refused to discuss the details of the transaction over the phone and asked to transfer the existing questions in writing, which we did. After several days of waiting, we still did not receive a response. A new attempt to contact Mr. Poknia was unsuccessful – he ignored calls and messages.
In response to our insistence, Poknya finally sent us the following message: “This is my personal phone number, and please don’t bother me like that again. Thank you”. This is despite the fact that his mobile phone number is indicated in the documents of the Real Concept Imobil company, submitted to the Public Services Agency (register of companies in Moldova).
Owner from Gibraltar
The new owner of Real Concept Imobi is Querious Holdings LTD. The latter is owned by Redmount Nomines LTD, a Gibraltar front company that is part of Redmount, a tax optimization and asset management company.
A few days after the acquisition of Real Concept Imobil, Querious Holdings ceded 100% of its share to another Gibraltar company – Eastern Holdings LTD. The latter’s nominee shareholders were also from the Redmount group.
Already in mid-August 2018, Yulia Rogozhina, a 37-year-old citizen of the Russian Federation from the town of Lytkarino near Moscow, becomes an administrator at Real Concept Imobil. Previously, Rogozhina worked at Gazpromstroyengineering, a subsidiary of the Russian gas giant Gazprom.
In a telephone conversation with a RE journalist, Rogozhina declined to provide details about the real owners and their plans for the three acquired properties.
“I can’t say anything about the plans of the investors and who they are… Perhaps my representative will contact you and give you details on this matter.”
At the time of publication of this material, no one contacted the RE Moldova reporter on this issue.
Property sold by Finpar Invest
Assets owned by the leader of the Democratic Party have undergone a larger process of reconfiguration in recent years. Suffice it to recall the sale of seven gas stations (2015), a building by the lake in the Chisinau Rose Valley park (2016) and the former cafe Guguta (2017). Against the backdrop of these ongoing transactions, the alienation of three objects to offshore companies took place.
Global Business Center
The Global Business Centre, located on Dimitrie Cantemir Boulevard in the Moldovan capital, has been Plahotniuc’s business residence for many years.
This is a luxury property consisting of two buildings. The area of the main seven-story building is more than 5200 square meters, and the declared cadastral value is 55.7 million lei; the second is two-storey, with an area of about 300 square meters and a cost of 4.6 million lei.
GBC is located on a 16 hectare land plot acquired by Finpar Invest back in 2004-2006, during the communist era.
The company, then called Minor SRL, paid almost 270,000 lei (about 17,000 euros at the exchange rate of the time) for the land. In 2018, when it was sold, its value was estimated at almost 70 times higher – 18.7 million lei (about 960 thousand euros).
In 2017-2018, Plahotniuc moved to the new luxurious PDM office in the center of Chisinau, which used to belong to the Party of Communists. Some organizations founded by the oligarch, including the Association of Moldovan Entrepreneurs and the Edelweiss Foundation, also became newcomers to the party office.
Simultaneously with the departure of the owner and related companies, the business center on Blvd. Other firms and people also left Cantemir. For example, he closed his Agency No. 51 in GBC Victoriabank. The notary Olga Bondarchuk also transferred her office – now she settled on August 31, 1989, not far from the headquarters of the PDM and the new residence of Plahotniuc.
In the spring of 2017, when Plahotniuc was still in the GBC, an assassination attempt was planned on him, which was prevented by Moldovan and Ukrainian law enforcement officers. According to the materials released by the police, the killers drew their plan in the sand and intended to use grenade launchers.
Mansion near Parliament
The largest benefit in the deal with the Gibraltar offshore Finpar received from the sale of a mansion in Chisinau, included in the register of historical monuments of local importance and located in close proximity to the Parliament of Moldova. The building with a total area of 674 square meters is located on a plot of about 7 acres on the Chisinau Sfatul Tarii street.
The mansion was bought from the state in 2001 by Minor SRL (current name Finpar Invest), for only 249,000 lei (about 20,000 euros at the exchange rate at that time). The deal was accompanied by some problems. The capital office of the Cadastre refused to register the right of ownership for the reason that there were no acts of acceptance and transfer of some premises. Finpar applied to the court, which ordered the cadastral authorities to register the transaction.
In 2005, the building was renovated by Moldconstruct Market SRL, which won several public tenders during communist rule and Oleg Voroninthe son of the then president, was listed as an economist.
In subsequent years, the historical monument changed owners twice, in order to eventually be bought out by Finpar Invest in March 2017. At the end of the same year, the company managed to privatize the land, paying a symbolic amount of 145,000 lei (slightly more than 7,000 euros) to the state budget.
And in April 2018, when Finpar was preparing a deal with an offshore company, the land near the parliament was already valued at 11.6 million lei, which is 80 times more than the amount paid during privatization.
The same story happened with the mansion. This object was valued at more than 47 million lei, which is almost 190 times higher than the cost of its privatization paid in the early 2000s.
After Real Concept Imobil came under the control of the Gibraltar offshore, the mansion was transferred to the ownership of Real Grup Imobil, a Joint Stock Company registered in Moldova, whose administrator, until recently, was the already mentioned Yulia Rogozhina.
Wasteland Gradina Moldovei
Still, the most valuable property ceded by Finpar to an offshore company from Gibraltar is land with an area of more than 10 hectares, located along the perimeter of the Northern Bus Station, CHP-1, the Calea Basarabia market and Tudor Vladimirescu street.
The garbage-littered wasteland with the foundations of unfinished buildings has now become a haven for mongrels and a “free toilet” for drivers and travelers from the Northern Bus Station.
Once there were greenhouses, and 14 years ago the communist government decided to create an agricultural complex GRĂDINA MOLDOVEI on this land. This was the first planned step, which subsequently led to the privatization of the site.
2005 year. The Tarlev government decides to change the purpose of the land plot, which was then 10.65 hectares and was used by Vivaflora, “due to its exclusion from agricultural circulation for the construction of a commercial agricultural center.”
2006 The land was leased for 99 years to Gifi Vostok SRL, which at that time was one of the largest in Moldova in the field of microfinance.
2007 Gifi Vostok receives endorsement from the Ministry of Economy, headed by the then current President Igor Dodonand waives the right to lease in favor of Best Travel SRL, citing his decision as financial incapacity.
2008 After a tender organized by the Public Property Agency, Best Travel acquires the land for only 16.8 million lei.
2010 (July). The Accounts Chamber (CA) states that the sale of the land “was made in unfavorable conditions for the state in the absence of transparency on the standard cost of land provided for adjacent plots, without taking into account the fact that the land was intended for construction, which led to a decrease in its value.”
According to the JV report, the land was valued by the real estate exchange Lara for 60.07 million lei, respectively, the state lost more than 43 million lei of income.
2010 (September). Best Travel resells the land to Finpar Invest for 29.2 million lei. The price is almost twice the price paid in 2008, but half the real market value.
Already in 2014, a company controlled by Plahotniuc separates a lot of 22 acres from the acquired land and sells it to Grand Oil Ltd. Now there is a gas station “Lukoil”. Grand Oil is a company that Finpar Invest sold seven filling stations to in 2014. RE wrote about this story in 2017.
In April 2018, a land plot with an area of 10.4 hectares is valued at 320 million lei, which is 10 times the price of its purchase. It was with this value that it was included in the authorized capital of Real Concept Imobil and sold to the Gibraltar offshore.
The new owner divided more than 10 hectares of land into two equal plots.
One of them was placed in insurance company Asito in the amount of 50 million lei. The cadastral data show that the transaction was completed on the basis of a sale and purchase agreement dated September 28, 2018.
On the same day, the second lot was also pledged in the amount of 60 million lei, but already in another insurance company – Moldasig SA.
According to prosecutors, both insurance companies were previously controlled by Vyacheslav Platon, a banker of dubious reputation, sentenced in the first and second instances to 18 years in prison for fraud and money laundering on a particularly large scale, after damaging the Banca de Economii for more than 869 million euros. lei
Representatives of these insurance companies did not comment on these transactions.