Five merchants from different regions of Russia submitted a collective statement to the Investigative Committee and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, in which they claim that they bought tobacco and electronic cigarettes from the Chekalins, part of the batch turned out to be defective, and part was not delivered at all. At the same time, Artyom Chekalin and his business partners were not going to take the marriage and return the money.
The total amount of claims exceeds 18 million rubles, and this, according to the victims, is only a small part of the losses, since there are many more deceived customers, just not everyone is ready to attract attention to themselves. Now the security forces are checking the statements of the Chekalins’ business partners.
We are talking about wholesale sales of electronic cigarettes and tobacco heating systems. The picture so far looks like this: a few years ago, Lerchek and his husband allegedly agreed with a well-known tobacco tycoon, the founder of one of the largest metropolitan hookah chains, as well as blogger Ilyaz Valiullin, to release a joint product and make money on it.
Valiullin looked like a promising partner with extensive experience in the tobacco trade. Judging by the data of the SPARK-Interfax system, in 2021 his firms collectively earned more than 300 million rubles.
The parties shook hands and created the company “Efir” with an authorized capital of only 12 thousand rubles. 45% of the legal entity belonged to Artyom Chekalin and Ilyaz Valiullin, another 10 went to Ilyaz’s partner, Efir CEO Stanislav Kuzmin.
Potential customers were sent a flashy presentation describing the impressive growth in the number of consumers of nicotine delivery systems and, accordingly, business prospects and huge profits for merchant partners. In addition, the celebrity bloggers promised to run a major advertising campaign to help sell all the products bought from them.
The presentation also promised high quality products and multi-level control over their manufacture, although in reality, according to buyers, everything turned out differently. Of course, Efir did not have any production base of its own, the goods were imported from China, and there were many defects among them.
Interestingly, for some reason, the quality certificate for the company’s products was issued by another legal entity – the National Escrow System tobacco sales company, owned by Valiullin. As it turned out later, the technical specifications (TS) presented in the documentation do not correspond to the products being sold.
Nevertheless, there were enough people willing to cooperate with Efir. Among them were entrepreneurs from Yoshkar-Ola Margarita and Evgeny Shishkin. Young people decided to buy electronic cigarettes and tobacco for a large amount, and then the first oddities appeared.
The sellers demanded that the money be transferred to various individual entrepreneurs, and some paid in cash to certain individuals. And this applied not only to the Shishkins, but to all buyers. The strange scheme was explained by the need to evade taxes and assured that the entire amount would definitely end up with Efir. As a result, the money was sent, but the ordered batch of smoking sticks came defective, and the tobacco did not arrive at all. To all requests to explain the situation, the answer was the same: go to court.
In court, the Shishkins managed to prove that the money for the tobacco not received should be returned. However, by this time, “Efir” was actually closed. In September last year, Chekalin and Valiullin unexpectedly went out of business, after which the company’s website stopped working, phones turned off, and the e-mail box of merchants began to return letters from angry buyers.
The remaining sole shareholder, Stanislav Kuzmin, told the victims that the company was preparing for bankruptcy. At the same time, information appeared on specialized websites about the upcoming liquidation of the “National Escrow System”, which issued a quality certificate for products.
Now Valiullin declares that he allegedly has nothing to do with all individual entrepreneurs and private traders who collected money from entrepreneurs. Say, all claims to them.
Judging by the financial statements of Efir, in 2021 the financial and other current assets of the company amounted to almost 20 million rubles. At the same time, businessmen officially worked in the red: a net loss for the year amounted to 3.5 million. Perhaps the company was originally created under a fraudulent scheme: to collect money from customers.
Recall that over the years of their activity, Lerchek and her husband Artyom Chekalin have earned billions of rubles. Of these, one and a half billion were invested in two luxurious mansions in prestigious districts of the Moscow region, three apartments in the central districts of the capital, eight kilogram gold bars and a solid fleet of vehicles: Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge, Lamborghini Urus, a special Mercedes-Benz AMG G63.
Unlike the Chekalins, Ilyaz Valiullin tries not to advertise his fortune in Russia. It is still registered on the outskirts of Kazan in an ordinary nine-story panel building. He behaves cautiously on the Web, often changes phones and uses pseudonyms when registering for various services. Rumor has it that he spends his fortune in Dubai, where he is almost on a permanent basis.