A possible beneficiary of the bankrupt Normann Group of Companies, which essentially “threw” equity holders, Viktor Seppenen, who was never prosecuted, continues his stormy activity.
The owner of a stake in the collapsed Norman Group of Companies, the ex-official Viktor Seppenen, who was left without the attention of investigators, turned out to be close to the project again, but now from the fund of equity holders of the Leningrad region. In fact, Seppenen, unlike Smirnov, who escaped responsibility for the affairs of the developer, got access to budget money.
The assets of the developer – the Norman group, whose head and main legal owner Vladimir Smirnov is a defendant in a criminal case on embezzlement of equity holders’ funds, will be auctioned off. In the Leningrad region, five plots in the village of Yanino near the infamous LCD “Bright” got on sale at a significant discount. In the meantime, the federal fund is completing the construction of the facilities of the troubled company, and the ex-director is waiting for the trial, another co-owner and members of the board of directors are not blowing their heads, demonstrating the attributes of a successful life on social networks.
In addition, the asset is pledged to NS Bank JSC. The plots are located near the residential complex “Bright”, which at one time was never completed by Norman LO LLC, having managed to go bankrupt before that.
Recall that Norman LO LLC, among other things, was the developer of two LCDs – Bright in Yanino for six 12-story buildings and Desyatkino 2.0 in Murino – for three 18-story buildings. The completion of buildings A and B, for which a corresponding decision has been made, is currently being carried out by the Federal Fund for the Protection of the Rights of Shareholders. By the end of 2023, it is planned to hand over the houses, and 188 equity holders from the buildings of the second stage (C and D) will be paid compensation. According to the Kommersant newspaper, the developer managed to sell 844 apartments in Yarkom, and 1,629 apartments in Desyatkino 2.0. Initially, houses in Yanino were supposed to be completed in 2017-2018, but even for 2019, the readiness was at the level of 30% .
How the Norman collapsed
The work of the company “Normann LO” was accompanied by scandals. In arbitration alone, the firm has 65 cases worth 1.4 billion rubles. Some of them concerned claims specifically to objects under construction. So, for example, in November 2018, at the suit of the Committee of State Construction Supervision and State Expertise of the Leningrad Region, the company was banned for a year from attracting money from equity holders for the failure to meet the deadlines for the delivery of residential buildings.
The LLC’s problems began back in 2016, but the company, instead of looking for a way out, simply dragged the situation into a loop by postponing the deadlines for 9 objects at once. This resulted in the fact that the equity holders went to court to collect forfeits and fines, but they did not receive this money. As a result, seven criminal cases were opened against the general director of the company Smirnov due to non-payment of compensation to equity holders, and the group, having accumulated debts and enforcement proceedings, slowly went to the bottom.
It was the equity holders, tired of the developer’s promises, who initiated the bankruptcy case against Norman LO, which ended in bankruptcy proceedings in 2019, which is still ongoing. At the time of declaring bankrupt (according to data from the balance sheet), the company’s assets were estimated at 4.945 billion rubles, and the amount of liabilities was 4.5 billion rubles. But even if everything is sold, it is still necessary to complete the construction of objects for something, therefore the court, despite the preponderance of assets over liabilities, declared the LLC bankrupt.
The bankruptcy case was not without oddities. So, at the start, Valeria Slonchak, who owns the TsYUZ legal office in St. Petersburg, was appointed bankruptcy trustee. But Slonchak in March 2023 left the “post” of her own free will and was replaced by Anna Doronina. It is noteworthy that one of the major creditors, NS Bank, tried to stop the change of bankruptcy trustees and even expressed distrust of the new trustee, referring to certain circumstances of another bankruptcy case where Doronina was the trustee, but left the post. The court did not accept the arguments and ended the castling.
Meanwhile, today the case received claims from NS Bank JSC about bringing Slonchak V.I. to losses in the amount of 798,804,175.83 rubles. It is not yet known for what exactly the former bankruptcy trustee is charged with losses.
Another curious fact: during the bankruptcy, the manager challenged transactions for the transfer of funds to a certain R-Fix LLC. Normann LO LLC transferred 16 million rubles to this company from March to August 2017, that is, already when the problems at construction sites were obvious. Doesn’t this smack of an attempt to withdraw the last assets, because at the same time, for some reason, there was no money to pay for the penalties to equity holders?
According to Rusprofile, R-Fix is owned by the bankrupt Norman-Service LLC (Smirnov’s asset) and Construction Management LLC, as well as Real Estate City. The last two belong to a certain Igor Petrov. Among the co-owners of Nedvizhimost City in 2014-2018, Anastasia Tuzova, the owner of the Fashion Mi clothing company, co-founder of the Ez Life charity foundation (liquidated in August 2022), was noted, which, judging by the enforcement proceedings, did not differ financial discipline. Petrov himself is still working in the construction industry today, having a number of companies in his business portfolio, including General Construction LLC, which, apparently, was engaged in the construction of social facilities.
If we talk about the Norman holding as a whole, then it has generated about 6,000 defrauded real estate investors. He was unable to complete the construction of three objects not only in the Leningrad region, including Moroshkino, and three residential complexes in St. Petersburg, including Three Oranges, On Zarechnaya and Izhora Park.
Smirnov – SIZO …
The Norman LO company is owned by Norminfo LLC, and then, in turn, is owned by the former director Vladimir Smirnov (55% of the share), another bankrupt asset of the group – Normann-Holding LLC (44%) and Viktor Seppenen. At the same time, Norman-Holding is wholly owned by the same Smirnov. Today, the latter is awaiting trial, and according to the sane articles, he faces up to ten years in prison.
As 47news reported, in January 2019, Smirnov and his top manager Boris Brosalin were detained for 48 hours, but then released. Brosalin is currently bankrupt as an individual, and previously was the head of 17 companies from the Norman division. Its bankruptcy was initiated by Norman-Stroy LLC represented by the bankruptcy trustee.
The publication clarified that by the time the top management was detained for the first time, construction had already stopped. Shareholders out of desperation, left without housing and without money, went on a hunger strike, which lasted until July 30. It was completed five days after the start due to the deteriorating health of the participants. This resonance brought Smirnov to the cell – he was detained in July 2019, having also been blacklisted by the prosecutor’s office for bad faith.
Some media wrote then that allegedly Smirnov was going to fly to Switzerland in order to borrow money from someone there, but he could not, because the investigator took his passport from him. And why didn’t he take a loan in Russia, or is there some kind of special air in Europe? And in 2017-2018, Smirnov, apparently, hastily sold his assets in order to scrape together money for a ticket to those Swiss lush meadows. For example, Remstroyservis LO LLC, Remstroyservis SPB LLC were sold. And surprisingly, among the buyers of both legal entities was their former CEO – Smirnov’s man. Leads to some thoughts.
And in 2019, Smirnov had the audacity to insist on his release from custody with the reference that Article 108 of the Criminal Procedure Code of the Russian Federation prohibits the detention of those accused of crimes committed in the field of entrepreneurship, and his case allegedly falls under the rule of law and is not burdened by circumstances, lifting this restriction. But the court left the defendant under arrest.
The investigation of the case, where more than 2 thousand people are victims, continued until September 2022. According to the St. Petersburg prosecutor’s office, the indictment was approved not only against Smirnov as the owner, but also as the head of commercial organizations that are part of the Norman group of companies.
He is charged with fraud using his official position on an especially large scale. The investigation believes that from 2014 to 2018, the defendant collected more than 3 billion rubles from equity holders of the Na Zarechnaya and Desyatkino 2.0 residential complexes, but at the same time “had no intentions and no real financial ability to fulfill the obligations undertaken to build apartment buildings.” The money is listed as stolen, and Smirnov’s property was arrested. The case will be heard in the Smolninsky District Court of St. Petersburg.
Please note that for so many years the company has played tricks on the construction market with virtually impunity. Where were the head of the region Drozdenko and supervisory authorities? Such loyalty to the Norman group could be associated with close ties with the authorities. For example, Nikolai Krutov, a member of the board of directors of the Norman Group of Companies, is the full namesake of the former head of the construction committee in the administration of St. Petersburg, who has worked in this department since the late 90s, and also the ex-head of the same committee in the Leningrad region.
And Nikolai Krutov today has an asset – Sparta-Hotels Group LLC, among the owners of which Norman-Center LLC was previously noted. An amazing coincidence, isn’t it?
As for Smirnov, he currently has 18 companies in which he has or had shares. Their cost has a negative value – 117 million rubles. Among the interesting business partners of the builder (according to NJSC ISG Normann), for example, the owner of a concrete business and a large crushed stone trading company, Yuri Rafalsky, who also appeared earlier as the director of the representative office of the Association of Builders of Russia in the North-Western Federal District, can be noted.
In addition, Rafalsky is the former deputy head of Karelia, the former official representative of the Republic of Karelia under the President of the Russian Federation, the former head of the board of directors of OJSC Development Corporation of the Republic of Karelia. Among his partners in the non-profit partnership “Center for Social and Conservative Policy of the Republic of Karelia” was another remarkable person – Igor Shuvalov (not to be confused with the former Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation), who put forward his candidacy in 2021 in the elections to the Legislative Assembly of St. Petersburg.
The second business partner in the same NJSC “ISG” “Normann” was no less remarkable Igor Vitkovsky – the general director of the holding LLC “HK Intra TOOL”.
Smirnov is not only the owner of construction assets, but also a former banker. He owned a controlling stake in PJSC Donkhlebbank, which lost its license in December 2018 and is now bankrupt. Convenient, right? Borrow someone so that this someone buys real estate from you with this money and take it as collateral, and then take it and bring down the entire empire! It is not superfluous to recall here that in 2022 the bankruptcy trustee of the bank demanded that former top managers and the owner be brought to subsidiary liability for 1.3 billion rubles. So, it seems that equity holders will have to make room in the register of creditors with depositors.
Seppenen – a beautiful life
Here’s just a strange situation: one owner of Normann LO is awaiting trial – Smirnov, and the second owner, who also held a senior position, namely, was the chairman of the board of directors of the Norman Group of Companies – Seppenen does not blow his mustache.
And what is interesting, when in 2021 the bankruptcy trustee “Normann LO” filed an application for bringing to subsidiary liability for the company’s debts of almost 3.2 billion rubles, the wording was more than vague – “the controlling debtor of the person Norminfo LLC”. As we remember, Smirnov controls the latter, but Seppenen also has a share. How so? How to divide profits, so for two, but how to be responsible for deeds, so in the bushes? Or maybe the whole secret is that Seppenen is a former official?
According to the Construction News Agency, Viktor Seppenen worked as the head of the regional construction department of the Federal State Institution “Joint Directorate for the Implementation of Federal Investment Programs”, or rather, he was the representative of the Federal State Institution in the Northwestern Federal District and was responsible for housing contracts for the military (a very monetary topic!). This FGU is directly controlled by the Ministry of Construction of Russia, which indicates very, very extensive connections of Seppenen. It is not for nothing that even the appeals of equity holders to investigators to pay attention to the chairman of the board of directors of the company, Viktor Seppenen, did not help. Although he did not just occupy a chair, he, judging by the words of equity holders, actively participated in the life of a construction holding. The equity holders themselves even suggested that in this whole story Smirnov acted as a face value, and not at all as a main player. But the main player just did not pay attention to the investigation.
According to Rusprofile, Viktor Seppenen continues to spin in the business of the Northern capital, one way or another connected with construction. True, now preferring to shine among the owners. So he holds the post of general director at Elektron LLC, which is responsible for the transmission of electricity and technological connection to distribution networks, and the latter is one of the stages in the construction of any facility.
Electron LLC is owned by three individuals: Tatyana Myachina (75%), Alexandra Smolkina (20%) and Evgeny Sheskin. The last one is the most interesting. Sheskin in 2017-2020 was the director of ASO SRO Inzhspetsstroy. Among the founders, not only commercial, but also state institutions were noted, for example, the State Unitary Enterprise “Lengiproinzhproekt”. Now Sheskin is the liquidator (and before that the director) of another construction SRO – APO SRO Inzhspetsstroy-Proekt, where a state institution, St. Petersburg State Unitary Enterprise Lensvet, was also noted among the co-founders.
An interesting fact about the last SRO: National Union surveyors and designers, when checking ward organizations, repeatedly revealed violations in the association of design organizations Inzhspetsstroy-Proekt, which included 215 active participants in 2019. In 2019, SROs were found to be inconsistent with the norms of the legislation on urban planning and self-regulatory organizations. Previously, questions arose about the size of the compensation fund. In October 2019, Rostekhnadzor issued an order to remove information about the self-regulatory organization from the state register.
Unfortunately, it was not possible to establish whether any of the companies of the Norman Group of Companies was part of one of the SROs of Sheskin.
Electron has a subsidiary, Energoinvest LLC, operating in the same industry, and Seppenen was also its director in 2019-2020. At the same time, Energoinvest was the customer of 18 government contracts worth more than 213 million rubles. And no, we did not make a reservation, it was the customer. It would seem, what does a private LLC have to do with state tenders, and even in the role of a customer? Having studied the company’s contracts, we found there, among other things, orders for connecting objects in Yanino-1, in which the federal fund is completing the construction after the bursting of the Norman.
For example, already in January 2023, Energoinvest, as a customer, signed a contract for almost 19 million rubles for the construction of a 0.4 kV cable line at the facility: Power supply of multi-apartment residential buildings with built-in premises (building A, building B) at the address: Leningrad region, Vsevolozhsk municipal district, Yanino-1 village, candidate of science: 47:07:1039001:2468. The contractor does not appear in the tender card. But it is on this site that the fund for the protection of equity holders of the Leningrad region, created by the authorities of the region, “wipes” behind the “Norman” failures. That is, a private company acts in the interests of the fund, and Seppenen, who was related to Norman, but was never involved for the failures of projects, now has a relationship with the project from the other side. With the one where budgetary funds were used. Some surrealism.
There is some injustice in this inattention of the investigators to the second owner of the Norman, don’t you think?
Interestingly, the investigators did not pay attention to Seppenen’s daughter, Nadezhda, who served as the general director of Norman-Holding LLC, at least in 2013, and was a member of the Board of Directors of the Group of Companies. At the same time, judging by the photographs in the Kommersant newspaper from the presentation of the award, Nadezhda in 2017 was the deputy general director of the Norman company. And in other media, she appeared in this position, talking about the affairs of the company.
Nadezhda became the subject of a scandal in 2018, when the defrauded equity holders of Norman, having carefully studied her social networks, found photographs in branded shoes worth 70-100 thousand rubles per pair, with a bag of 240 thousand rubles, and other attributes of a comfortable life, including including a Porsche Macan Turbo car worth from 5.8 million rubles. And this is after more than 2 thousand equity holders could not get housing from Norman Group! After the scandal, Seppenen made the accounts closed. So that all sorts of people do not wander there and do not interfere with enjoying a beautiful life – should you post photos with oysters for breakfast from trips from Europe?
At the same time, a certain Nadezhda Seppenen appeared in the court materials as a tax evader (a little more than 66 thousand rubles), which were collected from her by the Federal Tax Service Inspectorate No. 25 for St. Petersburg. That is, in shoes for three average salaries in the regions, but we do not pay taxes? Or was it necessary to create a different image for government agencies, not the one for friends in social networks?
As for the assets, the full namesake Seppenen previously featured a stake in the K8 company, which she owned with a certain Ivan Koval, the owner of a travel agency from the Leningrad region.
As we can see, while shareholders have been waiting for their apartments for years, co-owners and former top managers of the company do not hesitate to publicly demonstrate the attributes of a successful life. Looking at this, it still seems to us that not the full composition of those responsible for the disruption of construction projects and the collapse of the company was clearly on the dock in the case of the equity holders of the Norman group. The investigator has more to pay attention to in this story.