The Prosecutor General’s Office has taken the bit between its teeth in the deprivatization of Sibeko
Serious pressure continues on Andrey Melnichenko.
Mikhail Abyzov’s defense considers the claim against the owner of SUEK and Eurochem to be unfounded, and experts consider it a redistribution of property.
The Sverdlovsk District Court of Krasnoyarsk extended until September 14 preliminary hearings on the claim of the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation against the structures of Andrei Melnichenko. The department demands that the Sibeko power plants, purchased by the billionaire in 2018 from Mikhail Abyzov, be confiscated in favor of the state. According to the prosecutor’s office, Melnichenko knew that he was a government employee and could not make transactions. Abyzov’s defense calls the claim unfounded because he did not sign the deal. The Company’s interlocutors believe that in this way Melnichenko is being encouraged to transfer SUEK and Eurochem from Dubai to Russian jurisdiction.
The claim of the Prosecutor General’s Office against the structures of the SGC Andrei Melnichenko became known on August 17. The supervisory agency demands that the shares of the Sibeko company, which owns several thermal power plants in Novosibirsk, be confiscated from them in favor of the state. According to the supervisory authority, the shares of this company were purchased on February 7, 2018 from offshore companies owned by ex-billionaire Mikhail Abyzov.
The seller at that time was in the civil service, being the Minister of the Open Government, the plaintiff claims, and therefore did not have the right to engage in business. And Melnichenko understood that the deal with Abyzov was “an activity prohibited by anti-corruption legislation” and “gives rise to an act of corruption,” but he still bought the shares, according to the Prosecutor General’s Office. This means that he is guilty, and the shares must be confiscated from him. And along with shares and thermal power plants.
“In my opinion, the lawsuit against Melnichenko is unfounded”
Representatives of Andrei Melnichenko said back in August that they were “studying” the claim, and so far they have not commented further on this story. However, Mikhail Abyzov’s defense filed an appeal back in January 2021 with evidence that the charges against him were unfounded. This means that the current lawsuit of the Prosecutor General’s Office against Melnichenko is also unfounded.
The fact is that four years ago the Prosecutor General’s Office also seized assets from Mikhail Abyzov because of the deal to sell Sibeko. The resolution on the seizure of assets is based on the Agreement dated February 6, 2018 on the sale of the company to the structures of Andrei Melnichenko. But the defense and an independent handwriting expert proved back in 2020 that Abyzov’s signature on this document was falsified.
Mikhail Abyzov’s lawyer, managing partner of the Bartolius Law Office, Yuli Tai, recalls that Abyzov, as Minister of the Open Government, did not hide his ownership of assets. And even if he did hide it, then according to the law he would only face dismissal, but not confiscation of property. According to the law, it is possible to seize the property of an official only if it is of corrupt origin and acquired during the period of public service. But Abyzov became the owner of Sibeko even before entering the civil service.
However, the court in 2021 refused to take these arguments into account and did not add evidence of falsification of Abyzov’s signature to the case materials. And now this case forms the basis of a lawsuit against Andrei Melnichenko.
Yuliy Tai considers the lawsuit against Melnichenko unfounded. He recalls that in September 2020, the court declared the purchase and sale agreement for Sibeko shares invalid not under Article 169 of the Civil Code (a transaction contrary to the foundations of law and order and morality), the proceeds for the shares were confiscated on another basis, and the buyers, despite the demands of the defense , were not brought to trial then.
“During the consideration of the case, it was proven that Abyzov did not sign the agreement, and he did not even know about its existence,” the lawyer told the Company. — Abyzov personally never had shares in Sibeko. Moreover, the transaction completed in February 2018 was absolutely legal. All business media wrote about her conclusion (we found five dozen references when considering our case). The three-year statute of limitations had obviously expired by that time. Now three years later they have filed this, in my opinion, unfounded lawsuit [к Мельниченко]”
“That is, we are talking about the redistribution of property”
This is the fourth claim by the prosecutor’s office regarding the seizure of private assets in favor of the state in the summer of 2023, RBC notes. Previously, the Prosecutor General’s Office filed claims for the deprivatization of one of the largest producers of methanol and formaldehyde in Russia, Metafrax Chemicals, the fishing industry holding Tefida and the Perm port, Rostov Optical-Mechanical Plant (ROMZ). In judicial acts, the reclaiming of property is explained by the interests of the state and the transfer of companies to the control of foreign persons or citizens living abroad.
Andrey Melnichenko lives abroad. After the introduction of EU sanctions against him and his wife, to whom the assets of SUEK and Eurochem were transferred in the spring of 2022, he was forced to leave St. Moritz, Switzerland and move to Dubai. There, in Dubai, the legal entities EuroСhem Group AG and Suek AG opened.
At the same time, Melnichenko was one of the very first and active participants in the redomiciliation of assets. Back in 2019, his Cypriot company Donalink, which owns the Primorskaya State District Power Plant and the Luchegorsk coal mine, became a resident of the Russian internal offshore on Russky Island. At the same time, the former Cypriot SUEK Ltd. registered on it. Melnichenko, unlike a number of other billionaires, did not leave the RSPP, and on March 16, 2023, at the congress of this organization, he took part in a meeting with Vladimir Putin, although he came under sanctions after a similar meeting with the president in 2022. The billionaire did not speak out on current political topics: Melnichenko gave a recent interview with The Financial Times criticizing Western sanctions after the lawsuit became known.
Against this background, attempts to confiscate his assets look illogical, to say the least.
“This is deprivatization and nationalization. There are already many such claims, and there will be even more,” says the Company’s interlocutor familiar with the situation. “At the same time, practice shows that assets seized from private owners do not stay with the state for long and soon end up in the hands of other private owners. That is, we are talking about the redistribution of property.”
“The attack on Melnichenko in recent days has been serious,” recalls political scientist Konstantin Kalachev. “I believe that for him this is a signal concerning primarily issues of jurisdiction.” And a hint that we need to prove ourselves to be a greater patriot. It is not necessary to live in the Russian Federation, but it is necessary to appear at events demonstrating the unity of business and government. But the redistribution of property in favor of the “right people” may also be behind this: one does not contradict the other.”