The Prosecutor General’s Office will save Andriy Melnichenko from unnecessary assets
The lawsuit concerns the company SIBECO, which Melnichenko’s structures bought in 2018. It is demanded to be recovered in the state revenue, considering the deal to be corrupt. This is the fourth suit for the seizure of private assets in favor of the state in the summer of 2023.
On August 17, the Prosecutor General’s Office filed a lawsuit against businessman Andrei Melnichenko, a preliminary hearing on it was scheduled for September 7, follows from the documents of the Sverdlovsky District Court of Krasnoyarsk. Melnichenko’s fortune is $25.2 billion, he and his family are in first place among all Russian businessmen according to Forbes.
The claimant in these materials is the Deputy Prosecutor General without specifying his last name. The defendants are Andrey Melnichenko himself, the Khakass Service and Repair Company and the Kuzbass Joint-Stock Company for Energy and Electrification (Kuzbassenergo). As a third party, the Prosecutor General’s Office requires the involvement of JSC Siberian Energy Company (SGK) in the process.
A source familiar with the content of the claims against Melnichenko told RBC that the suit of the Prosecutor General’s Office concerns energy assets, which, according to the prosecutor’s office, were bought from the structures of the ex-Minister for Open Government Affairs Mikhail Abyzov. The representative of the businessman confirmed to Vedomosti that the claim had been received.
According to the SovetBezRynka telegram channel, the plaintiff is demanding that the shares of the Siberian Energy Company (SIBEKO) be recovered from the state. The Prosecutor General’s Office substantiates the requirement by the fact that while supervising the investigation of the case of “Mikhail Abyzov’s accomplices” it received information “about the violation by citizen Melnichenko and legal entities controlled by him of the anti-corruption legislation in transactions for the acquisition of SIBEKO shares, indicated in the materials of the claim, which were published by SovetBezRynka “.
According to the Prosecutor General’s Office, “in order to implement the plan and conceal his participation in the sale of SIBECO shares, Abyzov, maintaining informal friendly relations with Melnichenko, offered him to purchase the said property asset.” On February 7, 2018, a securities purchase and sale agreement was concluded between Melnichenko and Abyzov in Cyprus, according to the lawsuit.
The Prosecutor General’s Office concludes that the deal has signs of “taking advantage of dishonest behavior” and therefore there are grounds for recovering “everything received by the parties under anti-social transactions” to the state’s income.
This is the fourth lawsuit filed by the prosecutor’s office for the seizure of private assets in favor of the state in the summer of 2023. Earlier, the Prosecutor General’s Office filed a lawsuit in connection with the “illegal privatization” in the 1990s of one of the largest producers of methanol and formalin in Russia, Metafrax Chemicals, and demanded that the company’s shares be withdrawn from the current owners. In July, the Tefida fishing holding and the Perm port were claimed.
In judicial acts, the recovery of property is explained by the interests of the state and the transfer of companies under the control of foreign persons or citizens living abroad. In early August, a lawsuit was filed against the companies SibMir and IsNov (part of the RATM holding). It concerned the seizure of the Rostov Optical and Mechanical Plant (ROMZ), which is engaged in the production of opto-mechanical and opto-electronic day and night vision devices for fire control systems for armored military vehicles, including Armata tanks.
“In essence, business should understand the vector that the state is oriented towards. We see that quite a lot of actions related to nationalization are being carried out now. But we practically do not see measures to support the investment climate, ”said Alexander Abramov, head of the analysis laboratory at the Institute of Financial Markets at the Institute of Financial Markets, RANEPA, to RBC.
SIBEKO (Siberian Energy Company) is the main supplier of electricity in Siberia, it is engaged in the generation of heat and electricity. The Federal Antimonopoly Service allowed SGK to acquire SIBECO in early 2018, subject to a number of conditions, including the refusal to “significant increase in prices on the wholesale electricity market” for three years. Andrey Travnikov, Governor of Novosibirsk, then considered that the deal “will have a positive effect on the reliability of heat supply in the city and the region, and on the rate of indexation of heat tariffs for the population.” Ruslan Vlasov, CEO of SIBECO, said that negotiations on attracting investors had been going on for several years, and that for a consumer, the sale or purchase of company shares “is at least an imperceptible process.”
Experts interviewed by Kommersant in 2018 estimated the cost of the transaction at 18–24 billion rubles. SIBECO’s revenue in 2016 amounted to 28.2 billion rubles, net profit – 1 billion rubles. In 2022, according to the SPARK system, the company’s revenue was already 38.3 billion rubles, net profit – 4.8 billion rubles.
In October 2020, the court turned 32.54 billion rubles, which belonged to Abyzov, into the state’s income — before joining the government, he was one of the richest businessmen.
The charges under the last two articles against Abyzov are related to SIBECO, which, according to the Investigative Committee, was only nominally placed in trust. In 2018, while Abyzov was a civil servant, the company was sold, and this decision, contrary to the law, was made personally by him, the TFR believes.
The withdrawal of funds was demanded in 2020 by Deputy Prosecutor General Viktor Green. The position of the department was that since 2012 Abyzov hid the ownership of five Cypriot offshore companies, through which he, as a minister, illegally managed SIBECO. As a result, Abyzov sold it, violating the ban on entrepreneurial activity for officials, the Prosecutor General’s Office believed.
“The decision is a pretentious view of the investigation on some arbitrarily chosen circumstances of the case without verification and verification of these views by an independent and impartial court,” Yuliy Tai, lawyer for the former minister, said in an appeal. He doubted that the judge wrote the decision herself, suggesting that “it was made by a third party with a greater breadth of knowledge.”
Andrey Melnichenko, as of the end of 2021, together with his family indirectly owned 92.2% of the shares of the Siberian Coal Energy Company (SUEK). However, he ceased to be the beneficiary of SUEK and EuroChem on March 8, 2022 – the day before the European Union imposed sanctions against him, a source close to EuroChem told RBC. Melnichenko was the beneficiary of the trust that controls both companies, RBC’s interlocutor explained. According to him, even before the introduction of sanctions, on March 8, the businessman refused this role, his wife automatically became the beneficiary.