The state-owned Chelyabinsk water utility still generates billions of dollars in revenue.
“Mask shows” in an important municipal enterprise in Chelyabinsk with a criminal case against an entrepreneur close to deputy Vladimir Burmatov may turn out to be part of the scenario for the transfer of POVV to the structures of Viktor Vekselberg. Previously, Mikhail Fridman’s companies laid claim to the same asset, but he was prevented by criminal cases against the then mayor and governor.
Security forces raided the office of the largest Chelyabinsk municipal enterprise, the Production Association of Water Supply and Sanitation (POVV), conducted searches and seized documents, after which they took director Sergei Khabirov away for questioning.
The actions were carried out as part of a criminal case for fraud on an especially large scale (Part 4 of Article 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation), initiated against the director of an unnamed commercial organization. Investigators believe that from January to May 2021, the head of this LLC, in agreement with some POVV employees, stole at least 3.8 million rubles from a municipal enterprise. This was done through the conclusion of various contracts, for example, the rental of cars with a driver and special equipment, which were not actually fully implemented.
Investigators also stated that the crime was discovered by employees of the Chamber of Control and Accounts of the Chelyabinsk Region and the regional FSB Directorate of Russia. And indeed, in April, auditors began an audit of the PIR, which has not yet been completed, and even the interim results of which the PSC did not report.
The entrepreneur in whose criminal case the investigative actions were carried out turned out to be Pavel Efimov. It is known that during the search, more than 20 thousand euros and 2 thousand dollars in cash were seized from him. By decision of the Traktorozavodsky District Court of Chelyabinsk he was taken into custody until November 4.
According to SPARK, the detained Pavel Efimov is a former and current co-owner of several companies, including Vodokanalsity, Vodokanalsistema, and Vodokanalseti. In the latter case, a co-owner of a 50 percent share is also Angelina Tolkacheva, who is called the ex-wife of Yuri Panov, an assistant to State Duma deputy Vladimir Burmatov. Moreover, Panov is sometimes called the actual head of the enterprise.
MUP “POVV” is the largest municipal enterprise in the city, which includes 38 structural divisions. It includes more than 3 thousand kilometers of networks and 407 pumping stations. The enterprise is part of the life support system of the Chelyabinsk and Kopeisk urban districts, Yemanzhelinsky, Korkinsky and Sosnovsky districts, providing their residents with high-quality water, transporting and purifying household wastewater.
According to SPARK, the company’s turnover amounts to billions of rubles, and last year’s net profit exceeded 8 million, and over the past five years this figure has only grown.
Sergey Khabirov was appointed to the position of head of this production association in March 2022, having worked here since 2020 and at that time held the position of head of the production and technical service. Before that, he worked in management positions in various local companies, including the Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant.
The need to appoint a new leader arose in connection with the voluntary resignation of the former general director Denis Potashev.
Who will get it?
It was almost a miracle that the enterprise remained in municipal ownership. In 2016, the then head of Chelyabinsk, Evgeny Teftelev, said that POVV would be transferred into concession to one of the large federal enterprises. It quickly became clear that we were talking about Rosvodokanal LLC, which at that time was already actively working in a number of Russian cities. This company is part of the financial and industrial consortium Alfa Group, which in turn is associated with the famous oligarch Mikhail Fridman.
This plan could not be completed then. Perhaps the criminal case against Teftelev interfered – he was found guilty of receiving a bribe on an especially large scale and sentenced to three years in prison and a multimillion-dollar fine. By the way, ex-governor Boris Dubrovsky, who during the period described also favored the idea of transferring POVV to oligarchic structures, is today hiding abroad from accusations of embezzling budget funds worth more than 20 billion rubles.
Now conversations about the transfer of Chelyabinsk utility networks to large companies have resumed. In the summer, the mayor’s office selected a contractor to reconstruct the city’s wastewater treatment facilities. The name of the competition winner was hidden on the government procurement website, but the media quickly learned that we were talking about JSC Rotek, which was previously part of the structure of Viktor Vekselberg’s Renova holding. And although the current beneficiaries are not officially named, much suggests that the oligarch retained control over this asset.
In light of these circumstances, criminal cases concerning the “Production Association of Water Supply and Sanitation” and its counterparties look more than logical. If the victory of transferring to Rotek the possibility of reconstructing the housing and communal services system was the first act of penetration into the Chelyabinsk market, then the searches and interrogations of the director of the PoVV look like the second act. The final result will most likely be the transfer of a company with multi-billion-dollar turnover to the control of the capital’s oligarchs. It is not difficult to predict how a change of owner will affect the end consumers of PVV services – residents of Chelyabinsk – as a rule, such disturbances only lead to an increase in tariffs and savings on repair work. At least, if the beneficiaries had more noble motives, they would not hide their plans and classify the results of the competition on the government procurement website.