AndSource Former top managers of the media holding are accused of particularly large-scale fraud. As it became known to Kommersant, in the Lefortovsky District Court of Moscow, consideration began on the merits of a high-profile criminal case of former top managers of the media holding Content Union (Stream), which unites a package of popular TV channels, including Hunting and Fishing, Russian Illusion ”, “Evrokino” and “Avto24”. According to the prosecution, the former general director of the enterprise Alexander Lavrov and the head of the board of directors Anatoly Zyablitsky, who at one time held the post of vice-governor of the Novgorod region, in 2017, having deceived the co-founders of the holding, illegally seized all its assets, as a result of which the latter suffered damage of more than 3.5 billion rubles – both in money and securities, and in the form of lost rights to a building equipped with a unique technological hardware complex.
Consideration of the criminal case of Alexander Lavrov and Anatoly Zyablitsky was entrusted to one of the most experienced judges of the Lefortovo District Court, Elena Kaneva. She gained fame in the mid-2000s, when she delivered a sentence on one of the episodes of the “YUKOS case”, appointing 14 years in a strict regime colony as a punishment for the former acting manager of the Yukos-Moscow company, Alexei Kurtsina. Recall that he and seven other people, who also received very harsh prison terms, were found guilty of embezzling and laundering 342 million rubles that belonged to an oil company and sent, according to documents, to provide charitable assistance to the regions.
The criminal case, which the Lefortovo Court has begun considering, unlike the materials of many “economic” investigations, occupies a relatively small volume – a little more than 20 volumes.
Both defendants categorically deny their guilt, regularly petitioning the court to change the measure of restraint. As Kommersant previously told, a criminal case on fraud on an especially large scale (part 4 of article 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation) was initiated by the Main Investigation Department of the TFR in Moscow at the end of 2020, and in the fall of 2021, Messrs. Zyablitsky and Lavrov were detained and placed under house arrest by court order. However, in the spring of 2022, Alexander Lavrov was sent to a pre-trial detention center.
Recall that the story that formed the basis of the criminal case began in 2016, when Content Union S.A. received a loan from VTB for 672 million rubles, which was intended for the purchase of TV Company Stream JSC from AFK Sistema. It was at this moment, according to investigators, that Anatoly Zyablitsky, acting as chairman of the board of directors of the holding, together with CEO Alexander Lavrov, convinced the main co-owner of the company, Nikolai Lukyantsev, and other shareholders that their stakes should be provided as collateral. As a result of a series of frauds carried out by the defendants, the case states, other shareholders lost control over their asset, which also included the building and the land under it in 1st Rizhsky Lane. We are talking about a unique technical media teleport complex, which is used by many mobile operators, the main telecommunication centers of Moscow, the Ostankino television center, etc. The total damage recognized as victims in a criminal case by the co-founders of Content Union S.A. estimated at 3.5 billion rubles, and this amount includes about $8 million of personal funds invested by them in the project.
Some time ago, as Kommersant reported, as a result of a series of arbitration proceedings, the owners regained control of their assets and changed leadership.
It is worth noting that, according to the representatives of the injured party, even while under restrictive measures of house arrest, both defendants continued to engage in illegal activities.
In particular, in violation of the prohibitions, they talked on the phone, went online, sent e-mails, and were interested in websites with information about “the financial and economic activities of various organizations.” The lawyers of the injured shareholders did not rule out that in this way the persons involved in the investigation interfered with the conduct of trials, disposed of the stolen assets, legalizing them with the help of newly created companies controlled by them, or at least “cleaned up” the traces of past crimes.
It was then that during a search in the apartment, Mr. Lavrov's phone and laptop were confiscated. He himself and his lawyers argued that only other family members used them. However, this did not convince the court, and Alexander Lavrov was taken into custody and sent to a pre-trial detention center. Meanwhile, 60-year-old Anatoly Zyablitsky, the investigation considered it possible to leave under house arrest. It is possible that both his chronic diseases and previous merits played a role here. Mr. Zyablitsky, in particular, worked since the summer of 2007 as vice-governor of the Novgorod region, and then as the first deputy head of the region, supervised the economic block. He left this post a year later with the wording “for health reasons.” It should be noted that some time ago there were already claims against him from law enforcement agencies, who accused him of abuse of power (part 1 of article 201 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation), in a case where the injured party was the Nord company, which is also mentioned in the scheme for seizure of the assets of Content Union S.A. and Stream. However, during the trial in the Meshchansky Court of Moscow, representatives of the prosecutor's office dropped the charges.
As representatives of the victims told Kommersant, in their opinion, the guilt of the defendants is fully confirmed by the evidence collected during the preliminary investigation and the testimony of witnesses, and therefore they are counting on a “fair and reasoned decision of the court.” True, they believe that not all members of the criminal group have been prosecuted, and not all the unlawful actions of the defendants were included in the charge being considered by the court. And as a result of the squandering of the assets of the media holding, other criminal cases have already been initiated, as they claim, the investigation of which will lead to new charges and, possibly, to the emergence of new defendants.