"Novaya Gazeta”: "Thirteen”
A look at the businesses of Vladimir Putin’s friends, colleagues, neighbours, and acquaintances.
The Prime Minister's friends
A look at the businesses of Vladimir Putin's friends, colleagues, neighbours, and acquaintances.
Vladimir Putin has many friends. And he also has distant relatives. There are so many friends and relatives that the Prime Minister does not know the details of their businesses. At any rate, his press secretary Dmitry Peskov, when answering a question from Novaya Gazeta early this year, said that Mr Putin had no detailed information about their activities and "his knowledge on that score is very fragmentary."
This may be true. But if the Prime Minister cast a glance in the direction of Gazprom, he would surely see not fragments but a complete picture: his friends and relations have occupied all the comfortable perches in that state controlled company. Many of their businesses and jobs-and occasionally the businesses and jobs of their sons and daughters-are connected with it. The people crowding around Gazprom can be seen with the naked eye in any weather. We have counted the number of the Prime Minister's people in the swarm of middlemen, contractors, and partners around the gas giant. We came up with Putin's Thirteen.
1. Arkady Rotenberg
Vladimir Putin's sparring partner and one of the founders of the Petersburg judo club Yavara-Neva of which Putin is an honorary member, Arkady Rotenberg and his brother Boris own the bank Severny Morskoy Put (the Northern Sea Route). In 2008, Gazprom sold five companies to Arkady Rotenberg (as reported by Kommersant), including Gazprom's building contractors and producers of equipment.
A Gazprom spokesman told Novaya Gazeta that these assets were sold at an open auction in which all comers could take part, and the highest bidders were awarded the contracts. In 2000, Arkady Rotenberg created the firm Rotna in Moscow. It was liquidated six years later. According to the company database, SCREEN, the firm had declared that it was selling foodstuffs. But the former director-general of Rotna, Andrei Smirnov, told Novaya Gazeta that the firm was selling gas.
He said some "small gas deliveries" had been made, but that the firm did not work with Gazprom and preferred small Russian gas traders. We could not get an answer from Mr Smirnov as to the traders with whom Rotna had struck its deals. He said he did not remember the details because a lot of time had passed since then.
Mr Rotenberg himself is tightlipped.
2. Boris Rotenberg
Arkady Rotenberg's younger brother, Boris, is also a judo fan. He trained together with his brother and Putin. As we have reported (see Novaya Gazeta, No.88, June 29), the Moscow firms Baza-Torg and Postavka, created by Boris Rotenberg, controlled middleman companies that delivered pipelines and equipment for Gazprom. Baza-Torg is among the founders of Gaztaged. Until last year, the firm was 75% controlled by Gazprom's subsidiary, Gazkomplektimpex, which is in charge of supplies of materials and equipment. The director-general of Gaztaged in 2003 was Yaroslav Golko, who later moved to Gazprom and in time became a member of its management.
In 2005 Vadim Kleiner, corporate research director with the British investment company, Hermitage Capital Management, named several mediators in his report who, in his opinion, enjoyed preferential treatment on Gazprom's part. Gaztaged was named as the mediator in pipeline transactions.
In November of this year, Forbes revealed further details: Boris Rotenberg is a founder of the firm Trubnaya Promyshlennost (Pipeline Industry), which reports annual profits of $540 million. The firm bought about 10% of the entire output of the Chelyabinsk Pipe Rolling Plant (ChTPZ). Another 11% of the plant's piping was sold through the firm Trubny Metalloprokat, founded by Arkady Rotenberg. It reported $440 million in profits last year. ChTPZ admits that 37% of its products were sold to Gazprom, but Gazprom is not mentioned among major buyers in the report for the first quarter of 2009.
Novaya Gazeta has learned that Gaztaged, which is controlled by Boris Rotenberg, is a co-founder of the Association of Pipeline Producers. Among its founders are: ChTPZ, Trubnaya Metallurgicheskaya Kompania, one of the top three in the world pipeline market, the United Metallurgical Company, and Gazprom project companies. But the Association was chaired not by a representative of these giants, but by another in the succession of Gaztaged General Directors, Ivan Shabalov.
The firm Postavka, created by Boris Rotenberg, owned 25% of the Gorny Altai company, Sibgazimpex, before its liquidation. The remaining 75% were controlled by Gazkomplektimpex, a Gazprom subsidiary.
Sibgazimpex was liquidated in 2007, but as early as of 2003 if not earlier, Gazprom's subsidiary entrusted it with signing contracts for supply of equipment with Gazprom enterprises. These enterprises paid the intermediary out of their own pocket.
A Gazprom spokesman told Novaya Gazeta that the bulk of the purchases, including pipes, were made at auction. But he never answered the question as to the sums and number of contracts signed in their time by Gaztaged and Sibgazimpex. Boris Rotenberg declined to comment.
3. Gennady Timchenko
Another co-founder of the Petersburg judo club Yavara-Neva, Gennady Timchenko is a long-time acquaintance of Vladimir Putin. He owns the Gunvor Group (see Novaya Gazeta No.92, 113). The firm Transoil CIS, which is controlled by Timchenko, has a 9.577% stake in the Petersburg bank Rossiya, whose main shareholder and chairman of the board of directors is Yuri Kovalchuk, Putin's friend. The Luxemburg Volga Resources Fund (whose main beneficiary is Timchenko) brings the share of the company NOVATEK, the second largest Russian gas company, to 18.2%, while Gazprom controls 19.39% of NOVATEK.
Gennady Timchenko's Luxemburg fund also has a 79.6% stake in Stroytransgaz, which was the biggest Gazprom contractor and is now set to preserve its market share. This year, the former deputy chairman of the Gazprom board, Alexander Ryazanov, was offered the job of CEO of Stroytransgaz. In an interview with Vedomosti he said that Stroytransgaz would bid to contract some work to develop the massive Shtokman gas condensate field. The project is being implemented by Gazprom (51%) and its foreign partners.
4. Viktor Khmarin. Viktor Khmarin, a Petersburg lawyer, is a long-time acquaintance of the Russian Prime Minister. Khmarin is the founder of the Moscow firm Khmarin and Partners, among whose co-founders was Vyacheslav Kupriyanov. The latter was director-general of the Moscow firm Yamal-Invest and in the past headed up the Petersburg firm Raznoexport. The latter owned a 25% stake in Yamal-Invest, while 75% of that firm was controlled by a Gazprom subsidiary, Gazkomplektimpex, until 2008. Raznoexport and Yamal-Invest were intermediate structures in the supply of equipment for Gazprom enterprises. Raznoexport won many Gazprom tenders. Tsentrenergogaz, a Gazprom subsidiary, named Raznoexport as one of its main suppliers in its report for the first quarter of 2008.
Gazprom's press service said that Gazprom Komplektatsiya (formerly Gazkomplektimpex) no longer owns a share in Yamal-Invest because it sold it to Yama-lInvest last year. Raznoexport has not been taking part in Gazprom tenders since 2008, although earlier it took part in them along with other suppliers.
The sole founder of Raznoexport, according to the Consolidated State Register of Legal Entities, was Pyotr Kolbin. Mr Kolbin is co-owner (49%) of the oil trader Surgutex, which sells the products of Surgutneftegaz. The trader is 51% owned by a Cyprus offshore company whose owners have not been disclosed. But, as the newspaper Vedomosti noted, the market analysts think Surgutex is controlled by Gennady Timchenko. Neither Kolbin nor Timchenko have commented on the situation.
Last year, when law enforcement agencies audited Yamal-Invest, they discovered that since 2003, Gazkomplektimpex has been paying that firm an average 200 million roubles a month for the supply of equipment to Gazprom's subsidiaries. The scheme included a far-flung network of firms and merited a still closer look, according to the policeman. But the materials of the audit have been seized and sent "to the top." No criminal proceedings were instituted.
Gazprom did not say whether it knew about the audit and whether it was the reason why Gazkomplektimpex had sold its share in Yamal-Invest.
The main shareholder and chairman of the board of directors of the Petersburg Bank Rossiya, Igor Kovalchuk, is an old friend of Vladimir Putin. In 1996, both were co-founders of the summer cottage cooperative Ozero. The bank is thought to be a bulwark of the Prime Minister's friends. By 2005, the bank gained control (51%) of the Gas Industry Insurance Company (Sogaz), a major insurance group formerly owned by Gazprom. The chairman of Rossiya, Dmitry Lebedev, when asked whether it was true that the bank had close links with Putin's friends, told Novaya Gazeta that this is a frequently asked question, but it does not prevent the bank from developing successfully.
"When it comes to finances any reasonable person is guided by economic expediency, which is what our clients do," Dmitry Lebedev explained. "This is the main factor that determines the position of our bank in the market." He stressed that the bank's success "is the result of the work of a professional team and not of any preferences."
As for the purchase of SOGAZ, Dmitry Lebedev said that the shares of the insurance company were competitively sold at a stock exchange and they did not manage to buy a controlling stake at once and had to buy additional shares in the secondary market. According to Mr Lebedev, this was no easy task: "I cannot say that we bought the shares cheap. At the time of the purchase the stock market price was about $120 million, which is 1.4 times more than its net asset value according to IFRS."
SOGAZ ensures a number of Gazprom projects, including the pipeline systems South Stream, Nord Stream, Blue Stream and the Shtokman, Prirazlomnoye and Sakhalin development projects.
The board of directors of the investment company Abros, the bank's subsidiary that controls SOGAZ, includes Kiril Kovalchuk, son of the director of the Kurchatov Institute Mikhail Kovalchuk and nephew of the main shareholder and chairman of the board of directors of Rossiya Bank.
SOGAZ is probably not the only link between the bank and Gazprom. Novaya Gazeta has found out that the founders of the firm were connected with the bank and with two top managers of the Gazprom system leading to Gazprom contractors and a structure that dealt with transportation by pipeline.
Rossiya Bank owned 4% of the Petersburg firm ABR Consulting. The firm, significantly, was listed among the co-founders of the North-Western Consulting Company whose director-general in the past was Boris Kovalchuk, the son of Yuri Kovalchuk. Boris Kovalchuk refused to comment.
The remaining 96% of ABR Consulting were controlled by Georgy Fokin and Dmitry Samokhin, according to the Consolidated State Register of Legal Entities. Fokin is currently the head of Gazpromtransgaz St Petersburg (formerly Lentransgaz). Mr Samokhin was deputy director general of Gazprom Media for development and corporate management and was a member of Gazprom Media management. Since 2005, he has been Director General of NTV Plus.
Dmitry Samokhin told Novaya Gazeta that he has long ceased to be a cofounder of ABR Consulting and does not know the nature of its current business. Mr Fokin did not comment on the situation. According to the Consolidated State Register of Legal Entities, Fokin's son Sergey is the director-general of the firm.
Meanwhile, ABR Consulting is the sole owner of the firm ABR Project. They are registered at the same address and share a telephone number. According to SCREEN, ABR Project owned 49% of the Petersburg firm Smartstroy which purports to be in the gas transportation business.
The founders of ABR project can be traced to the Petersburg company Smartmedia, which was registered at the same address as a subsidiary of ABR Project and was a co-founder of Smartstroy as well as of three enterprises that are Gazprom's contractors: Severo-Zapad-Signal, Sevzapgazproekt and Gazremstroyservis.
The site of Severo-Zapad-Signal which has the same telephone number as ABR Projekt and ABR Consulting, says that the company is one of the main contractors of Gazprom Transgaz St Petersburg and Gazprom Invest Zapad, and its business is capital repair, construction and maintenance of Gazprom facilities. In 2008, Sevzapgazproekt won the tender for several projects for Gazprom Invest Zapad.
Severo-Zapad-Signal and Sevzapgazproekt are under the management of Spetsmontazh-24, among whose main partners and customers are the enterprises of Gazprom as well as Lukoil, Rosneft, and Stroytransgaz.
Gazremstroyservis is located in Ryazan and its main customers are Gazprom enterprises.
The Rossiya Bank press service said that the bank has had no stake in ABR Consulting since 2002 and that ABR Consulting and ABR Project are not affiliated with the bank.
6. Sergey Fursenko
Another old acquaintance of Vladimir Putin is Sergey Fursenko, who since 2003 has headed Lentransgaz, subsequently Gazprom Transgaz St Petersburg. Mr Fursenko was briefly chairman of the board of directors and president of the football club Zenit, controlled by Gazprom.
One of the advisors to the football club's president was Mikhail Ebril, currently director of the Petersburg branch of the interstate broadcasting company Mir. By coincidence, he was co-founder of the Petersburg firm Smartinvest (with a small stake) which has the same telephone number as ABR Consulting and ABR Project. Smartinvest was the sole owner of Smart Media, which founded three enterprises-all Gazprom contractors-and a firm that transports gas by pipeline. The main founder of Smartinvest, according to the books, was Yevgeny Klimov, managing director of one of the contractors, the company Severo-Zapad-Signal.
Mikhail Ebril did not reply to Novaya Gazeta's letter. Severo-Zapad-Signal has yet to comment on the situation, and Sergey Fursenko is also silent.
7. Alexander Grigoryev
An FSB (Federal Security Service) officer, Alexander Grigoryev was Vladimir Putin's childhood friend. He rose through the ranks to Colonel-General, was FSB chief for the St Petersburg region and worked as Director-General of Gosrezerv. His daughter, Olga Grigoryeva, owned 10% of Ziyad Manasir's company Stroygazconsulting (reported by Forbes). The company is one of Gazprom's major contractors.
The CEO of Stroytransgaz, Alexander Ryazanov, said in an interview with Vedomosti that Ziyad Manasir was working "on special terms" and explained that Stroygazconsulting worked only with Gazprom orders. It had started with a desk and a pen to become a major company with plenty of assets and technology.
The Colonel-General died in December 2008, and in early 2009 Olga Grigoryeva sold her 10% stake in Stroygazconsulting, a representative of Stroygazconsulting, Victoria Mironova, told Novaya Gazeta. "The fact that Olga Grigoryeva was a co-owner of the company had no impact on the signing of contracts with customers, including Gazprom subsidiaries," Victoria Mironova said. "We are competitive and we work not only with Gazprom Group enterprises. Among our main customers are subsidiaries of Lukoil, Transneft and the Ministry of Transport Federal Road Agency."
8. Matthias Warnig
A former agent of the East German Stasi, Matthias Warnig knew Vladimir Putin, and the two men had much in common while the latter worked as a KGB officer in the GDR. Matthias Warnig is the director of Nord Stream AG, Gazprom's ambitious gas export project. This newspaper has published Matthias Warnig's Stasi record card (see Novaya Gazeta, No. 93 for 2005). He had honorary citations on the ideological front and served in the Felix Dzerzhinsky guard regiment.
9. Valery Musin
Academic advisor to Vladimir Putin as an undergraduate, he is chief of the Civil Process Chair at St Petersburg University's Legal Department. Valery Musin was elected Independent Director of Gazprom this year. He received the second largest number of votes after Gazprom's CEO Alexei Miller.
Mr Musin is co-owner of the legal firm Musin and Partners. Its founder, Andrei Ibragimov, a retired KGB officer and former intelligence agent, said that the professor was elected as an independent Gazprom director owing to his experience and knowledge and not because he taught the current leaders. (See Novaya Gazeta, No.74.)
10. Valery Golubev
When Valery Golubev, a former KGB officer, was the head of the Vasilyevsky Ostrov district in St Petersburg in the 1990s, Vladimir Putin and family were given a flat in the district. By coincidence, as Putin rose, so did Golubev. He eventually became deputy chairman of Gazprom's management. He also worked as Director General of Gazkomplektimpex and chaired the Association of Pipe Manufacturers founded by metallurgical giants and the firm Gaztaged. Mr Golubev had no comments.
Valery Golubev's wife Tatyana intended to buy a stake in the Nevsky Zavod company, the newspaper Vedomosti-St Petersburg reported. This structure currently owns part of the territory. The Nevsky Zavod's production facility (a closed joint stock company which produces turbines among other things) has 17 billion roubles worth of orders from Gazprom. A source close to the Zavod's management told Novaya Gazeta that financing was delayed and the enterprise had to raise money without waiting for Gazprom's funding. The source also said that the enterprise with such a portfolio of orders (not only from Gazprom) is of interest, and did not rule out that it would get new shareholders soon.
11. Nikolai Shamalov
Nikolai Shamalov, another cofounder of the summer house cooperative, Ozero, was a shareholder in Yuri Kovalchuk's Rossiya Bank. Since 2003, Shamalov's son Yuri has been the President of the largest private pension fund in Russia, Gazfond, created by Gazprom and its enterprises. Yuri Shamalov declined to comment.
12. Mikhail Putin
The son of the Prime Minister's cousin, Mikhail Putin headed up Gazprom's medical department until 2007, when he became deputy chairman of the management of SOGAZ controlled by Rossiya Bank.
13. Mikhail Shelomov
The son of Vladimir Putin's female cousin, Mikhail Shelomov works as senior specialist at the St Petersburg office of the government-controlled company Sovkomflot and is director and owner of the Petersburg firm Aktsept. As of February 2007, Aktsept owned 3.93% of Rossiya Bank. In the first quarter of 2008, it owned a 12.47% stake in SOGAZ.
In reply to Novaya Gazeta's questions, Mikhail Shelomov said that the country's leaders had nothing to do with his promotions and his business. He also said that Aktsept was practically his personal project. But he made no further comments (see Novaya Gazeta No.8).
This article was prepared with the support of SCOOP, a project of the Danish Association of Investigative Journalists.