Sunday, February 28, 2016

Very likely the Rotenbergs, the richest oligarchs of Russia (Forbes), are a foil for Putin and Putin's own business empire

Everything indicates that Russia's oligarchs, the Rot(t)enbergs, are the public side of the largely submerged iceberg of Putin's own oligarchic vast "business" empire and thus Putin's close partners as well as a cover for Putin and Putin's own wealth.

If so, then very likely the notorious new "Rotenberg" toll of all Russian trucks could be very well in fact the Putin tax. 

For example:

And that's just the latest episode in his epic "Arkady Rotenberg proves time and time again that if you know the right people the sky is indeed the limit" (- Jewish Business News) success story.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to consolidate the assets of Sheremetyevo Airport. The document posted on Friday, August 28, on the website of legal information.

The main control of the joint-stock company obtained private investors in the face of the group TPS Avia of Arkady Rotenberg.

Earlier, Forbes magazine published a ranking of the companies more frequently than others to win government tenders in Russia in 2014. Second place in the list took the businessman Arkady Rotenberg, the company that owns the "SGM", as well as 75 percent of the shares TEK "Mosenergo". These structures have received government orders for more than 100 billion rubles from "Gazprom" and the HST (United Energy Company). In addition, the "SGM" in 2015 took up the construction of the Kerch bridge linking the Crimea and the Krasnodar region. This project is estimated at a record sum - 228 billion rubles.

By the time the school year began this fall, the number of approved textbooks for Russia’s 14 million schoolchildren had been slashed by more than half. The summary winnowing by the Ministry of Education and Science upset lesson plans, threatened the livelihoods of nearly two-dozen small publishers and left principals, teachers and parents puzzled and angry.

There was, however, one standout winner: A publishing house whose newly appointed chairman was a member of President Vladimir V. Putin’s inner circle, Arkady R. Rotenberg, a judo sparring partner from Mr. Putin’s St. Petersburg youth.

The publisher, Enlightenment, survived the education ministry’s culling almost untouched.

“I have never seen such a level of cynicism and chaos before,” said Vladimir A. Peterson, who manages the publication of the math textbooks developed by his mother.

The purge was the latest in a string of government maneuvers that have positioned Enlightenment, once the sole provider of school textbooks under Soviet rule, to dominate the textbook marketplace once again. Mr. Putin first directed that the state-owned company be sold into private hands, records show, in a deal that circumvented a requirement intended to ensure the highest prices for state assets. Then, having installed Mr. Rotenberg as chairman, Mr. Putin’s government knocked out much of Enlightenment’s competition. ... n reality, the Kremlin and its functionaries have divvied up the nation’s strategic industries among a small and malleable circle of allies. They command some of the nation’s largest energy companies, control banks and much of the news media, and, increasingly, have a footprint in smaller sectors, like book publishing, that are nonetheless important to Mr. Putin’s political control.

“The country is now run by a few families, or clans, close to Putin,” said one publisher, who like many others spoke only on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. “They used to focus on the very biggest businesses: oil, gas, big infrastructure projects, the banks. But now that they have eaten all the food in that cupboard, they are eating the mice, and the mice’s food, going after smaller and smaller markets.”... During Mr. Putin’s rule, Mr. Rotenberg, who declined repeated requests for an interview for this article, had gone from a modest trader specializing in Finnish goods to one of the most powerfulbusinessmen in Russia, with an estimated worth of $3.1 billion. He is the guiding hand behind a vast banking and construction empire, and the recipient of tens of billions of dollars in government contracts, building everything from roads to gas pipelines to Sochi Olympic-related infrastructure projects and a new airport terminal in Moscow. ... The sale price was hardly the only curious thing about the deal.

Just weeks after Olma Media Group bought Enlightenment, it sold it, for an unknown price, to a company registered in Cyprus. Then, in a final circular twist, the Cyprus-based Enlightenment turned around and bought 99 percent of Olma Media Group. Virtually overnight, the true owners of Russia’s largest textbook publisher had become impossible to trace. That is because the merged operation was now registered offshore in Cyprus, a popular tax haven that does not require companies to disclose their shareholders.

It was at this point that Mr. Rotenberg, long rumored to be a beneficiary of the government’s sale of Enlightenment, formally appeared on the scene.

Records show that the initial financing that made the entire transaction possible — a $54.2 million loan — came from SMP Bank, which is controlled by Mr. Rotenberg and his brother, Boris. That loan was then refinanced with a $77.1 million line of credit from Gazprombank, the bank that had appraised and then auctioned off Enlightenment for several million dollars less just weeks before.

Finally, on Oct. 31, 2013, nearly two years after the privatization, Mr. Rotenberg’s role in Enlightenment became official: Following an internal shake-up, he joined the company’s board as chairman. ... After the Obama administration sanctioned SMP Bank — in which Mr. Rotenberg and his brother own a 76 percent stake — Russia’s Central Bank gave it a 10-year, $3 billion loan with a below-market interest rate, ostensibly to take over another struggling lender.

When Italy seized $40 million of property Mr. Rotenberg owns there through offshore companies, including a luxury hotel in Rome and two villas in Sardinia, the lower house of Parliament quickly passed legislation allowing citizens whose property had been seized to seek compensation from the government.

Though the tycoon has said he does not plan to take advantage of it, the bill was immediately called “the Rotenberg law.”

Whatever Mr. Rotenberg’s precise relationship to Enlightenment, his role as chairman offers the company the sort of protection — known as “krysha,” or roof — that ensures a favored status in the bureaucracy. The publishing house is not only well positioned to take advantage of the unified textbook mandate, but also another new directive that mandates that all textbook publishers offer electronic versions of their books by January 2015.

The remaking of Russia’s textbook industry features a murky trail of transactions that dead-ends in the opaque offshore tax haven of Cyprus, and a cast of characters including a federal lawmaker from the party loyal to Mr. Putin and the software giant Microsoft, which recently signed an agreement with Enlightenment to help it provide Windows-based tablets to Russian schools.

России 15 ноября начала работу система взимания платы
с грузовиков массой свыше 12 тонн за проезд по федеральным трассам.
В проекте зарегистрированы более 400 тысяч транспортных средств., an independent Russian web site, published an article today by Denis Puzyrev and Igor Terentyev exposing the involvement of close associates of President Vladimir Putin, two brothers, Arkady and Boris Rotenerg, in New Media Group as well as the Putinka and Kristall vodka brands, through a network of companies that have profited from the image of President Vladimir Putin, their childhood friend.

The company Ermira is related to Putinka, a brand of vodka which is part of the empire of the billionaire Rotenberg brothers. Valery Yakovlev, proprietary of several liquor distilleries, will redevelop the well-known Russian vodka brand Kristall, which has also been shown to have involvement from the Rotenbergs.

When Forbes asked Arkady Rotenberg about his favorite brand of vodka, he replied, "You want me to name Putinka? I don't drink vodka. I drink wine." He completely denied any relationship to the Russian vodka industry.

But on September 16 off this year, according to the patent registry, the brands "Putinka" and "Putinka Pepper" and a number of other related vodkas changed hands from PromImpeks, Ltd. to Real-Invest, Ltd. The owner of Real-Invest is an offshore company registered in Cyprus named Ermira Consultants, Ltd.

RBC discovered several pieces of evidence that show Ermira, which essentially became the owner of the Putinka brand, is related to the Rotenbergs' companies.

According to the Cyprus registry of companies, 100% of Ermira Consultants, Ltd. is owned by Vladislav Kopylov, registered in St. Petersburg. According to the SPARK data base, Kopylov is the co-founder of the non-commercial partnership Support for Children's Sports. The other founder of this partnership is a minority shareholder of Bank Rossiya, Sergei Roldugin.

Roldugin has been reported as Putin's friend and the godfather of his eldest daughter.

Reached by RBC, Kopylov asked to repeat the company's name, then said he didn't know of Ermira Consultants, Lt. and was hearing about his part-ownership in it for the first time.

Before Kopylov, the owner of Ermira was Dmitry Kalantyrsky, chairman of the board and shareholder of SMP Bank, which is controlled by the Rotenberg brothers and now under sanctions by the US due to Russia's war against Ukraine.

RBC has traced various companies related to Ermira and Krystall, the changing of hands, and then plans to sell Krystall, privatized in 2008 back to the government. Contacted about the fact that some of the companies shared board members, Rotenberg said it was a "common practice" to have "outside board members".


Rotenberg replied to RBC's inquiries by saying that he didn't discuss his companies. He said that if someone is in the list of deals involving SMP Bank, and its owner was previously Kalantyrsky, then queries should go to him. A bank representative passed on a reply from Kalantyrsky that he didn't remember anything about Ermira Consultants. The question of whether Ermira was involved in another company, Stik in the list of deals with bank investment was left unanswered.

TV Rain singled out the piece of this story most interesting to the media -- RBC concluded after following the web of companies that the Rotenbergs may own a part of National Media Group. Ermira Consultants, Ltd. owns 32% in a company called Aktsept; this firm in turn is the operating company for REN TV where most of the station's capital (7.2 billion rubles in 2013) was concentrated; it owns its broadcasting license as well.

That meant REN-TV was less independent than realized, but then, the station has gradually lost its independence over the years anyway -- and it began with the same story that is now threatening the independence of Ekho Moskvy.

In 2005, Aleksandr Ivanov, the son of Sergei Ivanov, at that time Defense Minister and now chief of the presidential administration, was responsible for a road accident in which a woman pedestrian died. Charges against him were dropped, but REN-TV continued to investigate them. Then REN-TV's anchor Olga Romanova was fired for covering that story, and another story about $15 million spent on a Russian Orthodox Church and a clock tower by Zurba Tsereteli, an architect close to the Kremlin.

New Media Group owns 25% of Channel One, 51% of which is owned by the Russian government and 24% by Roman Abramovich, another oligarch closed to Putin. It also also owns St. Petersburg's Channel 5 (72%) 25.01% of CTC Media -- and the percentage of REN TV is not known.

Germany was among key initial sponsors of Putin's oligarchic empire which began to grow from the beginning of the 1990s:

В.Путин организовывал коммерческие фирмы не только в Санкт-Петербурге, но и в Германии.

Летом 1992 года во главе городской делегации из чиновников и приближенных бизнесменов В.Путин посетил Франкфурт-на-Майне, где он и другой член делегации, гендиректор ТОО "Информ-Футуре" Владимир СМИРНОВ, убедили группу франкфуртских инвесторов создать немецкую компанию "S.Peterburg Immobilien und Beteilgungen Aktiengesellshaft" (SPAG, СПАГ), которая через посредство дочерних российско-немецких компаний занялась бы инвестированием в петербургскую недвижимость. Фирма SPAG была учреждена во Франкфурте-на-Майне 23 июля 1992 и зарегистрирована 4 августа 1992 в городке Мерфельден-Вальдорф в земле Гессен. СПАГ возглавил люксембургский адвокат Рудольф РИТТЕР. В.Путин стал заместителем председателя консультативного (наблюдательного) совета СПАГа. В консультативный совет СПАГа вошли, кроме Путина, руководители еще двух комитетов питерской мэрии - КУГИ (Сергей Беляев) и Комитета по строительству (Олег Харченко). Позже в состав наблюдательного совета СПАГа входили М.Маневич (сменивший С.Беляева), а после Маневича (убитого киллером в августе 1997) - Герман ГРЕФ. В правление фирмы с российской стороны вошли Юрий ЛЬВОВ и Владимир Смирнов. (Подробнее о СПАГе см.:"Новая газета", #18, 14.03.2005, а также в ряде других публикациях "Новой газеты"). В свою очередь, SPAG в 1994 году выступил соучредителем петербургского ЗАО "Знаменская", в руководство которого вошли В.Смирнов и его коммерческий компаньон Владимир БАРСУКОВ.

Олигархи - это НЕ ТЕ, КОГО равноудаляют от власти, а ТЕ, КТО равноудаляет.

Олигархия - феномен не только древней Греции (Спарта, афинские "Тридцать тиранов" и т.д.), средневковой Италии (Венеция), но также нового и новейшего времени: Латинская Америка 19-го и отчасти 20-го вв., почти вся современная Африка, отчасти современная Азия, практически всё СНГ.

Россия - вполне олигархическое государство, и при Путине - в большей степени, чем при Ельцине, в конце правления которого олигархический строй только начинал формироваться.

В путинскую олигархию органично вписались многие региональные и федеральные олигархи ельцинского призыва: миллиардеры-бюрократы Шаймиев, Рахимов, Илюмжинов, Лужков (он же "старик Батурин"), Михаил Зурабов, Владимир Яковлев, Леонид Рейман ("старик Полтавский"). Именно при Путине реальными региональными олигархами - олигархами без кавычек - стали крупнейшие магнаты бизнеса, бывшие "олигархи" в кавычках: Хлопонин, Абрамович, Зеленин, Совмен, Боос.

Но кроме того, при новом президенте олигархический класс существенно пополнили люди, малоизвестные при Ельцине. Обычно их называют "чекистами", "силовиками" или "питерцами".

Между тем почти все они в период своей жизни между КГБ (или какой-нибудь ленинградской партийно-комсомольско-хозяйственной структурой) и нынешним своим состоянием были региональными бизнесменами из круга коммерческих фирм, тесно связанных с Комитетом внешних связей (КВС) мэрии Санкт-Петербурга, который в 1991-1996 гг. возглавлял Владимир Владимирович Путин, являвшийся одновременно первым вице-мэром северной столицы.
КВС Путина как многопрофильный концерн

В качестве "вице-Собчака" и руководителя одного из важнейших комитетов питерской мэрии В.Путин принимал активное участие в экономической деятельности региона. КВС Путина выступил соучредителем нескольких десятков и регистратором примерно 9 тысяч коммерческих предприятий в Санкт-Петербурге.

В связи с этим интересно проследить, кем контролировались фирмы, учрежденные КВС Путина, с кем вместе он их учреждал, чьи фирмы он регистрировал.

Первой известной коммерческой организацией, по отношению к которой КВС выступил в качестве формального соучредителя (и, следовательно, совладельца), было АОЗТ "Центр мировой торговли (ЦМТ) Санкт-Петербурга", зарегистрированное 4 июля 1991, - всего через неделю после вступления Путина в должность председателя КВС. Среди 10 соучредителей ЦМТ, кроме КВС (5% уставного капитала), - немецкая фирма из г.Эссена "Эвек ГМБХ" (50%), советско-бельгийское СП "Дайнемик трансфер" (10%), коммерческий банк (КБ) "Россия" (5%) и др.

Наиболее интересный партнер путинского комитета - это банк "Россия". Первоначальными пайщиками-учредителями этого банка было Управление делами Ленинградского обкома КПСС (руководитель - Аркадий КРУТИХИН), Страховое общество "Русь" (тот же А.Крутихин, Владислав РЕЗНИК и Алексей АЛЕКСАНДРОВ) и государственное производственно-техническое объединение (ГПТО) "Русское видео" (руководитель - Андрей БАЛЯСНИКОВ, помощник секретаря Ленинградского горкома по идеологии Виктора ЕФИМОВА). 27 сентября 1990 г. первый секретарь Ленинградского обкома КПСС Борис Гидаспов отправил управделами ЦК КПСС Николаю Кручине письмо, в котором попросил перевести на счет банка "Россия" 500 млн рублей из резервного фонда партии - "для финансирования мероприятий центральных партийных органов". Любопытно, что госпредприятие "Русское видео", чтобы внести в уставной капитал банка свою долю в 13 млн рублей, взяло их в долг у того же обкома. Первым председателем совета директоров КБ "Россия" стал А.Крутихин, заместителем председателя совета директоров банка - В.Резник.

После неудачи в августе 1991 года попытки переворота ГКЧП, деятельность банка "Россия" была заморожена (в связи с чем, кстати, и учрежденному совместно с Путиным "ЦМТ Санкт-Петербурга" пришлось в сентябре переучредиться под новым названием АОЗТ "Центр бизнес-услуг").

Но уже в конце 1991 банк "Россия" был реанимирован. Паи первоначальных пайщиков были выкуплены группой совместных предприятий (СП), входящих в созданную в августе 1990 года "Ленинградскую Ассоциацию совместных предприятий" (ЛенАСП; президент-гендиректор - Геннадий Володченко, вице-президент - Юрий КОВАЛЬЧУК, член правления ассоциации - Владимир ЯКУНИН). Часть акционированных паев, впрочем, досталась прежним учредителям, например, фирме "Красносельская меховая фабрика" (5%), за которой стояли те же Крутихин, Резник, Александров - поскольку компания "Русь" входила в число соучредителей-совладельцев меховой фабрики.

Однако основными акционерами банка с начала 1992 г. стали такие фирмы, как "НПП Кварк" (18,27%; учредители - Владимир Якунин, Юрий Ковальчук, Михаил Марков, Виктор МЯЧИН, Андрей ФУРСЕНКО, Сергей ФУРСЕНКО, Юрий Николаев; в сентябре 1992 г. НПП "Кварк" переучредилось как "Корпорация Стрим"); совместное предприятие АОЗТ "Бикфин" (15,87%; учредители и/или бенефициары - М.Марков, В.Якунин, С.Фурсенко), СП АОЗТ "Агентство технического развития" (11,13%; В.Мячин), АОЗТ "ТЭМП" (7%; С.Фурсенко, В.Якунин, М.Марков), СП АОЗТ "Бикар" (5,61%; В.Якунин, С.Фурсенко). ...

Региональные перевозчики объявили, что повысят тарифы на 30%.
Решение было принято в рамках протеста против грядущего введения
платы за проезд по федеральным трассам для большегрузных автомобилей.

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