Расследования 06.11.22 12:18

How an immigrated to London lawyer created in Westminster a communal scandal

The website Prigovor.ru has found two mansions belonging to Anton Drel one of which is located about five minutes’ walk from the Buckingham palace

How an immigrated to London lawyer created in Westminster a communal scandal

“I object to the request about the building of an annex above the second floor of the house number 14 on Vincent Square, as it will deprive the neighboring building of light and air!”, wrote an outraged female neighbor on the page of the local municipal council complaining about the efforts of the “new Londoner” Anton Drel to reconstruct the house built in the second half of the 19th century.

The website Prigovor.ru tells about unknown biographical pages of a man who one can with quite legitimately call Khodorkovsky’s consiglieri.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who in the recent times is literally having jitters because of his hate towards out country, has a trusted employee Anton Drel. He has been serving the former head of Yukos since the time when, 22 years ago, he, together with his fellow students of the Law School of the Moscow University Vasily Aleksanyan and Svetlana Bakhmina, started to deal with murky juridical schemes of the oil oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Only, he, by contrast with Aleksanyan and Bakhmina, had a chance to flee to London.

Anton Drel had long ago ceased to be only a lawyer of Khodorkovsky, for a long time he has been his active and trusted henchman who, in different roles, takes part in numerous finance machinations of his boss.

For a long time, Anton Drel had fulfilled an official role of the ultimate beneficial owner of Khodorkovsky’s personal offshore “Corbiere private office limited” through which millions of dollars were being laundered. Drel was one of the founders of the company “MBK IP UK” on which were registered the rights of the trademarks “Открытая Россия”** and “Open Russia”**, as well as “Ходорковский” and “Khodorkovsky”. Nowadays, Anton Drel is a director and is a member of the supervisory council of “Khodorkovsky Foundation”** in London.

The prestigious house in Westminster, located in the vicinity of the Buckingham Palace, Antol Drel with his spouse acquired in 2016 for 3.45 British pounds. Without mortgage. According to the open sources, the lawyer makes about $60 thousand a year, and he hardly could have saved that sum of money during 10 years in England. Most probably, the house was paid from the “money-box” of the time of Yukos shady revenues. On the whole, as the website Prigovor.ru has found, the Drel family owns two houses in London with total worth 8 million pounds, and, presumably, two Mercedes GLS with assessed value of 90 thousand pounds each.

In the context of illegal arrests of Russia assets being carried out at present in European countries, the history of the acquiring these two houses gets a special coloring. After the begin of the special military operation by Russia, the British government has frozen the assets of 350 Russian citizens and several Russia banks operating in Britain. These people were a priory were treated as criminals, thieves and corrupt officials – their assets were arrested with a possibility of seizure. But, as it turned out, in the much praised and honorable British justice has come into view a nuance, a needle hole, through which, together with Khodorkovsky, climbed Andon Veniaminovich Drel.

Anton Drel is a target of a criminal case over laundering and illegal cashing out of 10 billion dollars, yet he continues to get use of his “murkily received” possessions in the center of London. 

HOW ANTON DREL BUILD HIS FIRST “MODEST” LITTLE NEST IN LONDON

Anton Drel fled to London in 2006 in order not to become a part of a criminal investigation. In 2003, he was already summoned to the Office of the Prosecutor General over the case of tax dodging of Vasily Shakhnovskym a co-owner of Yukos. Later, it was found that the lawyer of Khodorkovsky became a defendant of the “third Yukos case” over legalization of assets.

In particular, former heads of the stock company Yukos have siphoned out of the country more than 10 billion dollars, thus having robbed, apart from the state, their own shareholders. Forbes presented a quotation from the search warrant, according to which, part of the assets, formed at the expense of assets stolen by Khodorkovsky and Lebedev, in 2005 were handed over to the Dutch company Stichting Administratierkantoor Yukos International UK B.V. Part of the laundered assets was transferred back to Russia through shell firms in accordance with agreements to provide services. According to the article published in Forbes, it was Anton Drel who dealt with transferring money to Russia on behalf of the Corbiere Trust – personal trust of Khodorkovsky created with the purpose to “manage Khodorkovsky’s assets and to provide legal defense”.

The lawyer Drel in London, from 2006 to 2013, till remission of his patron from a colony, continued to take part in Yukos dealings, managing, to a greater degree, personal matters of Khodorkovsky and his family, while his boss was sitting in a colony.

The website Prigovor.ru has found out that during this time Drel accommodated his own personal life: he married Lidiya Karpukhina. These data we found in the data mase of London’s voters.

Lidiya Karpukhina manages and owns the company Clemente Limited. It is known from Company House, the registry of Great Britain’s legal persons, that the founder of this company was born in 1973. Until 2015, she was a citizen of Russia, and them she was mentioned in the registry already as a person with a British nationality. The firm produces and sells vintage bagatelles and retro-accessories for house.

From the information leaked to the world web it is known that the Russian Citizen Lidiya Karpukhina, born 1973, had lived in Moscow until 2006, i.e. until the time when Drel left Russia. In 1999-2006 she worked in the bank “Sberbank” as a top-manager. The confirmation that the owner of Clemente and Drel’s spouse is one and the same woman can be found in social media.

In the company Clemente, Yelena, the older daughter of Drel undertook an internship. The information about this the girl posted in her profile on LinkedIn.** The girl is 20 now years old, recently she completed her studies in Leeds’s University, England. Nowadays, Drel’s older daughter works as strategic development manager in Devileroo – British analogue of Delivery Club and Yandex.Food. As place of residence she mentioned London. Among her friends on Facebook there is Maria, Drel’s younger daughter. In her turn, Maria has, among her friends, Yelena Drel who is hiding behind the nick “Elena Dunn”. 


Daughters of Anton Drel: Maria (left) and Elena Drel

Having arrived in London in 2006, the family settled first in a more humble district. The archives of electronic data keeps in itself information that Anton Drel and Lidiya Karpukhina, who have residence permits in Great Britain, are registered in 24 West Heath Drive. This a three stories house located in the northern district Cricklewood which was once London’s industrial center. 


The first house of Anton Drel’s family. 24 West Heath Drive in the district Cricklewood

According to the extract from a realty registry, the house in Cricklewood is drawn up on Lidiya Karpukhina. She purchased it in September 2007, a year after her arrival in Foggy Albion.


This is a house of 313 square meters, with one of its wall adjoining a neighboring house. It has five bedrooms, kitchen, drawing-room and three parking lots on the street. In the backyard there is a little landscape garden of 60 feet.

Ob the panoramic Google photo, near the house stand a blue and a red Mercedes GLS. Each of this car is worth about 90 thousand pounds, and it’s difficult to imagine that in Britain, that scrupulously observes private property, somebody would park his automobiles near another person’s house. That is why, it’s highly likely that these engines belong to the Drel’s family.


At the time of buying of the house, the value of the it amounted to 2.1 million British pounds. In 2012, it was put up for sale for 1.95 million pounds. But it is still owned by Karpukhina – obviously, they have had a change of heart and refused to sell it. As of today, London’s real estate agencies estimate it at 3,734 million British pounds.

The house was bought without using borrowed means, or a loan taken in order to buy it, has been already paid off, as there it no mention of in the real estate registry.

In 2018, the Drels (by the time, Karpukhina took the name her husband) moves to a more prestigious London’s district where they buy a real object of cultural-historic heritage – house No 14 on Vincent Square. 

DREL’S SECOND HOUSE. RESERVED LUXURY IN IMITATION OF HIS BOSS

In October 2021, the website Prigovor.ru published an investigation entitled “Khodorkovsky’s British luxury”, in which it told about a house belonging to Khodorkovsky in the outskirts of London. The oligarch bought a hundred years old Victorian estate, about 60 kilometers from London, in the county Eastern Sussex. The three stories mansion, almost 1000 square meters, with a huge land parcel, landscape design by a world-famous female designer, garages and household buildings costed the Russian oligarch 4.64 billion British pounds. Khodorkovsky bought it in April 2015.

And in June 2016, his lawyer and henchman Antol Drel acquired a considerably more modest house as to floor space and decoration, which, however, was only a million cheaper than the estate of his boss. This is a corner house No 14 on Vincent Square at the crossroad of Vincent Street. It is located within 10 minutes walking distance from the Buckingham Palace. A bit further, the House of Lords and the Westminster Abbey.

The house costed Anton Drel 3.45 million British pounds. It has four floors, including the basement. Five bedrooms, drawing room and kitchen. On the roof, the Drels arranged an open terrace-lounge. As of today, the house is estimated at 4 million British pounds.


The property deed from 18.07.2016. Drel is the owner of the house 14 Vincent Square, London (SW1P 2NA)

The gross floor area of the house on Vincent Square, apart from the terrace on the roof, is 2637 feet (245 square meters). It means that one square foot, at the time of the purchasing, costed 1308 pounds. In the more luxurious estate of Mikhail Khodorkovsky one square fool costed 446 pounds. The high price of a square foot in Westminster is due to the location and historic value.

A series of the gray brick houses attached to each other was built in the Victorian epoch, in 1860s. These houses belong to a protective zone of Westminster – a territory which is acknowledged to have architectural and historical value. New constructions works are prohibited, or is accompanied by numerous limitations. One cannot even hang outside air conditioner – they damage the exterior look of the district. A characteristic of these houses is a so-called “butterfly roof”. This makes the roofs there similar to the prongs of the Kremlin walls, if you look from the back yard.

At the moment of the purchase, the house was furnished in classical style – tables in walnut color, and chairs from solid wood, light-colored bedrooms, lithographs and landscapes on the walls.

“Thanks to its location and configuration, the rooms are filled with light the whole day. There are five marvelous bedrooms, bright drawing room with a fireplace and French doors-windows from ceiling to floor overlooking the balcony, unusual dining room with a bay window”, was said in the in the advertising description of the website of the real estate agency. It’s interesting to note that the house was displayed for sale on a Russia language site – apparently, with an eye on affluent customers from Russia

It is known from the correspondence between the municipal council of Westminster, and the Drels pertaining to the renovations works that, on the socle premises, there had been a garage at the time of selling, but the house-proud Drels reconstructed it into a living space – into a children’s game room. Garage doors were replaced with French swing doors, and the slip road was removed and was disguised with quickset hedge.


A view of the house from the front façade, the red line divides the Drels’ house (one in the corner) and the adjoining from the right house No 15

Simultaneously, the migrated to London Anton Drel, manage to get the permission to break the “butterfly-roof” and to make it flat, and to place a terrace on it – provided it cannot be seen from the street.

On the whole, as it follows from the entries of the Westminster municipal council, the Drels applied six times for the permission to rearrange or to carry out repair jobs. One of it – the biggest one, envisaged making a annex to the upper floor and the construction of an additional stairway which lead to a scandal with unpleasant aftermaths with neighbors.

HOW THE DRELS TRIED TO ENLARGE THE THIRD FLOOR, THUS VIOLATING THE RIGHTS OF THE NEIGHBORS

In 2016, just after the purchase, Anton Drel was preparing to make a terrace on the roof, and at the same time he asked the municipal council a permission to construct an annex on the level of the third floor as well as a staircase leading to the annex. Most likely, the idea was of his espouse – the request had been signed by Lidiya Drel (thus we knew that Lidiya has changed the name Karpukhina for the name of her husband).


But the Municipal Council rejected the request of the Drel family. The proposed construction “would damage the façade of the building because of its weight, location and the exterior appearance”, wrote a representative of the Council. Taking into consideration the historical importance of the house, the commission didn’t agree with such reconstruction.

On the strength of his professional habitude, Anton Drel challenged this decision in court. But lost the appeal.

Moreover, the Drel’s neighbors in a commentary pointed out that the request to build an annex is misleading. The annex will be seen from the street, which already makes it unfit for the description “an annex in the back yard”, and this is quite another matter, said the neighbors od the lawyer during public debates on the carrying out of the construction and repair works on the street.


Apart from that, the neighbors from the house No109 expressed their fears that the construction of a wall adjacent to the contiguous house No 109, will create an addition load on the construction. And the wall itself, having changed the façade, will lead to the lowering of the assessed value of this real estate object – as an asset, it will become less valuable, as its process is formed mainly by its historical appearance.


View of the Drels’ house from the sidewall. Between House 14 and House 109 there is an architectural saddle – a characteristic feature of the façade look

Compare with what the Drels proposed:


Homestead proposition of the Drel family – build up a small third floor thus taking away the “saddle”

Yet, in that part of the request which dealt with the building of a terrace on the roof, the Council was favorable and allowed construction works. The characteristic feature of the house – sloping butterfly-roof – they allowed to straighten it up and create a lounge zone with a table and sofas.

So, in 2016, the house received erecting scaffoldings. And workers started to break the classical “inside imbedded” butterfly-roof. Moreover, the back side of the wall in the form of butterfly was kept intact – it can be seen from the street, as its modification will damage the look of the street block.


3D-view on the Vincent Street from the service Google Earth

At the end of 2017, the Drels, “the new Londoners” made a second attempt to build an annex to the third floor on the place of the “saddle” between the houses. This time, no staircase was planned, but, in essence, the project repeated the one that had been already rejected. The Council once more rejected the request of the Drels in accordance with the previous reasons. Only this time, persistent efforts of the Drels to widen their living space led to the conflict with the neighbors.

“I object to the request concerning the building of an annex above the second floor to the house No 14 on Vincent Square, as it will deprive the neighboring house of light and air. Between the houses 14 and 15 there is a common yard, and the windows on the backside of our house receive light from this space (interval) between the houses. Increasing the height of the house No 14 will have as the result that the bedroom in the back part of our house, which have only one window, would look out on the yard and will be deprived of light”, writes an un unnamed female neighbor, the owner of the house No 15, in a commentary to the public discussion of the replanning of the website of the Westminster Municipal Council.


This neighbor also said that, because of the construction activities of the Drel’s family, her family has been suffering for a second year, as the construction works have been dragging on, and the construction itself is been carried out with violations, and have caused a dominance of vermin (from the context of the letter it is clear that it means cockroaches and rodents).

“Initially, we were told that the project would be completed in September 2017, but been dragged down. We suffered from mud, garbage, and noise in such a way that an employee of the Council on planning came and asked construction workers to better clean after themselves and to take measures in order to avoid pollution”, said the female neighbor.


Drels’ house in January 2018. At that time, the works had to be finished half a year before

“Noise, mud, and, in recent time, also rodents have become a constant problem, and during rain the garbage is being washed in sinks and block them. My sum has to put up with constant drillings and falls of hammer while he was being rehabilitating at home last summer after an operation. We feel anxious because of the construction scaffolds, as it outs in danger the security of our house”, lamented the neighbor.

By the way, during the overhaul, member of the Drel’s family didn’t live in the house – they moved there only in 2019. During all this time, homeless peoples and alcoholics, taking advantage of the fact that the building was uninhabited, were constantly hanging around there, writes the neighbor. As the result, the apartment of the neighbor was broken – she connects this event with the sway of lowlifes near the Drels’ house.

To put it simple, member of the Drel family didn’t respect comfort and rights of their neighbors in the course of the construction works and inflicted moral damage on them. Patient Londoners decided not to go in court.  And a saboteur happened be Anton Drel himself.

MURKY MONEY OF DREL?

As mentioned above, the market price of the first house on the West Heath Drive is valued, as of today, at 4 million British pounds.  Thus, the whole market price of the assets of Khodorkovsky’s lawyer in London amounts to 8 million British pounds. The extract from the land registration book says that there is also no pawn or other incumbrances on the house on Vincent Square. It means that the lawyer bought the house in one payment, for cash. From public available sources follow that such a purchase Anton Drel could not afford to himself – it means that he bought two houses in London with money of unknown origin, with “dirty money”.

Let’s dwell in more detail on Drel’s sources of income known to analysts of the website Prigovor.ru.

From May 1, 2015, Drel has been a member of the supervisory committee (governing body) of the London based “Khodorkovsky Foundation”**. In a declaration of the foundation it is said that there is no employee in it whose recompense would be above $60 thousand a year. This organization is acknowledged undesirable on the territory of the Russian Federation, and until 2021 it payed grants and increased scholarships to Russian university and college students. However, experts later were finding strange connections – in the colleges which received money from Mikhail Khodorkovsky, one could see a surge of unhealthy oppositionist activity, and money was destined mainly to students of political and juridical specialties.

Simultaneously, Anton Drel worked as “chairman Funt” (a literal hero meaning nominal head ready to sit in prison for others) in the firm “Corbiere private office limited” (registration number 05393387). In this main personal offshore of Khodorkovsky, Anton Drel played a role of an ultimate beneficiary owner. Through this offshore, for instance, repair works were payed off in Khodorkovsky’s mansion in the outskirts of London, through it were lobbied necessary for Khodorkovsky initiatives in the United States Senate. 


It’s difficult to give a precise assessment of Anton Drel’s income in Corbiere Private Office. But, in 2011, the last year when data on salaries were published in the registry, it was said in the section “Salaries payable and benefits” that all employees of this firm had received 1.29 million British pounds. It is highly unlikely that things have considerably changed in that respect. That is why one should seek an answer to this question in the pocket of his patron.

Actually, Antol Drel became the main assistant of Khodorkovsky. They even worked for a long time together in one and the same office room. It was Anton Drel who formalized for Khodorkovsky the purchase of real estate in London – apartment in the prestigious residential compound St Edmund Terrace and 100 years old estate Best Beech Place. About this mansion worth 4.7 million British pounds the website Prigovor.ru has already reported – it was formalized through a complex system of trusts and pawns.

More information about how many rooms are in Khodorkovsky’s “dacha”, how Mikhail Borisovich Khodorkovsky, alias MBKh, made a swimming pool for himself from an orangery, and about Lithuanian special forces squadron, one can get following this link.

It is evident from the materials of the Yukos case, that the lawyer has been always close Khodorkovsky’s financial flows – he participated in the transferal of part of $10 billion dollars  on the agreement for providing services, he oversaw the “personal” offshore of Mikhail Khodorkovsky - namely Corbiere Trust. One cannot exclude that the boss generously rewarded him for keeping “corporative secrets”, still, one cannot exclude such a circumstance that Anton Drel could “pinch off” from these financial flows some small parts without knowing of his patron, especially, in those years when the boss was sitting in a jail.

As earlier as in this spring, BBC published a piece telling about how a special forces team of the British authorities started to carry out raids in houses on millionaires from Russia. Agents have been seeking evidence of illegal transfer of capitals that are now under sanctions. Perhaps, it will be worthwhile to drop in on the lawyer of Mikhail Khodorkovsky – what if, all of a sudden, they will find there illegally earned capital”, notes the website Prigovor.ru.

Author: Alexey Velarov

More details. Russian version at: «Как понаехавший в Лондон адвокат Ходорковского устроил в Вестминстере коммунальный скандал»

* Mikhail Khodorkovsky – 20.05.2022 was acknowledged by the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation as a person fulfilling functions of a foreign agent.

** “Khodorkovsky Foundation” – organization the activities of which are acknowledged as undesirable on the territory of the Russian Federation by the decision of the Russian Ministry of Justice from 09.07.2021.
** OR (Otkrytaya Rossia) Great Britain (from 08.11.2017 – Human Rights Project Management) – organization the activities of which was acknowledged as undesirable on the territory of the Russian Federation by the decision of the Office of the Prosecutor General from 26.04.2017.
**LinkedIn Corporation – in October 2016, the Tagansky District Court included http://linkedin.com into the Registry of breakers of subjects of personal data rights.
**Facebook – the Tverskoy District Court of Moscow, on 21.03.2022, found the activities of the social media Instagram and Facebook, belonging to the company Meta Platforms Inc., as extremist and banned them on the territory of the Russian Federation.

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