The scandal connected with the exposed facts of lobbying for lifting sanctions against Mikhail Fridman and other founders of “Alfa-Group” has been still simmering and has been accumulating new details. The former chief editor of the radio station “Ekho Moskvy” (Echo of Moscow) Alexey Venediktov*, on March 8, 2023, published in his telegram-channel an open letter of his former comrades addressed to Ms. Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission and to the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell with the request to remove from under Western sanctions the well-known oligarch Mikhail Fridman and, in addition, to three other owners of “Alfa-Group”.
The list of signatories of this humble petition is rather explicit:
Leonid Volkov (registered as foreign agent) – the closest associate of Alexey Navalny; founder of the television channel “Dozhd” (included in the registry of mass media foreign agents) Natalya Sindeyeva (recognized as foreign agent): co-founder of the TV channel “Dozhd” Vera Krichevskaya; privatizer of the 1990s and blogger Alfred Kokh; Leonid Gozman (included in the registry of mass media foreign agents), consigliere of Anatoly Chubais; journalist Sergey Parkhomenko (included in the registry of mass media foreign agents); journalist Leonid Parfyonov; businessman Yevgeny Chichvarkin (included in the registry of mass media foreign agents); economist Vladislav Inosemtsev
It raises the question – where from Russian opposition activists, who constantly appeal to social justice, have become such a mass and uncontained desire to help a group of Russian billionaires, who had gathered their wealth during the tumultuous 90s, in the period of wild privatization, to be removed from under sanctions? What makes them so close to their fervent hearts Mikhail Fridman and his partners?
FALSE START OF AN ESCAPE FROM SANCTIONS
And we would like to remind our readers that, last year, another story already entered the public space, in which an effort was mentioned to help Mikhail Fridman to escape sanctions.
On September 8, 2022, in the well-known American media-outlet “The Wall Street Journal”, a story is publishedentitled “Russian Billionaire Mikhail Fridman Offers $1 Billion to Ukraine in Hope of Sanctions Relief” dealing with a proposal of Mikhail Fridman to transfer 1 billion dollar to support Ukraine in order to remove him from under the sanctions. To be sure, Mikhail Fridman himself made a statement saying that he had not been conducting such negotiations, and his business partners and co-founders of “Alfa-Group” Pyotr Aven and Herman Khan refused to make commentaries. Yet, Roman Shpek, the head of the supervisory board of “Alfa-Bank Ukraine” confirmed that “Alfa-Bank Ukraine” had proposed to Kiev’s officials to allow Mr. Fridman to transfer to the bank 1 billion dollars from his private means”.
These events didn’t pass unnoticed for another well-known oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky*. This fugitive and convicted finance swindler, as well as a foreign agent hoping to become Russia’s ruler, has been trying recently to present himself as a thought fighter, although he always fought for monetary notes. On his Tweeter page, he answers categorically the question about possible lifting of sanction against Mikhail Fridman: “As to Fridman and Aven, it’s not a question to me. We are helping only those who have already definitely and directly distanced themselves from the regime. There is a fair amount of work to do”.
After the words of dissociated foreign agent Mikhail Khodorkovsky, we propose a little excursion to the history of cooperation of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Mikhail Fridman, as well as of their structures. No matter how Khodorkovsky and Fridman would try to look white and fluffy, one has a feeling of a stinking pit after having acquainted with their common history.
HOW FRIDMANS’S AMSTERDAM TRADE BANK NV LAUNDERED MILLIONS OF DOLLARS FOR KHODORKOVSKY’S ISLANDS OFFSHORES PECUNIA UNIVERSAL LTD AND MENATEP ASSET MANAGEMENT LTD
At the beginning of the 2000s, in the Netherlands, Serious Organized Crime Agency, Unit Intelligence, Eastern Europe and Russia Division, was carrying out investigation of “Artemis” and “Hermes” in which structures were mentioned with histories of suspicious activity and suspicious transactions.
These were firms subordinated to Mikhail Khodorkovsky, namely Menatep Ltd, Valmet S.A., Pecunia Universal Ltd. And the center of all dubious financial transfers, in which Dutch authorities had seen and detected signs of money laundering, was Amsterdam Trade Bank NV, an affiliate of “Alfa-Group” under control of Mikhail Fridman.
A European source of the website Prigovor.ru told us about sensational details of the official investigation which had been conducted at that time.
In accordance with the legislation which was in effect at that time, Dutch banks had to present to law enforcement agencies statements of two kinds: “Suspicious Activity Reports - SAR” and “Suspicious Transactions Reports – STR”. With reference to the mentioned above norms of Dutch legislation, Amsterdam Trade Bank NV submitted information on a number of transactions (48) in 1999 and 2000 that at once were seen as unusual.
After a series of investigations and consultations, these operations were evaluated by the Serious Organized Crime Agency as suspicious, and after that, in 2001, a more detailed investigation was started.
Then, the following was found out: during the period embraced by the reports of SAR/STR, some streams of money had been spotted from Russia, Switzerland and Cyprus, which had been transferred through a bank in Amsterdam by legal entities sitting on Netherlands Antilles Islands, Isle of Man, as well as in the United States, Switzerland and Russia. It turned out that several companies on this “carousel”, had been connected with each other. The mentioned above jurisdictions are often named in the context of international practice of money laundering. In this particular case, the question was about the so-called “non-cash crossroad”, as well as of splitting and merging of money streams.
A particular attention was drawn by two bank reports, and they presented the following picture:
The report in SAR/STR format (number of the file 73945) of Amsterdam Trade Bank NV is related to deals in the amount of 94 000 000 U.S. dollars, which Mikhail Fridman’s bank received as intermediary from “Russian Trust and Investment Bank” acting on behalf of an unnamed client. This Russian bank serviced all business operation on behalf of another former Russian bank, namely “Menatep” which had gone bust during the credit crisis in Russia in 1990s.
These 94 million were transferred to a holder of an account in Amsterdam Trade Bank NV, and the owner was a Cyprus company Menatep Asset Management Ltd. First, this company asked Amsterdam Trade Bank to transfer nearly 10 000 000 U.S. dollars through its foreign banks, namely through an affiliate of USB AG in the United States and First Curacuo, International Bank NV, to the company Pecunia Universal Ltd on the Isle Man.
In the second case, the rest from 94 000 000 dollars which had been received earlier by Menatep Asset Management Ltd, specifically, 84 000 000 U.S. dollars, in various small and big deals, were paid directly through Amsterdam Trade Bank NV to third sides and to the company Pecunia Universal Ltd on the Isle Man. Thus, almost all the sum of $94 000 000 found itself in the offshore company Pecunia Universal Ltd belonging to Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
The report in SAR/STR format (number of the file 83393) of Amsterdam Trade Bank NV deals with incoming and outgoing transactions in the amount of 109 000 000 U.S. dollars, as well as of 181 000 000 U.S. dollars, correspondingly, which it processed as intermediary. The received uncertificated money, spread among several international transfers, came successively from the mentioned above Russian Trust and Investment Bank to the Swiss company Roseword Ltd (or Rosewood Ltd). These three foreign legal persons acted on behalf of a main unknown principal. The whole sum was credited to the account of an account owner in Amsterdam Trade Bank NV, which, in effect, belonged to the Cyprus company Menatep Asset Management Ltd.
According to Dutch investigators, this Cyprus offshore was affiliated with Russian Trust and Investment Bank which had taken upon itself all the activities of the bankrupt bank “Menatep” (Older generation remember how had sported the bank “Menatep” grown prosperous thanks to the money, as it later became clear, of scammed clients. For instance, in real prime-time, on the main TV channel of the country, this belonging to Khodorkovsky bank, during a whole month, span a one-minute advertising clip with a man keeping silent. He simply kept silent a whole aerial minute).
On the basis of the information laid open in the reports and received additionally operative data, officers of Dutch low enforcement agencies made following conclusions:
- Company Cyprus Limited successively commissions Amsterdam Trade Bank NV to carry out transactions to the whole amount of 181 000 000 U.S. dollars. This sum, divided in several parts, was transferred to three legal entities – Pecunia Universal Limited (Isle of Man), Menatep Ltd Switzerland and Joint Commercial Bank Trust and Investment.
- In both SAR/STR reports a following picture is presented. Incoming and outgoing money streams are accidental and, at first sight, there are not crisscross links. Yet, it was established that on the incoming side of transactions there are the same persons which are present on the outgoing side of transactions.
- It was also established that the sides were connected with the financial and industrial group of Khodorkovsky (“Menatep”/Yukos) and Valmet SA. Thus, conclusions were made that Pecunia Universal Ltd Isle of Man and Menatep Ltd Switzerland are, in fact, final beneficiary owners on behalf of a group connected with Khodorkovsky, and that these legal entities had been created by the company Valmet SA with the purpose to conceal money, to launder it and for capital outflow.
The website Prigovor.ru is publishing for the first time the scheme of transactions of Fridman’s bank with contract partners of Khodorkovsky, together with transfer sums and dates of making payments
We would like to point out as well that after the begin of the Special military operation in Ukraine, Amsterdam Trade Bank NV went bust, and the news media Reuters wrote about it on April 22, 2022, in the article “Amsterdam Trade Bank, part of Russia’s Alfa Bank, Declared bankrupt”, in which Mikhail Fridman is directly called the beneficiary of this bank citing data of the Dutch Trading Chamber.
Apart from that, we would like to notice that the Dutch media outlet NRC, on April 2022, in the article entitled “Hun reobels wegsluizen, dat deden Russishe oligarchen via Hoofddorp” wrote about participation of Amsterdam Trade Bank in dubious schemes, pointing out that Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Mikhail Fridman had been involved in that. In this piece, a former Dutch policeman Robert Dekker tells about the investigation of financial schemes of Russian oligarchs, and he claims that only political motives prevent enforcing law with regard to Russian oligarchs engaged in syphoning money out of Russia.
See also the review of the Internet outlet FLB.ru: Khodorkovsky's dirty money in the Netherlands.The trust company Mutual Trust Netherlands (previously “Valmet International”) tried to prevent the publication of the investigation in the newspaper “NRC Handelsblat” about a finance “laundry” of Mikhail Khodorkovsky
To give a complete picture, we would like to remind our readers that the connection of Mikhail Khodorkovsky with the laundering Bermuda offshore Valmet S.A. was placed on record in the criminal case No 18/432766-07, about which the Agency of Federal Investigation FLB.ru told on September 25, 2021, in the article entitled “On this day Khodorkovsky was reminded of the scheme to cheat American stockholders”.
So, esteemed readers, we suggest that you make yourself conclusions about unbiased position and integrity of Mikhail Khodorkovsky who is ready to disengage from anybody who stays in the way to his purposes, as well as about reasons of sudden ardent love of Russian liberal community for the disgraced in the West Mikhail Fridman.
Author: Alexander Zhelnin
Russian version at: «Мутили два товарища. Как Ходорковский* и Фридман отмывали $ 384 млн в Нидерландах»
* Mikhail Khodorkovsky – 20.05.2022 included in the registry of foreign agents with No 289
* Alexey Venediktov – 22.04.2022 included in the registry of foreign agents with № 369