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By John Helmer, Moscow

When it happened eight months ago, the arrest of little known public works contractor Sergei Vladimirovich Maslov (lead image, right) made a sensational bang. The outcome, eight months later, is a silent ringing one; that’s ringing as in Russian telephone justice.  

At his palatial home at Arkhangelskoye, outside Moscow, on October 19, Maslov refused to let the police in, so they used sledge hammers on his front door before they took him away. A commercial television company chartered a helicopter to fly slowly over the mansion to film its tennis court, guest house, banya, servants’ quarters, garages and gardens. The cameras were invited in to film Maslov’s rooms and make an inventory of his closets, shoes, safes, as well as the objets d’art on the walls. His garage was opened to reveal several luxury autos. Pictures of Maslov’s motor yacht, berthed somewhere in Italy, surfaced in print

The message was that Maslov was very rich.  But the charge against him was that he was only slightly  crooked. He has been charged with defrauding a bank which had gone bust two years earlier of Rb1 billion ($16 million). Also arrested and charged was an accomplice, Vladimir Karamanov. He let the police into his home when they knocked; his face and possessions haven’t been displayed on television. The two men were flown by police to Rostov-on-Don; held on remand for a month; and then released in November to go home, purportedly under house arrest.

This week the Leninsky District Court of Rostov-on-Don  refuses to say if there is a continuing arrest order for either Maslov or his property; if a new hearing has been scheduled;  or if the prosecutors have dropped the case.  Lawyers for Maslov refuse to say what the status of the charges against Maslov are, or if there remains any case for him to answer. These are signals that whoever ordered the police into action last October has decided enough is enough.

Sources who know the players and their businesses agree Maslov was targeted by someone much richer and more powerful, who also sponsored the press coverage. The sources say Maslov’s recent business has been tied to Gennady Timchenko (lead image, left); so the sources are divided in their suspicion between Timchenko and his rival in the gas business, Igor Sechin, chief executive of Rosneft. According to one source, “either it was a pressure from Timchenko & Co. to extract money from Maslov, who pretended to be a Timchenko man and grabbed more than he was entitled to. Or it’s one of the battle fronts of the silent war between Sechin and Timchenko over new gas production and Novatek. To me, it looks like the first scenario. Timchenko initiated the arrest. Under pressure Maslov agreed to return money. Charges have been softened or dropped.”

This morning in Moscow Timchenko categorically denies both.

Maslov, 58 in August of this year, is known to a source in the Russian oil refining and oil transportation sector, who has met him on occasion in the past. The source says Maslov started as a chauffeur and bodyguard for Vagit Alekperov, control shareholder and chairman of LUKoil. From this beginning, and with his natal Chechen clan contacts, Maslov rose in Alekperov’s trust as an enforcer, and from that role into other positions of trust in the LUKoil group, including supervision of LUKoil’s transfer pricing and export operations in Vienna.

The source says that when he met Maslov, the latter was chief executive of Transnefteprodukt, the refined fuel pipeline company. The source says Maslov did not know much about the pipeline business. “After meeting [Maslov], I had the impression he had no idea how oil product pipelines operate.  I cannot recall precisely but at the meeting he said obviously stupid phrases.” .Maslov started at Transnefteprodukt in 2001, and was ousted from the state-owned company  in 2008, when Transnefteprodukt was reorganized, and subordinated to Transneft, the crude oil pipeline operator.  This followed the ouster at Transneft of chief executive Semyon Vainshtok and his replacement by Nikolai Tokarev. For background on Transnefteprodukt and on the reorganization.

Between 2008 and 2011 Maslov moved on to oil product trading as chief executive of the St. Petersburg International Mercantile Exchange (SPIMEX). His tenure ended there following controversy over price-rigging. His new job, until his arrest last year, was chief executive of Development Corporation, previously named Ural Industrial-Ural Polar. Karamanov (right) was Maslov’s deputy at the company.

In 2013 reporters in Ural region and maritime media speculated  that Maslov had been put in place at Development Corporation by Timchenko to supervise his business interests in the Tyumen, Khantiy-Mansiisk and Yamalo-Nenets regions, and to take care of regional officials who might get in Timchenko’s way. The latter reportedly fought back.

According to UralPolit.ru,  a regional investigative publication, Maslov and his co-accused Karamanov were Timchenko’s men, operationally. Legally, they reported to the shareholders of Development Corporation — Khanty-Mansiisk Autonomous Okrug (16.81 %); Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug (33.42 %); Tyumen region (47.9 %);  Chelyabinsk region (1.28 %);  and Sverdlovsk region (0.56 %). The company’s last reported revenue, for the year 2015, was tiny — Rb253.2 million ($3.5 million); net profit, Rb41 million ($560,000).

How the income required to support Maslov’s standard of living, as shown on television after his arrest, was earned at Development Corporation isn’t clear.


Source: http://ren.tv/novosti/2016-10-21/garazh-glavy-korporacii-razvitiya-zabit-elitnymi-inomarkami  

Maslov’s Arkhangelsoye house: http://ren.tv/novosti/2016-10-21/glava-korporacii-razvitie-zaderzhan-po-delu-o-hishchenii-1milliarda-rubley

The business of Development Corporation  has been widely reported in the Ural region media, and recently summarized here. It appears to have depended on a pyramid of municipal and regional government contracts, bank loans, and cash invested by the regional shareholders.  The corporation has been involved as intermediary in construction contracts for roads, bridges, airport runways, and schools; oil, gas and water pipelines; commercial development of publicly owned  right-of-way land around pipelines and railroads; and supply concessions to publicly funded institutions, such as Russian Railways. The extent of Maslov’s operations ranges across many regions of Russia, including Rostov in the southwest and Tyumen,  Khantiy-Mansiisk and Yamalo-Nenets in western Siberia.

The case for arresting against Maslov appears to have resulted, not from  the shenanigans at Development Corporation, but from the collapse of National Credit Bank (Narodny Credit) in 2014, and confessions following the arrest of shareholders and managers of the bank, led by Vitaly Yun and Stanislav Svetlitsky (right). National Credit Bank had its banking licence revoked by the Central Bank on October 9, 2014. At the time its entire capital had disappeared and loans to related parties and fly-by-night companies associated with management and shareholders were unrecoverable. The frauds at the bank so far add up to between Rb10 and Rb20 billion – significantly more than the indictment alleged against Maslov. 

Svetlitsky is a former deputy minister at the federal Energy Ministry. He is alleged to have helped himself to state money from southwestern water pipeline and supply schemes operated by Rostovvodokanal, Yugvodokanal, and Sochivodokanal. Official allegations against Svetlitsky had been opened in 2012 by the state Vnesheconombank, but then dropped. New charges were raised last year, and Svetlitsky arrested on the order of the Leninsky District Court of Rostov on June 26.  Four months later, the same court issued the arrest order against Maslov.

Maslov is reported in the Russian press to hold Swiss citizenship, and to have been a client of Swiss banks and Geneva lawyers. Offshore companies he controls have been identified in the British Virgin Islands and Luxembourg.

The Luxembourg holding is named after Maslov’s initials as SVM. It has been reported in the Russian and Swiss press to have been engaged as financier (or owner through another cutout company) of   cargo vessels, the Novorossiysk, the Sevastopol, and the Aleksandr Tkachenko, in the shipment of military goods between Russia and Tartus, Syria. This information, leaked to the Swiss media, suggests the role of US intelligence, which has exposed  many of the Russia-Syria shipment conduits in the past, in an attempt to disrupt the supply logistics for Russian military operations in Syria. 

November 2, 2015 – the Aleksandr Tkachenko photographed in the Bosphorus, heading to Syria  with a cargo of military trucks and other military stores in containers.  Source:  https://turkishnavy.net/2015/11/02/the-cargo-on-alexandr-tkachenko/  Reuters reported earlier movements of this and other Russian freighters on the Novorossiysk-Tartus run. Click to follow

Maslov’s Syrian shipping business has proved irrelevant to his current problems, except that whatever contacts helped him obtain the contracts from the Russian Defense Ministry have been unavailing in this, his time of need.

The indictment for which Maslov was arrested in Moscow last October identifies embezzlement from National Credit Bank under Article 160 of the Russian Criminal Code. This covers “misappropriation or embezzlement, that is, the stealing of other people’s property entrusted to the convicted person.” The penalties are relatively light – a fine, repayment of the money taken, a jail term of less than 12 months, or community service.

Maslov’s links with Timchenko have nothing to do with the bank, but have been much more valuable.  They involve the business of Stroitransgaz, a pipeline construction concern in which Karamanov played a senior executive role before switching to Development Corporation; and Timchenko’s mineral water company, Aquanika. That company has also employed Timchenko’s son-in-law (husband of his daughter Ksenia), Gleb Frank (son of Sergei Frank of Sovcomflot).  An Aquanika supply concession to Russian Railways has been reported in the Russian media to be relevant to the Maslov case.  For a summary, click to read.   

Left to right: Ksenia Frank (nee Timchenko); Gleb Frank; Sergei Frank

Last month it was reported in Moscow that Timchenko is selling part of Aquanika to the SMP Bank, belonging to the Rotenberg brothers. All of them – Timchenko, Aquanika, Boris and Arkady Rotenberg, SMP Bank, Stroitransgaz, and Timchenko’s Volga Group holding – are sanctioned by the US Government. If new US sanctions voted last week by the US Senate are implemented, Sovcomflot, the state oil and gas shipping company,  will be sanctioned also, and may lose its US oil delivery and international tanker chartering business.

Russian reporters who have made the attempt to question Maslov say he refuses to talk to the press. The reporters have also been struck by a bout of silence themselves in the case. One of Maslov’s lawyers, Alexander Makarov, a partner at the Moscow firm of Reznik Gagarin,  refused to respond to questions emailed this week about the current status of his client’s case. Even more reticent is a second Moscow lawfirm, Padva & Partners, which has been identified in press coverage of Maslov’s defence, but won’t identify the lawyer representing him.

At the head office of Development Corporation in Moscow, a spokesman, Olga Gorchilina,  declined to confirm press reports that Maslov had tried returning to his post as chief executive last December, but was dismissed on a vote of the shareholders.  The company is also not giving out its financial results for last year. From the profit of Rb41 million reported in 2015, a press report  of a month ago claims the corporation recorded a loss of Rb25 million in 2016. This has been reported as due to “the administrative cost of maintaining subsidiaries which do not carry out production and business activities.”

Timchenko’s spokesman at Volga Group in Moscow, Anton Kurevin, said today: “Mr. Maslov was involved in the Aquanika project. He started in this project; his share was sold, and he left the project. Regarding other projects with Mr. Maslov in companies of Mr Timchenko, there are none. As for claims, financial or otherwise, towards Mr. Maslov, Mr. Timchenko has none. Mr. Timchenko has no relationship at all to the story of the arrest and release of Mr. Maslov in 2016.”

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