Business As A Battlefield – OpEd


After reading a petition, my friend called me and said that the story of Vitaly Arkhangelsky, a businessman from St Petersburg, is of the same nature as the examples provided on the site. Please be reminded: the authors of the petition believe that « the Russian government abuses the mechanisms of international treaties concerning extradition and judicial cooperation… to sue innocent persons who are their political adversaries, or whose business Putin’s officials captured or desire to capture, or just those with whom they have personal accounts to settle.  We appeal… until efficient mechanisms are developed … to establish a moratorium … with regard to the execution of requests for extradition.… ».

I was advised to read a couple of articles about this businessman and to have a look at his website.  I read. I had a look. I thought: the story of Arkhangelsky, who is waiting for extradition to Russia, is worth at least being mentioned on the site “”.  It is even worth being thoroughly examined.  In fact, from time to time we read in the mass-media: this businessman left the country, he is accused of… he is wanted… As a rule, we do not know a lot of details of the persecutions, since details are known only for famous people like Berezovsky, Nevzlin, Gutseriev, Tchitchvarkin.

The name of Arkhangelsky also is becoming famous.

Let’s read a letter sent by Arkhangelsky to the new Chief of the Central Administration of the Ministry of Home Affairs of Saint-Petersburg and the region of Leningrad Mikhail Sukhodolsky.

From the letter: « …I’ve been living in France for two years and I am on the international and federal « wanted” list…My story starts in October 2005, when I, a successful entrepreneur, was a victim of an attempted murder… I went to the RUVD of Primorsky district of St. Petersburg… As a result… the chief of the GU MVD V.Piotrovsky suggested that I should pay, on a monthly basis, an incredible sum of money to a private security firm recommended by him in order to guard me and to defend me from the police.  As an honest businessman I … refused. Since then, I have been living under the pressure of permanent blackmailing and threats coming from officials of the GUVD of St Petersburg and the region of Leningrad. The investigation officer Yu.Levitskaya, since 2007, has opened one criminal case after another…, hiding behind the personal order of Piotrovsky and the cover of the governor Matvienko.

…In spring 2009, my business suffered a raiders’ attack of the Bank Saint-Petersburg JSC. …. In response to my lack of obedience and my resistance to the raiders, by Piotrovsky’s order (as their closest colleagues say) it was decided to imprison me. In June 2009, having obtained that information, I left Russia… My appeal to the President of Russia made the police raiders even angrier.

…I am asking you to examine the situation and to punish the guilty, and to allow to come back to Russia to follow my business projects”.

Shall we say that there was no answer from the police general?

Anyway, let’s imagine that Arkhangelsky is really guilty of what he has been accused of, of failure to pay off the loan to the Bank Saint-Petersburg. Why then the representatives of the law-enforcement authorities refused to meet the journalists and to comment on their acts and the acts of the accused businessman? Probably because they have nothing to say? Anyway, I honestly tried to learn the opinon of « siloviki » concerning the situation of Arkhangelsky from their own lips. I even had several phone conversations with the Chief of the Central Investigation Administration M.Matveeva, the investigation officer of the GSU Yu.Levitskaya, the chief of the press-service V.Stepchenko… All of them, at first, said that they were ready to talk to me, and then somehow refused to answer my questions pretending that they needed an order of the chief of the GU MVD general of the police M.Sukhodolsky to answer my questions.   I wrote to Sukhodolsky. One week later they told me, referring to Sukhodolsky, that the investigation officer Levitskaya …did not want to meet me. I called Yulia Slavovna immediately and I heard the following: “I am not against this… Sure, formally the investigation is not closed, but I do not remember that I refused to meet you… Call me again in the evening…”

I called again. We had the following conversation:

Levitskaya: – Yes, we decided that it would be improper to comment on anything until the investigation is closed and the case transferred to the court.

Corr.: – And when the investigation should be closed?

Levitskaya: – When the hearing on extradition takes place in France and Arkhangeslky is extradited to Russia, and he comes back and the investigation continues…. …

Corr.: – And if he is not extradited?

Левицкая: – The search won’t be stopped anyway. And his arrest won’t be annulled. And he will have to move, so …

It is not difficult to guess that the forces behind the banking conflict intend to pursuit Arkhangelsky up to the end. And this promising “so…” is not likely to promise a peaceful life to the businessman. Only if someone stronger then the “siloviki” of St Pete intervenes in the case.

Essence of the case

In 2009, the head of a group of companies OMG, businessman Vitaly Arkhangelsky owed to the Bank Saint-Petersburg about 2.5 billion rubles and, on the peak of the crises (that’s important!), he failed to pay the money back. After that, the Bank St Petersburg requested the complete reimbursement of the loan in infringement of its undertakings concerning the prolongation of the loan.  As a result of activities of the law-enforcement authorities engaged by the Bank, it obtained control over certain assets of OMG. (As Arkhangelsky told me later, it happened in the following manner : the President of the Bank “Saint-Petersburg” Alexander Saveliev convened him and, in a form of an ultimatum accompanied by threats to himself and his family, requested that he signs a contract of sale of shares in “Western terminal” LLC (99% and “Scandinavia”é Insurance Company” LLC (100%) to certain companies at the price which was several thousands (!) of times lower than the book value of these shares. Let’s note that the value of the two companies largely exceeded the debt to the bank. The pressure was strong, and the businessman had to surrender. Later, “Scandinavia” insurance company (one of the assets) lost its clients and its license, and “Western terminal” (another asset) lost its customers and the status of a customs zone. Almost all their assets have been sold. For example, « Scandinavia »’s real estate have been acquired at an auction for 10 million Euros by an unknown “SOLO” LLC (it reminded me of the story of “Baikalfinancegroup” – author’s note). As they told me in the Bank Saint-Petersburg, they “managed to recover a part of Oslo Marine Group’s debt but the process of collecting money is going on”. Naturally, they concealed the fact that the “collection” looks more like a raid capture of a business.

It should be noted that OMG received loans in several banks including the bank “Vozrojdenie”. Differently from their colleagues from « Saint-Petersburg », even after the persecutions against Arkhangelsky, “Vozrojdenie” sent him a letter (in May 2011) expressing its readiness to continue their cooperation and stating that the parties are fulfilling all their obligations and continuing the implementation of the project of development of Vyborgsky port infrastructure.

The management of the bank « Saint-Petersburg » chose another way, the way of threats, strong pressure and judicial pursuits. It is impossible that they did not understand that OMG’s projects required long-term loans and that Arkhangelsky’s business was not the only not affected by the crisis.

They told me a lot of things in the bank. But I will talk about this later. At first, I will decipher the expression « the money collecting process is going on”. In fact, it means not just « work » but almost a war: the bank engaged into the resolution of the financial conflict the Investigation department of the GU MVD of Saint-Petersburg , bailiffs, courts (for God’s sake, do not tell me that our courts are independent!)… It is enough to say that about two dozen ( !) criminal cases have been opened against Arkhangelsky, his wife and even his mother-in-law. It went as far as a request of extradition.

Vitaly Arkhangelsky considers that it was a real raid organized by the bank.

On June 19, 2010, Vitaly Arkhangelsky was put on the wanted list.

A detail: both the bank « Vozrojdenie » who granted loan to Arkhangelsky’s business and the bank “Saint-Petersburg” received approximately the same number of shares of OMG group companies as a guaranty for the loans. But only the bank « Saint-Petersburg » hurried to change the management of the companies of which it provisionally became shareholder, and it began to prepare their re-sale.

What for ? The « native » managers did not discredit themselves.  That was done, according to the businessman, in order to push the companies to bancrupcy and that was done using falsification and raiders’ attacks of law-enforcement authorities who referred to the orders of the city authorities.

Then, the first criminal cases initiated by the struggling parties were opened. Taking into consideration the forces supporting the bank, these cases were more successful for the bank’s side. As a final result, Arkhangelsky left the country. The « siloviki » require his extradition, and, in order to provide better grounds for their requests, they opened a new criminal case concerning the restructuring of OMG’s loans in Morskoi Bank .

Now, let’s think: do we know a lot of examples when the banks tried to recover the loans in this manner? The bank « Saint-Petersburg » faced the same situation of inability to recover the loans with the construction company LEK, and with a fuel company “Phaeton”… But, for some reason, their owners have not become the target of such concentrated and active attention of the law-enforcement authorities of the city on the banks of the Neva River, and

Arkhangelsky did become one.

Opinion of the bankers

Why it was Arkhangelsky who was chosen to be a target? I put this question to one of the owners and the Chairman of the Board of the bank “Saint-Petersburg” Alexander Saveliev; at first, on the phone, and then in person: by chance, I managed to pass his security guards and to put a question to Alexander Vassilievitch about situation of OMG. But this time, Mr Saveliev, who had willingly talked to me on the phone, looked around with a frightened glance and said that I should put this question to his deputy Irina Malysheva.

I do not know why Mr Saveliev was afraid of talking to me. Probably, he knew that I would certainly ask him about the circumstances of the acquisition by the bank of shares in “Western Terminal” and “Scandinavia”; about threatening the Arkhangelsky, about his personal involvement in the companies which became owners of assets taken away from Arkhangelsky?

The deputy Chairman of the Board of the bank « Saint-Petersburg » Irina Malysheva informs me as follows:

– Mr Arkhangelsky left the country, he fled away. Our bank was the last one to file a request for the recovery of debts against him. We had no one to ask; why he had evaluated his assets like this.  When he came to us, he already had some debts. The bank Morskoi was the first one; he obtained a loan their using falsified documents… Why the bank “Vozrojdenie” did not request the reimbursement of the loan, remains a mystery for us… He cheated five banks.

We asked to find all his assets. The value of the pledged assets is several times smaller than his debt of 4 billion. It is never late to sign an amicable agreement. He will bring us 4 billion, and the problem will be resolved immediately. We put his assets on sale, but no one wanted to pay even a half of the price.

Arkhangelsky declares everywhere that his assets are worth a lot of money. But we do not see that.

We have to defend the bank’s interests. Our task is to look for the assets, seize them, impose restrictions, sell in the market and return to the bank…

…Where the money is? About one billion three or four hundred thousands are moved to Nice to buy his house… We believed him and he cheated us ».

Every sentence of Mrs Malysheva is, so to say, inexact. For example : she affirms that Arkhangelsky obtained a loan in the bank « Vozrojdenie » using falsified documents. Nothing confirms this assertion. Moreover, it is contrary to the facts: the bank « Vozrojdenie » continues to finance Arkhangelsky’s business projects.

No one cheated, speaking Mrs Malysheva’s financial and legal language, the “five banks”. Otherwise, « Saint-Petersburg » would not be the only one to have claims against OMG.

OMG’s assets pledged to guarantee the loans are certainly not “several times” smaller than the debt…

And so on, and so on. But I quoted largely the words of Irina Vladimirovna because I promised it to her.

The chronological order of discovery by the bank of the businessman’s real nature is the following: in 2006, Arkhangelsky started taking loans in the bank. Before the crisis, he paid them back timely. And even after the beginning of the crisis, nothing promised a conflict. And Arkhangelsky has not been mentioned as a swindler in the bank files. Anyway, the letter sent by Mr Saveliev to Mr Arkhangeslky on January 15, 2009 says: «Bank “Saint-Petersburg” JSC highly appreciates the cooperation with your respected company. In current complicated circumstances in international financial markets and in Russian economics, we pay special attention to maintain close and fruitful cooperation with our key clients. … Respectfully and with hope of further cooperation …»

When the bank’s managers were not honest: when they issued loans? When they threatened ? When they wrote letters of appraisal?

Little questions

The Deputy Chairman of the Board of the bank «Saint-Petersburg» I. Malysheva asked me: “…You write your article to help us or what?»

The investigation officer of the GSU Yu. Levitskaya asked me: “To whose benefit are you writing your article? »

The Chairman of the Board of the bank « Saint-Petersburg » A. Saveliev asked me “Why do you write about this? »

…Carrier prisoners in jail usually answer questions with a question: “What is the purpose of your question? »

About Arkhangelsky

The media wrote about this businessman that he was a smart economist, a talented entrepreneur, a gifted man, an insurance expert… Sure, these qualities may suit a swindler, but our man does not meet the image of one. His real acts do not correspond to this image. For example, when he dealt with the Port of Vyborg, he arranged the moorings, bought small land plots from their owners and consolidated them into a powerful loading complexes provided by cargo supply. He restored Baltic Shipping Company, developed a leasing company providing equipment for others’ moorings.   He started his business practically from nothing and was developing it in any possible way; he was full of ideas and projects. That is why banks issued loans to him willingly and he could implement his projects.

The question is: why would a man who created his business and grew him up to a billion Euros suddenly kill his own creation by non-payment on a loan of 2,5 billion rubles ? If one follows his accusers’ logic, Arkhangelsky owned a billion euro business and failed with a much smaller amount.

I think, one can call Vitaly Dmitrievitch anything. But it is really difficult to call him an idiot.

By the way, he is not « hiding himself » in France (as « siloviki » and bankers involved in the case say), he is quite in view: he meets businessmen and bankers, manages the remaining assets, continues developing his business and fulfils his obligations to the banks which did not turn back to him. For example, the port of Vyborg is still being developed thanks to the loans granted by the bank “Vozrojdenie”. And this bank did not abandon the project either when two years ago a world economic crisis burst out, or when the “siloviki” attacked Arkhangelsky with dozens of criminal cases.

Businessman’s opinion

Naturally, I asked Vitaly Arkhangelsky (by telephone) about the nature of the relationship between his group and the bank “Saint-Petersburg”. I found out that their cooperation lasted for almost 4 years. During this time, the bank has several times overbalanced the issued loans with its commission fees and interest paid at the rate up to 25%. According to the contracts, loans were granted to Arkhangelsky’s companies for one year with a possibility of extension at the mutual consent of the parties. At first, the bank supported actively OMG’s new investment projects: the loan committee authorized a short-term contract for one year; that was connected with the bank’s evasion from creation of reserve funds and increasing of profitability of its own operations.  It is important to note that the bank insisted on the informal character of agreements concerning certain essential questions and on insuring all the transaction in the companies affiliated to the bank; collaterals were also evaluated by the companies appointed by the bank. Arkhangelsky accepted these conditions since he knew that the bank « Saint-Petersburg » was positioned as having good prospects, an administrative resource and, at that time, a reputation of an honest financial institution.

Question: – What does Malysheva mean when she mentions expenses contrary to the purpose of the loan?

Answer: – The borrower cannot use the money for any other purpose since he is under a strict control of the bank with regard to the use of the issued funds.

Question: – What is that luxurious villa?

Answer: – In fact, it is not a villa but a flat in France. It was bought long before the conflict and before the purpose-oriented loan was issued by the bank.

Question: – Which signs of a raiders’ appropriation do you see in the behavior of the bank?

Answer: – The bank organized an attack against OMG. I am sure that the bank transferred the assets to affiliated companies and decided to charge me with all the debt of the unpaid loans. Court cases initiated by the bank against me are based on falsified documents; the courts are not independent and they refuse to order expert studies.

Question: – Can you give examples of falsification?

Answer: – My signatures were falsified on a number of documents. And when we succeeded to obtain a judicial expert study, this fact was confirmed.

Finance sings…

I will say it right now: I am not a specialist in financial issues. That is why I asked a deputy director of one of foreign banks operating in Russia to clarify the situation. I did not give the name of the borrower and of the bank, just the story.

The experienced banking expert explained to me this kind of situation: when a loan is important, the borrower is well-known to the bank and the borrower’s assets are not bad and notwithstanding this a conflict arises –it is not typical. The bank has a lot of means to resolve the debt problems. One of them is restructuring the debt, i.e. revising the contractual conditions in order to avoid the conflict. Sure, this is not a free service; usually, the bank increases the interest rate.  However, for the borrower, this is a solution, not slavery. Furthermore, the bank usually helps the borrower to find the ways out of these circumstances.  A serious bank will never descend to announcing the war against the borrower.  And if the borrower flee (it happens rarely, but it happens), the debt-collecting companies deal with the case. The bank itself threatens no one, does not require anything with “at gun’s point”.  In your example, it may be that the decision to use force was made not by the bank but by another interested person. Or by the owner of the bank.

I asked the banking expert whether the bank examines thoroughly the borrower’s assets. Answer: thoroughly is not the right word. Super thoroughly. Almost with a microscope. A loan agreement is a serious thing. Therefore, the bank examines very attentively the assets pledged for the loan.  The contract takes into consideration the conditions of reimbursement of the loan and the means of conflict resolution.  One of these means is, in particular, lowering the amount of the debt by selling the debtor’s assets.  However, the banks do not do this willingly since during the crisis the assets are usually depreciated.

I understood from my further conversation with the bank expert that issuing loans is the main business of a bank. And that the non-reimbursement of part of the loans is a normal risk which is taken into account in the interest rates. It means that when someone fails to pay the loan, someone else has already paid for it. And there is no sense to struggle with the borrower if there is no intention to appropriate the borrower’s assets.

Naturally, there exists a penal responsibility for non-payment of loans. But this is possible only if the bank proves in court that the borrower obtained the loan intending to steal the money and, from the very beginning, had no intention to pay back the loan.

I called the ex-employee of the bank « Saint-Petersburg » Ekaterina Shabalina. Arkhangelsky obtained his loans when she was there. Ekaterina Viatcheslavovna explained that, when Arkhangelsky applied for a loan, his assets have been thoroughly verified by specialists including the bank’s lawyers. At that time, their value was not over-evaluated, i.e., the loan was guaranteed.  But the value of assets fell during the crises of 2008, as everywhere in the world. And as everywhere, the reaction to the crisis varied. The Bank “Vozrojdenie” appeared to be less worried than the bank “Saint-Petersburg”. The latter, apparently, decided that the risks were too much, and requested to pay back the loans. According to Shabalina, the situation could be resolved otherwise, not by means of mutual offenses and even less by initiating a criminal case against the debtor.

Departure abroad

It happened that from the beginning of the conflict, Vitaly Arkhangelsky and his family (his wife and three young kids) moved to France. Well-meaning people warned him that he could follow the fate of Mikhail Khodorkovsky. For some reasons, Arkhangelsky did not want to follow the fate of the ex-head of YUKOS.

His enemies immediately qualified his departure as evasion from responsibility. Certain media wrote that « the escaped businessman organized a campaign to discredit the bank « Saint-Petersburg” director Alexander Saveliev », that he requested French courts to forbid t the banker to enter Europe and to hold him responsible for the crime of falsification of documents; that the bank, in its turn, tries to obtain in justice the withdrawal of Arkhangelsky family “mansion in Nice” for the debts.

Arkhangelsky struggles for his honor and his business in different ways.

In June 2009, his letter to the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was published in the latter’s blog. (Do you know a lot of businessmen who, if one believes to the bank, « deliberately committed a fraud » and publicly declared themselves to the president?  The question is rhetorical…).  The businessman complained to the President about problems in financing of medium-sized businesses. According to him, he did not decide to appeal to the Head of the State immediately. Prior to that, “all sorts of officials wrote all sorts of positive letters. At absolutely all the levels: representative offices, ministry, moderating institutions. But there was no result ». After that, the head of Rosmorrechflot Igor Zakharov sent à letter to Mintrans in regard of “the utility to support bank financing of OMG projects”. By the way, Vitaly Arkhangelsky also wrote a second appeal to the President in which he regretted that « the attention resulted in an unhealthy interest paid by the police of St Petersburg».

In June 2010, criminal pursuits were initiated against Arkhangelsky on the basis of article 174.1 part 2, item « a » (legalization of funds acquired by a person as a result of a crime he had committed in group and by conspiracy). Earlier, the GSU GIVD accused him of a crime provided by article 159 part 4 (fraud in a particularly large amount).

Active defense

Vitaly Arkhangelsky had to pass from defense to attack and filed a claim with a French court in order to get the director of the bank « Saint-Petersburg” Alexander Saveliev, the ex-head of the GUVD of St.Petersburg V.Piotrovsky, the deputy public prosecutor of Saint-Petersburg A.Kikot, and the ex-governor of Saint-Petersburg V.Matvienko questioned by the court. Le businessman affirms that the bank, using its administrative resource, had simply captured his company. The court of Nice joined the businessman’s claim to the file.

Arkhangelsky found defenders among compatriots. The former head of Nevsky district of Saint-Petersburg Andrei Korchagin took his side. Earlier, the former commissioner for human rights in Saint-Petersburg Igor Mikhailov also came to his defense …

I also called the Russian consul in Marseille Sergei Skiba. He said: “…Arkhangelsky is probably the most active visitor of our consulate. In general, we certify his business documents. It follows from the nature of these documents that he carries out, or more precisely, manages his business.

…I do not have an impression that this man is dishonest.  I rather have an opposite impression…

…yes, I know that he is sued by Russian law-enforcement authorities, that there will be a hearing for his extradition. But I did not see legal documents concerning the issue.

…I agree with you that the situation is strange: the man is accused of fraud, but he continues working for the benefit of his Russian projects, still receives finance from Russian banks, does not hide himself… In general, a lot of our compatriots prefer to live in the South of France, in Monaco, and to manage their businesses in Russia from here. There is nothing unusual about that ».

Typical Story

At the first glance, and even at the second one, this is a typical story of a raid appropriation of a business by dishonest competitors with the help of « siloviki ». Anyway, the means used in this case confirm the above: opening a criminal case on legally doubtful grounds; request for extradition sent to the country where the accused person resides and, after the refusal, opening of a new case; falsified signatures, threats and blackmailing… All the same as it was long ago, when comrade Putin and Co governed the country.

The first example to come is certainly the story of Mikhail Khodorkovsky. But this is a long and famous story.  The personal revenge of a man to another man and the interest in withdrawing a big fuel company to the first man’s friends’ benefit are apparent in this case. In this case (at least, in the first court case) there is at least a hint of compliance with the penal code; there was a pretended tax evasion.

In Vitaly Aerkhangelsky’s case we do not see anything like this. The question is not « why the loan was not paid back» (it would be paid back in any case and, de facto, it was already “paid” by withdrawal of some of Arkhangelsky’s assets). The question is « to whom is that profitable?»  Even famous Lucius Cassius, who was considered by Romans as the most just and wisest judge, used to ask in the hearing: “To whom is it profitable?”

Sooner or later the answer to this question comes. “Since there is nothing secret which does not become apparent and is not discovered…”

For the moment, there are different versions. Here is one of them. Alexandre Saveliev is not an independent person. He follows someone’s orders to capture Arkhangelsky’s successful business. Probably, all this is done for the benefit of the family of the ex-governor of Saint-Petersburg Valentina Matvienko.  They say that Valentina Matvienko is the real owner of the bank « Saint-Petersburg ».

Banking specialists suggested another version to me: the bank “Saint-Petersburg” is considered as a successful one but it encounters serious problems. All these attempts to recover debts before the reimbursement date were intended to avoid being suspected in inefficient management.

I repeat, these are just versions. But a story of YUKOS comes to my mind (as far as I understand, this story is not finished yet). YUKOS used to be the biggest oil company. It was destroyed and its assets were sold just because the powerful men wanted to get it. As we remember, finally, it was Rosneft and Gazprom as well as Gunvor International B.V. who has finally got YUKOS’ assets.

In this connection it is useful to quote the opinion of the former owner of YUKOS Mikhail Khodorkovsky about appropriations of businesses by raiders:

«In jail, I met a lot of people whose business was destroyed and withdrawn in the same way. The State raiders displayed a shocking greed. It was always difficult for me to believe that for mercenary reasons the “men of the State” are able to do such things. However, that’s true. In all these cases, the State institutions were used as tools for enrichment of private persons. That is why one cannot talk about “State appropriation” and “nationalization” in their classic meaning as of a real cause for the attack”.

By the way, after the recent decision of the Strasbourg court in YUKOS case, the lawyer Karinna Moskalenko made the folloing comment : «The violation of property rights is partially recognized. And, naturally, the violation of the right to fair trial is recognized. ;;; The Court did not let the lawyers take part efficiently in the case because they were not granted even a possibility to examine the file… According to the code of arbitration procedure, Russian authorities shall annul the previous arbitration court decisions in YUKOS case.

There is one more important detail of this decision: the European court, de facto, condemned the procedure of the company’s bankruptcy. The ECHR found that article 1 of the Protocol N° 1 to the Convention (protection of property) was infringed since the payment of debts was treated in a disproportional manner. Translated into normal language, it means that if they had not cut “Oxygen” to YUKOS, there would be no bankruptcy.

…If they had not cut oxygen to Arkhangelsky, he would surely pay the principal amount of the loan and the outstanding interest.

Maybe the bank did not want him to continue paying on the loan? Maybe the bank wanted Arkhangeslky’s business?

Struggle: preliminary results

On the phone, Arkhangelsky does talk to me about success in the development and implementation of his business projects, but about what they managed to save from raiders.

-…We managed to get back the control over “Western terminal” LLC. Denis Vinarsky was restored in his position of the general director, and his previous dismissal was declared unlawful. However, bailiffs of Kirovsky district do not implement this judgment for the moment.

…Concerning “Scandinavia” insurance company. We have won the case in the first instance court, but the company is in a deep crisis and for the moment, we do not know how to restore it. But there is always a chance, and I do not lose hope.

…The ships of Vyborg Shipping Company were sold at an auction. The pre-paid contracts for ship building (30 ships for 630 million euro) and supply of engines are broken up.

…Onega terminal is completely destroyed. All the contracts are lost. In winter, the pipes were broken; almost everything we had built is out of service. The total amount of payments under unaccomplished transactions connected to the acquisition of stevedoring and industrial objects by OMG exceeds 1 billion rubles.

… OMG’s insurance business is stopped. Licenses have been withdrawn and the rating has been lowered. International clients have been lost. The bank sold two « Scandinavia »’s land plots of the shore of the Finnish Gulf in the centre of Sestroretsk with a total area of 3 hectares. Their mortgage value is about 1 billion rubles.

All this sounds as news from the front. As the Soviet information bureau’s briefs during the war.

In Russia, the war is on since long ago, the war of everyone against everybody. In our country, business is also a battlefield.

However, there are also some good news. Oslo Marine Group declared recently that its port « Vyborgsky » invests 350 million rubles into reconstruction.   These funds will be used to repair internal railways, moorings, and warehouses. Currently, “Vyborgsky” is finishing the reconstruction of mooring N°1 which receives passenger ships. This will allow to double the number of tourists coming to the port next year, up to 40 thousand people per season.

The future

Russia is an unpredictable country. For example, today, it is Saveliev who prosecutes, and tomorrow, it may be Saveliev who will be prosecuted. Even if he is, for example, a friend of childhood or youth of the ex-governor and the current Chairman of the Federation Counsil. Saveliev certainly knows, feels and understands this. Probably that is why he acquired a house with a land plot in Cabo Roche (province of Orihuela, Spain). That is not far from Torreviechi, where they say that the former future President of Russian Mr Putin acquired a house – in case of….

Instead of epilogue…

At the end of September, in a meeting with writers, the Prime Minister Vladimir Putin answered the question concerning the Finnish citizenship of his acquaintance, a very important businessman, billionaire, and owner of Gunvor international B.V. Mr Timchenko as follows : «…I believe that, in principle, that is normal that, in the modern world, a man may choose any pace of residence and feel himself connected to his Motherland».

Please be reminded: Mr Timchenko is the most important oil trader in the world, Putin’s acquaintance; his business accelerated promptly after Putin’s appointment as President of the country.  According to Russian opposing politician Boris Nemtsov, Timchenko’s fast enrichment would not be possible without Putin’s help. And in 1999 Timchenko fled to Finland. He pays taxes there as well as in offshore zones of Cyprus and Singapore.

According to Putin’s logic, Timchenko « may choose any place of residence and feel himself connected with the Motherland ». And he can have no fear of prosecution or withdrawal of his business while his “just an acquaintance” Putin has power.

..Sure, after these words of the Prime Minister, we would like to dream about a really equal relationship of certain representatives of Russian authorities including Putin himself, to all businessmen without any exception. However, the example of the businessman Arkhangelsky makes us renounce these dreams and descend to the Russian land of sin, the land where, quite often, dishonest financial manipulators and equally dishonest “siloviki” run the show.


T’sN: the same article is also published here and here.

Grigory Pasko

Grigory Pasko is a Russian journalist and publisher of an environmental magazine. In November 1997 Pasko was arrested by FSB agents in Vladivostok and accused of espionage for publications on the environmental problems in the Japanese sea but found not guilty due to lack of evidence. He was found guilty of “abuse of his official position,” but released immediately under a general amnesty. He was recognized as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. His articles appear at Robert Amsterdam's website ( and are reprinted with permission.

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