An investigation conducted by a British based media agency has revealed new evidence on the corrupt deals that made the fortunes of Roman Abramovich.
According to the investigations, the Chelsea owner made billions after buying an oil company from the Russian government in a rigged auction in 1995. It is alleged that Mr. Abramovich paid around $250m (£190m) for Sibneft, before he sold it back to the Russian government for $13bn in 2005.
However, his lawyers have said there is no basis for alleging he has amassed very substantial wealth through criminal means. The Russian billionaire is under sanction by the UK government because of his links to Russian President, Vladimir Putin. As a result, Mr. Abramovich’s assets have been frozen and he’s also been disqualified as a Director of Chelsea Football Club.
Report suggests that the Russian billionaire had already admitted in a UK court that he made corrupt payments to help get the Sibneft deal off the ground.
This became evident as he was sued in London by his former business associate, Boris Berezovsky, in 2012. Mr. Abramovich won the case, but he described in court how the original Sibneft auction was rigged in his favour and how he gave Mr. Berezovsky $10m to pay off a Kremlin official.
Details of an obtained document
According to the British news agency, it has obtained a document that is thought to be smuggled out of Russia. The information was given to the news agency by a confidential source, who said it was secretly copied from files held on Mr. Abramovich by Russian law enforcement agencies. Although the claims cannot be verified, checks with other sources in Russia have backed up many of the details in the five-page document.
Per the document’s details, it revealed that the Russian government was cheated out of $2.7bn in the Sibneft deal, a claim supported by a 1997 Russian parliamentary investigation. The document also noted that Russian authorities wanted to charge Mr. Abramovich with fraud.
“The Dept. of Economic Crimes investigators came to the conclusion that if Abramovich could be brought to trial he would have faced accusations of fraud… by an organised criminal group.”Details quoted from the document
The story of Russia’s Former Chief Prosecutor
An interview with Russia’s Former Chief Prosecutor, Yuri Skuratov, who investigated the deal in the 1990s, said he did not know about the secret document, but he independently confirmed many of the details about the sale of Sibneft.
“Basically, it was a fraudulent scheme, where those who took part in the privatisation formed one criminal group that allowed Abramovich and Berezovsky to trick the government and not pay the money that this company was really worth.”Russia’s Former Chief Prosecutor, Yuri Skuratov
The document also noted that Mr. Abramovich was protected by former Russian President, Boris Yeltsin. It said law enforcement files on Mr. Abramovich were moved to the Kremlin and that an investigation by Mr. Skuratov was stopped by the President.
Per the document,“Skuratov was preparing a criminal case for the confiscation of Sibneft on the basis of the investigation of its privatisation. The investigation was stopped by President Yeltsin … Skuratov was dismissed from his office.”
Mr. Skuratov was sacked after the release of a sex tape in 1999, adding that it was a stitch-up to discredit him and his investigation.
“This whole thing was obviously political, because in my investigations I came very close to the family of Boris Yeltsin, including via this investigation of the Sibneft privatisation.”Russia’s Former Chief Prosecutor, Yuri Skuratov
Mr. Abramovich remained in the Kremlin inner circle when the sitting President, Vladimir Putin, also came to power in 2000.
The document contained details of another rigged auction two years later, involving a Russian oil company called Slavneft. Mr. Abramovich formed a partnership with another firm to buy Slavneft, but a rival Chinese company was planning to bid almost twice as much.
Many powerful people, from the Kremlin to the Russian parliament, would have missed out if the Chinese won the auction. The document noted that a member of the Chinese bidding delegation was kidnapped when they arrived in Moscow for the auction.
“CNPC, Chinese company, a very strong competitor, had to withdraw from the auction after one of its representatives was kidnapped upon arrival at Moscow Airport and was released only after the company declared its withdrawal.”Details quoted from the document
Likewise, the kidnapping story is backed by independent sources that did not know about the document.
The story of Russia’s Deputy Energy Minister
Vladimir Milov was Russia’s Deputy Energy Minister in the run-up to the Slavneft sale. He refused to comment on the kidnapping story, but he disclosed that senior political figures had already decided that Mr. Abramovich’s partnership would win the auction.
“I said, look, the Chinese want to come in and they want to pay a much bigger price. They say it doesn’t matter, shut up, none of your business. It’s already decided. Slavneft goes to Abramovich, the price is agreed. The Chinese will be dragged out somehow.”Russia’s Deputy Energy Minister, Vladimir Milov
But there is no suggestion that Mr. Abramovich knew about anything regarding the kidnapping plot, or played any part in it. Mr. Abramovich’s lawyers said the kidnap claim “is entirely unsubstantiated” and he has “no knowledge of such incident”.
Different factions had been fighting for control of Slavneft and there was widespread opposition to the Chinese bid. Whatever the reason for the Chinese withdrawal, Mr Abramovich’s partnership had the only bid left on the table. And they bought Slavneft at a knockdown price.
Mr. Abramovich’s lawyers averred the allegations of corruption in the Slavneft and Sibneft deals are false, and he [Abramovich] has denied being protected by Mr. Yeltsin.