Yesterday Moscow saw the funeral of Arnold Tamm (Spivakovsky), a crime lord of Solntsevskaya gang also known as Arnosha. The ceremony was attended by his former civil partner Lolita Milyavskaya, crime boss Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov (Taiwanchik), producer Viktor Drobysh, and other widely known individuals. The cause of the 51-year-old crime lord's death is yet to be disclosed. However, we have all reason to take a closer look, considering that Tamm was under travel restrictions in Spain, awaiting the beginning of the trial on the money-laundering case against fellow Solntsevskaya gang members. Judging by a similar trial of the Tambovskaya organized crime group, the bosses' testimonies and case files may expose many curious details concerning the gang's connections with high-profile politicians and security officers. The Insider has looked into Tamm's Spanish case and the Solntsevskaya gang's ties to the FSB, United Russia, and Russian oligarchs.
Arnold Spivakovsky (formerly Tamm; took his former wife's last name) was arrested in Spain in September 2017 along with Oleg Kuznetsov, Sergey Dozhdev, Alexander Grinberg, and other defendants under suspicion of tax evasion, money laundering, and involvement in the activities of the Solntsevskaya organized crime group. The court arrested a total of 11 individuals. In the Civil Guard's pretrial investigation report studied by The Insider, Arnold Tamm is listed as the third most important member of the Solntsevskaya gang after Sergei Mikhailov (‘Mikhas’) and Viktor Averin (‘Avera’). In February 2018, Spivakovsky was released on a bail of 750,000 euros for the time of hearing on the merits.
Solntsevskaya gang trial in Spain
The Spanish investigators' attention was focused on two commercial organizations registered in Mijas, Malaga. The name of one of them, Agua de Mijas, interestingly coincided with the crime lord's name — Mikhas. Later, it was renamed to Agua Sierra de Mijas («Water of Mount Mikhas»). The word play is based on the name of the town and a mountain in Spain. The second company under investigation is Arrendamientos de maquinaria industrial Mardoz SL («Mardoz Industrial Machinery Rental»). The first company was managed by Sergey Dozhdev and his spouse, with Oleg Kuznetsov and Ekaterina Kadina listed as partners. The second company had Sergey Dozhdev, Ekaterina Kadina, and Valery Kulibaba as equity holders.
Ekaterina Kadina, who co-owned both companies, is the widow of Vladimir Kadin, vice president of the Volgograd Boxing Federation, who was murdered in 2011 in a drug cartel shootout. Her stake in the companies was a compensation of sorts. As for Dozhdev and Kuznetsov (like Tamm, they were arrested to be released on bail a few months later), Spain treats them as members of the Solntsevskaya gang. They were frequently seen in Arnold Tamm's company on yachts and FC Marbella matches (a club sponsored by Agua de Mijas and owned by Alexander Grinberg, who is also under investigation).
Having studied Spain's Central Mercantile Register, The Insider learned that Agua de Mijas declared a turnover of 1.7 million euros in 2015 and 3 million euros in 2016. Such figures do not seem credible for a mineral water brand limited to Malaga's market.
Photos of the Civil Guard's search of Solntsevskaya gang members' premises
The Spaniards wiretapped Sergey Dozhdev, Arnold Tamm, and other defendants. In one of the conversations, Dozhdev asks Tamm to further the transfer of a friend who is serving a sentence in Krasnoyarsk to a different prison, and Tamm promises to help. The Spaniards were impressed by Tamm's ability to influence such matters. Neither Dozhdev's nor Tamm's interviews shed light on this situation.
Dozhdev admits that he keeps a large amount of cash in a safe at his Spanish house: «Cards don't always work.» As to the origins of the cash, he "wins money at casinos."
According to its balance sheets, Agua de Mijas has lately been operating in the red. Dozhdev denies double-entry bookkeeping, and this is when the investigators play his conversation with an associate, Valery Kulibaba, who asks, «Are we being in the red deliberately?» Dozhdev replies, «Yes,» and adds that an Agustín has reported losses to the amount of 300,000 euros.
«The Solntsevskaya gang gradually increased its presence in legitimate business, which eventually enabled this criminal organization to obtain a semblance of lawfulness, an efficient money-laundering mechanism, and representation in sectors of both national and international economies,» writes the Spanish Civil Guard in its report.
The gangsters' connections: Mogilevich, Yevtushenkov, and Putin
Arnold Tamm was first arrested in 1989 in Soviet Union along with Mikhas (Sergei Mikhailov) and Avera (Viktor Averin) for extortion. Conveniently, the prosecution witnesses soon forgot that anyone had been extorting anything from them. In 1993, the three accomplices moved to Israel and obtained Israeli passports (which were subsequently annulled). Mikhas was also arrested in Switzerland in 1996. The chief witness did not survive to appear in court; he was murdered in the Netherlands. The prosecutors received violent threats during the investigation (as reported by Prosecutor Bernard Bertossa), while Mikhas was eventually acquitted.
In March 2002, Arnold Spivakovsky, the then deputy director of the Peking Hotel, was charged with possession of drugs after a stash of cocaine was found at his place. His attorneys claimed that the drugs had been planted and the search had been conducted with procedural violations. A grenade was thrown into the prosecution witness' car, which Spivakovsky called a provocation aimed at denigrating him. Eventually, the witness withdrew his testimony, and the court acquitted Spivakovsky. In 2003, a court of higher instance upheld the verdict of acquittal.
And yet he did his utmost to deny his mafia ties during the Spanish investigation. The investigators got plenty of evidence, though. In one of Arnold Tamm's phones (out of six confiscated) the Spaniards found Mikhas' recent photos: one in the company of State Duma deputy Vladimir Shamanov and FC Lokomotiv coach Yuri Semin (when asked by The Insider, Mr. Semin failed to recall the circumstances of this encounter) and one that subsequently became notorious — a common photo of Russian crime bosses Gafur, Mikhas, Averin, and Semion Mogilevich, who is on the U. S. list of the most wanted criminals. The Insider already pointed out that Mikhas had been involved in the laundering of Semion Mogilevich's money.
The confiscated images also include Arnold Tamm's photo of May 16, 2017, with Sergei Lalakin — Podolskaya gang leader known more widely as Luchok. «He presently controls multiple law firms and engages in food and oil industries,» specify the Spanish investigators. Public figures such as comedian and businessman Vladimir Vinokur cherish their friendship with him.
Not all Tamm's friends are gangsters. Having studied the transcript of his post-detainment interrogation in Marbella on September 28, 2017, The Insider found that Arnold had said, among other things, that he did not remember his exact Spanish address because he was staying at Oleg Kuznetsov's, who was in custody too. Oleg Kuznetsov worked as an administrator at the Peking Hotel from 2002 to 2016, then at the Cosmos Hotel in Moscow. Both hotels belong to the Sistema Joint-Stock Financial Corporation, as Tamm explained. He was a shareholder of Sistema too, and its owner is Vladimir Yevtushenkov. The connection between the Solntsevskaya gang and Sistema is confirmed by a curious coincidence: in mid-1990s, during the Swiss trial of Mikhas, one of the prosecution witnesses was FBI agent Robert Levinson, who named Sistema's ex-CEO Evgeny Novitsky as one of the gang's treasurers.
Meanwhile, Mikhas persists in trying to publicly disengage from the Solntsevskaya gang, demanding in a court of law that as many as 172 web pages mentioning his connection to the gang be removed from the search index. (As one of Russia's largest organized crime groups, Solntsevskaya had up to 300 members at its height). Mikhailov even demonstrated a luxury souvenir watch presented to him by Vladimir Putin, wrongfully assuming that it would confirm his good standing. To that, Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov hastily denied that the President had ever presented the crime boss with anything: «We never announced it publicly, which means it never happened.» However, Mikhailov provided documents confirming the origin of the watch along with the item itself.
Solntsevskaya gang and the Kremlin
What do the gangsters know and what can they tell the Spanish authorities? The Insider spoke to former member of the Solntsevskaya gang, Odessa native Leonid Roitman, who had done seven years in a U. S. prison for an attempt on the life of Vyacheslav Konstantinovsky (in complicity with Monya Elson) during an internal Solntsevskaya gang squabble. After his release, the American authorities refused to expel him to Ukraine for fear that he might be tortured or killed. Roitman's partners name are mentioned in the FBI's report on the Solntsevskaya gang in the USA.
Leonid Roitman describes the events that unfolded around the gang as follows: "Sergei Mikhailov was once arrested in Switzerland. We often visited Hungary back then, to meet Viktor Averin and Arnold Tamm. I was sent to Sevastopol as a messenger to meet singer Iosif Kobzon, who was there on tour. I relayed Viktor Averin and Arnold Tamm's request that Mr. Kobzon speak to Mr. Gusinsky. Mr. Gusinsky was to speak to Viktor Chernomyrdin, so that a letter would be sent to Switzerland denying the very existence of the Solntsevskaya organized crime group. It still exists, however, and is one of the most powerful. It is also a very bloodthirsty gang, complicit in abductions and murder. How many shootouts happen now? How many contract killings? When were crime lords Grandpa Hassan, Yaponchik, and Timokha assassinated? Were they killed in the 1990s? They have been killed recently. Shabtai Kalmanovich was shot in downtown Moscow, in spite of security and CCTV cameras."
«Old-time criminal kingpins would call modern Solntsevskaya gangsters 'phonies' and 'snitches' for their cooperation with authorities,» says Leonid Roitman. He also says his boss, Alik 'Magadan' (Oleg Asmakov), paid Nikolay Kovalyov for protection up until his assassination in 1999. Nikolay Kovalyov is the former head of the FSB and current State Duma deputy in charge of a commission for control over deputies' income. Leonid is confident that the old schemes are still in place through Nikolai Patrushev, who acts as intermediary.
He also says the Solntsevskaya gang is on good terms with the FSB: «Our hit men underwent training with Skoch at FSB facilities. They trained at special camps, where they were taught close combat and mining. How to dismember a body, how to burn and to bury it the right way. Here's a United Russia deputy for you.» Interestingly, like Mikhas, Deputy Andrei Skoch (to the left of Mikhas on the title photo of this article) does not intend to put up with the reputation of a gangster and even undertakes international efforts to clean his good name. In France, he has approached former head of the DGSI (intelligence agency), Bernard Squarcini, who tried to leverage his influence to remove the United Russia deputy from their list of individuals involved in organized crime. Since 2016, Squarcini has been under investigation for traffic of influence and exposure of national defense secrets, his interaction with Andrei Skoch being just one of the episodes.
"Our hit men underwent training with Skoch at FSB facilities. They trained at special camps, where they were taught close combat and mining, how to dismember a body, how to burn and to bury it the right way."
The Civil Guard's report describes Arnold Tamm's role in the Solntsevskaya gang as follows: «According to Western intelligence agencies, Arnold Tamm was known as Solntsevskaya's warlord and the one in charge of its real estate business in Western Europe, shell and offshore companies, money laundering, and dealing in drugs and firearms. In addition, he is believed to have been overseeing the gang's activities in Russia, the Baltic states, Germany, China, and Sweden.» However, the Civil Guard's report that was unclassified in 2018 contains no details of these activities.
Here is how Leonid Roitman describes Tamm's role in the gang to The Insider:
"Arnold Tamm was the one in charge of the slush fund and business activities. Indeed, he was Sergei Mikhailov's right-hand man; I think he ranks third in the gang hierarchy — after Viktor Averin. Viktor Averin ranks second, and Arnold Tamm third. There are also Andrei Skoch and Lev Kvetnoi — a standalone unit that used to focus on liquidations. The gang used its slush fund for the needs of its imprisoned members, contract killings, and bribes to the FSB, the MIA, and the Investigative Committee."
And here is how they went about it, according to Leonid:
"Every year we made sure to pay a visit to Mogilevich. We had an agreement with Kiev-Donbass <The Insider's note: a Ukrainian enterprise controlled by the gang>: they paid us $150,000 a month for current expenses such as security and cars — $450,000 per quarter. Once a quarter we split this amount between three units $150,000 each — Mikhas, Avera, and Arnold Tamm; Mogilevich and Andrei Skoch; and us. Late in the year, we brought the total yield of Kiev-Donbass to Mogilevich."
To The Insider, Leonid demonstrated their monthly «payrolls» from 2002, where he is listed as "Leonid, Partner No 24."
Presumably, another criminal kingpin close to Mikhas is Zakhariy Kalashov, also known as Shakro Molodoy. When the latter was arrested in Dubai in 2005 at Spain's request, he was in a car with Mikhailov. Having done a stint in a Spanish prison after being found guilty of organized crime, Shakro Molodoy was released to Russia; he has recently been arrested again and convicted for extortion. According to conversations intercepted by the FSB's Investigative Directorate, high-ranking officials of the Investigative Committee promised (for a payoff) to secure the release of Shakro's henchmen who were arrested after a shootout in Rochdelskaya Street in 2015. One of the defendants of the Tambovskaya gang case in Madrid, Yuri Salikov, revealed to The Insider: "They will release Shakro anyway because they need him." However, he is still behind bars.
According to Leonid, Shakro «had protection not only at the Investigative Committee but also at the FSB and the MIA.» "To enjoy their protection, you need to buy it. Apart from cash, they accepted bribes in real estate, yachts, or even pretty girls. It was the specialty of Vyacheslav Konstantinovsky. He supplied Andrei Skoch with girls of easy virtue, models, and Skoch passed them on. It was also a source of blackmail material."
Leonid's words are backed by the defendants' statements — they have a lot to share about the Kremlin. For instance, Sergey Dozhdev says in his last statement (as per the court records):
"The real Russian mafia is those who rule the world. In particular, it includes Igor Sechin, a man who took over Sistema through Bashneft and MTS using his offshore companies. The Rotenberg brothers, who control the Platon Company, are in the mafia too. 75 percent of Platon belongs to offshore companies, which the Rotenbergs use to siphon off money to Europe. Arnold Tamm used to co-own Sistema. However, he had a disagreement with the Rotenberg brothers, and Herman Gref ceased the refinancing of loans through his son Arkady. The company incurred artificial liabilities, and Sechin bought it at a low price through offshore companies."
The episode with Sechin and Sberbank could indeed have taken place. In August 2017, the Commercial Court of Bashkiria ordered to collect 136 billion rubles from the Sistema Joint-Stock Financial Corporation for the benefit of Rosneft. Rosneft's lawsuit also resulted in some of Sistema's assets being frozen. On July 17, Sistema declared a technical default. The company emphasized that the grounds for the default was "failure to meet certain terms on a number of loan obligations."
As to Sergey Dozhdev, in his statement, he promises to «reveal a lot more names» but asks for a pause. The case hearing date is yet to be announced.