Before too long, Austria will make the final decision about the extradition of furtive Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash to the USA. Firtash earned a chunk of his multi-billion fortune by negotiating dodgy deals for Gazprom thanks for his gift to find common ground with Russian officials and gangsters.
The American side (along with the Spaniards and his compatriots) suspects him of bribery, racketeering, and laundering money for the mafia. Dmytro Firtash is believed to be Semion Mogilevich's man — reporting to the crime lord who co-founded the Solntsevskaya organized crime group and was on the USA's top ten wanted list for a long time. Meanwhile, Firtash asserts he has never done business with Mogilevich. However, The Insider has unearthed a number of documents – publicly accessible foreign intelligence reports, intercepted phone conversations, and witness accounts – that do not only confirm Firtash's affiliation with Mogilevich but also point to the oligarch's regular contacts with a range of criminal organizations.
A racketeer or a Euromaidan victim? Why Firtash was arrested and how he is being tried
Ukrainian national Dmytro Firtash was arrested in Vienna at the USA's request in 2014. He is now out on a $125 million bail, which was paid by Vasily Anisimov, Russian billionaire, Alisher Usmanov's business associate, and Swiss resident.
According to the prosecution, Firtash and five more defendants are suspected of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violation, having conspired to pay at least $18.5 million to Indian officials back in 2006 for several mineral extraction permits. The extraction project was expected to yield over $500 million in profits a year, including those from the deals with Chicago-based 'Company A' (apparently, the deals were related to the sale of a major Boeing Company asset). Firtash made it all happen through Group DF, a company registered in Austria (hence the trial location). Allegedly, the defendants offered bribes under the guise of payment for legitimate services through Group DF and engaged in pressure, racketeering, and intimidation.
At first, Firtash was doing considerably well in the Austrian court: the Higher Regional Court of Vienna objected to his extradition justifying it by “the impact of Euromaidan on Mr. Firtash's criminal prosecution in the USA”, which had supposedly made the case political and extradition, therefore, impossible. When this decision was being reviewed (with The Insider's correspondent present in the courtroom), Ewald Stani, spokesman of the Procurator General's Office of Austria, stated that referring to the political motives for prosecution is vague and speculative — otherwise, all pro-Russian tycoons would have already been on the wanted list.
The defense was causing as much delay as possible. Four attorneys, each in turn, developed complex conspiratorial constructions suggesting that Firtash's prosecution is the USA's revenge for his support of Yanukovich and referred to “negative international ramifications” for the Austrian judges. Firtash forewent the right of final statement and communicated exclusively with his lawyers during the trial, quietly swearing from time to time.
Fulfilling the request of the Austrian Procurator General's Office – that is, authorizing extradition to the USA – the judge remarked, however, that he did not wish to play the role of third instance, as the decision was made by the Austrian Minister of Justice, who signs the extradition permit.
The Austrian provisional government (which was put in place after the scandal involving Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache) passed a positive decision about Firtash's extradition on July 16. Normally, its signature is a formality, as the law provides an exception only for those risking torture or death upon extradition. This was not the case with Firtash, but his attorney Dieter Böhmdorfer (an ex-minister of justice, no less) appealed to the district criminal court of Vienna for a review of the extradition decision. Strangely, this was reason enough to postpone the extradition once again.
The Austrian ex-minister of justice is not Firtash's only high-profile attorney. Following his arrest, the international pool of his lawyers and PR agents grew significantly. The list of his representatives in the 'titanium case' is impressive by any standard: an ex-director of the FBI, a former assistant of the United States Attorney General, a former foreign minister, a member of the House of Lords, and a major art collector. His team also featured a private 'security consultant', ex-Stasi officer Christina Wilkening, whose services cost him as much as 700,000 euros. However, hiring her ended in a fiasco.
Ms. Wilkening used 10,000 euros to bribe a police officer, who wrote directly to the U. S. Attorney General, bypassing the German Ministry of Justice, to express Firtash's readiness “to engage in a dialog regarding any matters of interest to the United States of America». The dialog with the Attorney General never happened, but Wilkening and the police officer were both arrested by German investigators. In 2016 they searched Firtash's villa in Vienna with regard to this case.
What was Firtash so willing to discuss with the U. S. Attorney General? In an article by The New Times dated October 2017, a certain well-informed source asserts: “Many knowledgeable individuals say that most of RosUkrEnergo's profits were being siphoned off to Vladimir Putin's and Dmitry Medvedev's overseas accounts. Of course, Firtash was well-aware of these assets and their location.” The Insider managed to identify this source; we also know that he learned the story about Putin's and Medvedev's offshore accounts from Firtash himself. One would suggest that this was the information Firtash was going to peddle to the USA.
However, even if Firtash finds himself in the USA, it won't be Putin's or Medvedev's accounts that he will be discussing with the local attorney's office but his ties to Semion Mogilevich, once the most wanted criminal in the USA.
How the Solntsevskaya gang traded in natural gas: Firtash, Mogilevich and their friends from the FSB
Gazprom's business partner, Dmytro Firtash drew the attention of the FBI and the law enforcement agencies of Austria and Hungary back in the early 2000s due to his alleged affiliation with Semion Mogilevich's organized crime group. In 2005, the FBI made a statement to that effect to Austria. The Insider studied the corresponding report by the Bundeskriminalamt, the Austrian federal bureau of investigations.
Who is Semion Mogilevich?
During the Soviet times, Mogilevich did two prison sentences back in the 1970s, for swindling among other things. Later, he started doing business in the USA: in 1984 his emissary David Bogatin purchased five condominiums in the Trump Tower, only to have them confiscated by court in 1987 for money laundering. (The Insider already documented the love of Russian gangsters for Donald Trump's casinos and real estate.) According to a source close to Mogilevich, 'Seva' (the crime lord's alias) made his first fortune in the late 1970s helping those leaving the USSR with a so-called 'Jewish visa' to withdraw their money abroad. A former Israeli police officer who studied Mogilevich's and the Solntsevskaya gang's activities describes the scheme as follows. “In the USSR, the family of an emigrant who had sold their property would give Seva's people the cash, calling it 'cans of black caviar' for secrecy. 'A can' stood for $1000. This didn't cause any suspicion, because regular wire transfers weren't available, and reciprocal payments among relatives and authorized representatives were common among Jews. In the USA, the authorized representatives were to repay the equivalent, $10,000, to the newly-arrived immigrant, but there were instances when immigrants would get 10 cans of actual black caviar. In addition, Mogilevich made even more money on under-the-table currency exchange.”
In 1989 Mogilevich moved to Budapest, and his criminal empire covered Russia, Czechoslovakia , the USA, Canada, and other countries. As privatization was gaining pace, he took control of a weapons production facility in Hungary. From 1992 to 1996 in the USA, he was supposedly engaged in drug trafficking, gold smuggling, extortion, money laundering, swindling, and trafficking of arms, military equipment and cultural artifacts from Russia and other countries; he also illegally traded in military machinery of the Western Group of Forces in East Germany . The FBI names him among the seven leaders of the Solntsevskaya gang – one in charge of money laundering.
In August 2005, the FBI compiled an updated report on Mogilevich's activities in connection with Gazprom's supplies of natural gas from Turkmenistan to Ukraine and the alleged 'illegal payoffs' to gang members. Even though he was put on the wanted list in 2003 (besides, the order for his arrest was signed by none other than Robert Mueller, the then FBI Director), third countries were not issued any documents for criminal prosecution, so Mogilevich felt quite safe in his luxurious mansion in Benczur Street, downtown Budapest. “He was denied entry to the USA unless he undertook to inform the USA about international criminal organizations,” says a Hungarian security service officer contacted by The Insider.
He also mentions Mogilevich's close ties to security agencies and recalls an episode when Hungarian security service officers met with their British and American counterparts at the FBI academy in Budapest to discuss the possibility of requesting the KGB's dossier on Mogilevich. Two days later, Mogilevich, who had somehow learned about this conversation, sent his own 'dossier' on himself to the FBI academy, to the astonishment of the meeting participants.
As a result, Hungarian authorities forewent the idea of a criminal prosecution and started pestering Mogilevich with tax inspections and other bureaucratic 'harassment' like detainment for identification, so he left Hungary for Moscow in 1999. For some reason, the crime lord found a peaceful life there (unless we count the weird incident with a brief arrest, which The Insider covered in “A suitcase full of cash from the Solntsevo Mafia: does Putin have a video kompromat on the Hungarian leader?”).
The first natural gas fraud: EuralTransGas (ETG). The Solntsevskaya and the Tambovskaya gangs
The Turkmenian gas scheme looked as follows. For obscure reasons, instead of re-exporting Turkmenian gas to Ukraine independently, Gazprom ceded its gas exporting rights to a company called EuralTransGas (ETG). The company had been registered in the Hungarian village of Csabdi by Zeev Gordon, Mogilevich's attorney, with András Knopp, former head of Gazprom's Hungarian office, as CEO. Knopp is known to have been at least closely acquainted with Mogilevich (in the early 2000s, the German investigators of the Solntsevskaya gang's money laundering activities came across Knopp's notes, which included Mogilevich's phone number in Knopp's handwriting). As of today, Knopp is a defendant in the Indian corruption case along with Firtash.
In 2003 ETG's turnover amounted to no less than $2 billion. The financial reports for the following two years were not released.
ETG received 227 million rubles in loans from Gazprom bank and Vnesheconombank, which was declared at the company's website, now unavailable (a copy has survived). It also stated that a 25-percent stake in the company belonged to Hungarian company DEG (its full name is D.E.G Handels- und Unternehmensberatungsgesellschaft m.b.H). The Insider studied the full abstract on ETG from the Hungarian business register and concluded that D.E.G was located at the same address as Dmytro Firtash's current company, Group DF International: 12/2/9 Löwelstr., Vienna.
ETG was co-owned by Atlantic Caspian Resources, a London-based business run by Robert Shetler-Jones. The Austrian police believe him to be an active member of Mogilevich's organization as well. Today he is officially on the board of directors of Firtash's DF Group.
Furthermore, Mogilevich and Firtash used ETG for cooperation with the Tambovskaya gang. ETG was also co-owned by Cypriot offshore companies Dema Trustees and Dema Nominees, which hold a stake, albeit indirectly, in Petersburg Oil Terminal. However, the de-facto beneficiaries of the terminal were local crime lords Ilya Traber, Sergei Vasilyev, and their 'junior partner', Dmitry Skigin (whose son inherited his share upon his death), while the hostile takeover of the terminal was imputed to former head of the Tambovskaya gang, Vladimir Kumarin, in his last verdict.
Solntsevskaya gangsters made arrangements with the mafia that ran the port of St. Petersburg (the Tambovskaya gang) to participate in natural gas transit, as former member of the Solntsevskaya gang Leonid Roitman explained to The Insider. According to him, Tambovskaya gangsters worked under Solntsevskaya men as their sub-partners. There is more evidence to prove their cooperation. Thus, Vladimir Kumarin, a Tambovskaya gang leader, welcomed Semion Mogilevich at his birthday party (a video of which was published by The Insider), while Mikhas (Sergei Mikhailov) even pronounced a toast that talent alone was not enough to gain success in business and you also needed 'God's help'. By a strange coincidence, later in Spain, Firtash resorted to the services of the same business manager, Antonio Fortuni, as the Tambovskaya gang.
Second natural gas fraud: RosUkrEnergo
Later, Firtash and Mogilevich's companies continued to develop the same scheme of Turkmenian gas reexport through another straw company, RosUkrEnergo. It was with this entity that Gazprom concluded deals in the period from 2005 to 2014. The straw company acquired an exclusive right of trading in transit Turkmenian gas in Ukraine, and later on, in Gazprom's own natural gas. There was no economically credible justification as to why Gazprom needed this intermediary.
As The Insider learned, the Zug Commercial Registry named Oleg Palchikov as one of RosUkrEnergo’s managing director; the other one was Dmitry Medvedev's coursemate at university, Konstantin Chuychenko, who is currently deputy chairman of the Russian government. In 2008, Chuychenko yielded his position at RosUkrEnergo to Nikolai Dubik, a Gazprom executive.
In 2005 the company's turnover amounted to $4.4 billion, and in 2006, it exceeded $7 billion. RUE's business kept growing until 2009 when the natural gas conflict sparked between Russia and Ukraine, whereupon RUE lost access to deals between Naftogaz and Gazprom. However, the company went to court and reclaimed the right to sell the gas from Naftogaz reservoirs. This earned the company about $1 billion in profits alone. In addition, Gazprom issued RUE an advance payment of $2.6 billion until 2012. In 2011 Firtash concluded a contract for the shipment of Middle-Eastern natural gas to Ukraine independently, without Gazprom, while Gazprom borrowed $550 million from RUE at a low interest rate. The company was not liquidated until after the Euromaidan.
“Investigative information obtained in April 2005 suggested that Oleg Palchikov met with Firtash in Vienna on a regular basis. They also work with Ivan Fursin in Vienna,” the Austrian investigators wrote in the aforementioned report, mentioning that the three of them, including Ivan Fursin, are “high-ranking members of Mogilevich's organization”. Immediately after the meeting in 2005, Fursin, Palchikov, and Firtash sat down with Raiffeisen representatives to open two accounts at the bank. RosUkrEnergo used one account for settlements with Gazprom and Ukrainian Naftogaz, while the other one served for wire transfers to companies with head offices in the British Virgin Islands, Estonia, the UK, and Russia. The Austrian investigators presume Dmytro Firtash was in control of both accounts.
Their report also states that the profits of RosUkrEnergo, which replaced ETG, were returned as “payoffs to members of Semion Mogilevich's organization” . “The question of swindling and money laundering remains open”, even though the company, in spite of changing its name, retained all the key executives who answer to Mogilevich: Robert Shetler-Jones of Atlantic Caspian Resources, Dmytro Firtash, and Ivan Fursin. However, Austrian law enforcement agencies could not use the FBI's data in public criminal proceedings in 2005 because they had been transmitted to Austria 'confidentially'.
A Swiss counterintelligence analytic report dated June 2007 and titled “Cooperation between the FSB and organized crime” even asserts that Mogilevich was personally present at the Russian-Ukrainian gas negotiations. The Insider obtained this report in 2015 from investigative journalist Jürgen Roth, author of several books on Russian mafia. The report offers no details, but the assertion is confirmed by a number of former Solntsevskaya gang members.
In December 2006, the Austrian investigators who had penned the report in 2005 came to Kyiv under an international legal assistance program and informed their Ukrainian colleagues that Firtash was suspected by the Prosecutor General of Berlin of laundering $2 million and that his affiliation with Mogilevich was an established fact. In particular, Firtash co-founded two Cyprus-based companies, which were dissolved in 2003, with Mogilevich's wife, Galina Telesh. (As Firtash subsequently told Forbes, it wasn't until he had purchased the company that he learned that one of the founding companies was headed by Semion Mogilevich's wife.)
The Austrians presume that Firtash was making at least 200 million euros a year “leveraging corruption as the main driving force of his career through his acquaintance with politicians”. That year, RosUkrEnergo’s income amounted to 785 million euros .
Hermitage Capital Management, the fund that was yet to earn its fame, at that time minor shareholder of Gazprom, announced in 2005 that Gazprom was losing $478 million a year in favour of unknown beneficiaries of ETG and RUE.
According to a report on the Austrian investigators' visit to Kiev (made available to The Insider), Andrei Vasilishin (former head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and minister's advisor at the time) responded that the SBU had been monitoring Mogilevich's activities for years and that, apart from natural gas trading, he was invested in a number of other Firtash's companies, namely RSKh , Krymsoda, Krymsky Titan, and Rovnoazot.
According to the SBU, Firtash got to know Mogilevich in Kyiv before perestroika and have kept in touch ever since. Vasilishin presumes that Ukraine tried to strike an agreement with Gazprom directly, but Gazprom insisted on using an intermediary, RosUkrEnergo, which is presumably backed by FSB officials cooperating with Mogilevich.
“The FBI told us the story was over”: How Firtash evaded investigation
Firtash tried to dissociate himself from Mogilevich and his projects more than once. In 2008 he even reached out to the U. S. Embassy in Kyiv at his own initiative and explained how hard it was to get rid of RosUkrEnergo in gas trading without Russia's consent. He also asserted he had been “forced” to ask for Mogilevich's permission to run his business. It is unlikely that his statement would have satisfied anyone, had there been a thorough investigation. But it appears that the law enforcement officers weren't too persistent. This is confirmed by the materials of the Austrian parliamentary hearings of 2007 on the activities of the Izmaylovskaya and the Solntsevskaya organized crime groups in Austria. The list of speakers included Erich Zwettler, an employee of the Austrian bureau of investigations at the time.
The first part of the hearings was public, with the materials made available at the Austrian Parliament's website. After a lecture about the scope and significance of Raiffeisen's business, Wolfgang Putschek, chairman of the board of directors at Raiffeisen Investment AG, confirmed that the bank co-founded RosUkrEnergo with Firtash and Fursin. He insisted, however, that the bank had commissioned an audit from Kroll, a company employing former FBI and CIA officers, and its report had supposedly disproved Firtash's affiliation with Mogilevich. Kroll has ignored The Insider's inquiry.
The second part of the hearings was closed, but The Insider obtained its transcript from Jürgen Roth in 2015.
Deputy Werner Kogler (the Greens):
“We are referring to Raiffeisen Investment representatives and their grantors. As it turned out later, the individuals in question were Firtash and Fursin. They flew to Washington, D. C., USA, in February <2006 – The Insider> to give them the lay of the land, so to say. There is something odd about it. Are you aware that Raiffeisen Investment AG and its management made a decision to fly to the USA and report to representatives of the FBI and the CIA? What do you know about it?”
Investigator Erich Zwettler:
“The only thing I know is that an FBI representative came to Vienna and said the story was over because representatives of Raiffeisen's board of directors had somehow approached Stuart Levey's people, so there weren't any grounds to... Since then, the Americans haven't had anything to say about RosUkrEnergo. In fact, it is a Swiss company with only a few accounts in Vienna.”
In response, Deputy Werner Kogler points out that Ivan Fursin is an Austrian resident and Mogilevich's straw man and wonders why it is so hard to start an investigation. Mr. Zwettler says: “Should the police start an investigation based on these assumptions? We're not on the Balkans; our state respects the rule of law!” He also emphasizes that the FBI hadn't sent “a single document” that could be used to initiate a case.
Stuart A. Levey is a former Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence within the U. S. Department of the Treasury. Now he is Chief Legal Officer at HSBC in London. He hasn't responded to The Insider's inquiry.
Firtash and the Spanish case: How the Solntsevskaya and the Tambovskaya did business together
Spain is the second country to demand Firtash's extradition. In the Spanish request to Vienna, Firtash is supposedly affiliated not only with the Solntsevskaya gang headed by Mogilevich but also with the Tambovskaya gang.
In 2015 the Spanish prosecutors initiated a case against Firtash and put him on the international wanted list. In 2018 the court in Vienna refused to extradite him to Spain saying the request was not detailed enough. Firtash was supposed to give evidence to the Spaniards via a video conference, but this is yet to happen. In November 2019, the investigating judge closed the case, but the Spanish prosecutor's office appealed against the decision. The prospects of further requests from Spain will depend on the development of criminal cases against Firtash in Ukraine, which will shed light on the origins of money that is being invested in Spain.
“The operations of the business structure deployed by 'Dmytro Firtash's group of companies' (DF) across all Europe include a range of transactions and investments and serve the ultimate purpose of laundering money obtained through illegitimate activities of the organized crime group headed by Mogilevich,” states the indictment for Firtash's Spanish case studied by The Insider.
The extradition request suggests that Firtash was acting through Hares Youssef, a Syrian-born Ukrainian national, who even worked as a policy adviser for Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko. Hares Youssef's son, Maxim, lives in Spain; according to the investigators, it was through him that Firtash laundered the money. To that end, Maxim Youssef did business with Antonio Fortuni, another money-laundering expert known for his cooperation with the Tambovskaya gang.
Here is one of the examples that can be found in the official request for Firtash's extradition:
“Inpar S.A. a company founded in Marbella by Antonio Fortuni, defendant in the Tambovsko-Malyshevskaya organized crime group case, was sold to Maxim Youssef, Hares Youssef's son for 1.2 million euros. In 2009 Firtash purchased a villa in the settlement of La Zagaleta, Malaga, with Fortuni as middleman, for 1.5 million euros earned through criminal activities.”
Why do the investigators believe Fortuni to be affiliated with the Tambovskaya gang? Antonio Fortuni managed a complex structure of companies on behalf of Sergei Kuzmin, one of the Tambovsko-Malyshevskaya bosses. (Earlier, The Insider wrote about another European frontman of Kuzmin's, Jürg Wissmann from Liechtenstein, who also serviced the companies owning the widely known 'Putin's Palace' at Cape Idokopas – what a coincidence!).
But was it Firtash's money that Hares Youssef was managing? In Vienna, he is known to live next door to Firtash's office downtown, in Elisabethstrasse. Just like Firtash claims he barely knows Mogilevich, Hares Youssef says he and Firtash are neighbors who just happen to know each other but don't do any business together. The Spanish investigators point out that phone intercepts attest to the contrary.
Here is one such intercept, for instance: a conversation that occurred on January 15, 20166, between businessman Alexander Schweickhardt and Misbah Al Droubi, whom the investigators believe to be Firtash's and Youssef's man in Barcelona. Al Droubi says Youssef misused his connections, using his main asset, friendship with Yushchenko, only to introduce “Dima Firtash, who used to be a nobody”. Emphasizing that what he says is confidential, Al Droubi continues:
“Ukrenergo, a one-billion company, couldn't have been founded without Hares' assistance. He arranged a three-hour-long meeting with the President, which resulted in the establishment of the company. So what's his share? I told him: 'Hares, don't do it, win some time, and demand at least 30% of the company – definitely not less than 10%. Have him sign the papers before you do anything.' He says, 'No way, no way! He's a friend of mine. He'll be good for his word.' In the end, all he got was 50 million, as a payoff, not as a co-founder's share.”
Schweickhardt grunts in agreement. Al Droubi goes on:
“What about when he threw all we had into ... (inaudible) in Moldavia? He promised it to Usmanov. Usmanov gave $40 million to Hares, who gave it to Yushchenko for his election campaign... The same happened to other deals, whether their size amounted to 'a billion or 304 million'...”
In all appearances, here is what Al Droubi is referring to. In April 2004, shortly before the presidential election in Ukraine (the one that ended in the Orange Revolution), Youssef acquired Moldova Steel Works from Russian energy company Itera. A few months later, he ceded 30% of its shares to Metalloinvest, a company co-owned by Alisher Usmanov, Vasily Anisimov, and Vladimir Skoch (father of Andrei Skoch, whose role in the Solntsevskaya gang we have already addressed).
Two of our sources who are acquainted with Youssef assert that he habitually dined with the Yushchenkos and had contacts in his entourage. Hares Youssef is also known to have co-managed a charitable foundation with Victor Yushchenko's wife.
Whether or not by coincidence, once Yushchenko came to power in 2005, the SBU mysteriously 'misplaced' Mogilevich's dossier they had been updating for 12 years. Ukrainian media interviewees blamed Oleksandr Turchynov. Yushchenko refrained from commenting.
Another noteworthy conversation occurred on April 4, 2016: Hares Youssef calls Al Droubi himself from his French number. As the Spanish investigators remark, the conversation makes it clear that Youssef and Firtash ('Dima', short for Dmytro) were close, and Firtash had Youssef on a payroll. However, after the extradition request, he got scared, according to Youssef, and the money flow stopped. Youssef complains to Al Droubi that he has 'taken a back seat', explaining: “We came across a problem in the USA and haven't dealt with it yet.”
Al Droubi: “So how's it going with that man of yours?”
Youssef: “With Dima?”
Al Droubi: “Yes.”
Youssef: “He shit his pants.”
Al Droubi: “No kidding.”
Youssef: “Well, he's already given me a little, but he won't anymore, and I can't ask him for it. It was three weeks ago.”
Firtash, Mogilevich, and the killings: Testimony of an ex-Solntsevskaya gangster
Even as he admitted receiving Mogilevich's permission for starting a business, Firtash denied any personal involvement in criminal activities in his statement at the American embassy in 2008. However, The Insider found a witness who claims the contrary.
The Insider spoke to a 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; see Roitman's verdict) 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' names are mentioned in the FBI's report on the Solntsevskaya gang in the USA.
During Roytman's «divorce» with Solntsevskaya gang, Firtash had his own interests there and acted in close affiliation with Mogilevich. Here is his account.
“I was in Oleg Asmakov's unit <The Insider's note: Asmakov is also known as criminal kingpin Alik Taim or Alik Magadan>, and his senior partner was Vyacheslav 'Yaponchik' Ivankov. Yaponchik worked in close cooperation with Sergei Mikhailov <The Insider's note: a.k.a. 'Mikhas'>. Asmakov's gang in Moscow once included Andrei Skoch and Lev Kvetnoi . Their rank wasn't high, but they were among Asmakov's fighters in Moscow. It was in 1988 or 1989.
Around 1995, Asmakov and Yaponchik sent me to Odesa, Ukraine, where we bought Nord Bank and a few more enterprises. We had a skirmish with the Stoyanovskaya gang in Odessa and had to withdraw. Then we started working with the Kiev-Donbass company in Ukraine.
The company was siphoning off public funds from the national budget. We bought underpriced coal and supplied a variety of goods, from American tee-shirts to cars, in return. We also did business with Alisher Usmanov ; I even have his business card from the time when he was Vice President at the APO Bank. We would bring along Mikhail Grinshpon, CEO of Kiev-Donbass , and Andrei Skoch and Lev Kvetnoi would arrange our meetings. They were his protection at the time, as they still are.
Every year we made sure to pay a visit to Mogilevich. We had an agreement with Kiev-Donbass: they paid us $150,000 a month for current expenses such as security and cars — $450,000 per quarter. Once a quarter, we would split this amount first among the three main units, $150,000 each: Asmakov and me; Mikhas, Avera, and Arnold Tamm; and Mogilevich and Andrei Skoch . At the end of the year, the entire management of Kiev-Donbass would sit down with Mogilevich, and the latter settled payments with the official co-owners, Mikhail Grinshpon, Victor Topolov, and Alexander Levin . This was how he came up with the final amount that Kiev-Donbass had to supply to get square with its criminal protectors.
Mogilevich made the calculations in person, together with Levin, Topolov, and Grinshpon <The Insider: former head of Kiev-Donbass, currently suspected of embezzling funds of the Ukrainian space exploration program>. They wrote everything down. This went on until Alik Magadan's death in 1999.
Leonid Roytman and Alik Magadan
We were selling the Nadra Bank. At a meeting in Hungary, Semion Mogilevich introduced us to brothers Ilya and Vadim Segal. Later, the Segal brothers started playing a minor role in our business. We agreed among ourselves to outsource management of the Nadra Bank to them. Eventually, it gave them a better understanding of our business, and they started squeezing us out. Asmakov realized he was in danger and Mogilevich was about to gain control over the entire Kiev-Donbass business. We sat down with Viktor Averin in Hungary to discuss the possibility of yielding the Nadra Bank to the Segals and Firtash for 10 million in order to settle the accounts with the Solntsevskaya gang (although the value of the bank had reached hundreds of millions). This would enable us to retain our course and to keep Lev Kvetnoi and Andrei Skoch, getting Seva Mogilevich off our backs. We give him the bank and buy him out. But Seva tricked us as usual. He paid the 10 million, registered the Segals as the new bank owners, and killed Asmakov nonetheless.
He paid the 10 million, registered the Segals as the new bank owners, and killed Asmakov nonetheless
At the time, Firtash was the Segals' business associate, along with Levochkin <The Insider's note: Sergei Levochkin is Ivan Fursin's coursemate; the dissolved outgoing Verkhovna Rada featured a Firtash-Levochkin fraction>.
In other words, Firtash is Mogilevich's man. He paid for protection, to Mogilevich and the Solntsevskaya gang, to be exact. He paid Mogilevich, Mikhas, Averin, and Arnold Tamm for criminal protection in Ukraine. He had people eliminated at his request. Killed, that is. People were bombed and shot at. Including those involved with the Itera Company.
At RosUkrEnergo, Firtash represented Mogilevich's interests as well. Mogilevich was personally present at the Russian-Ukrainian negotiations on natural gas. As a straw man, he was indispensable, because he could ensure the involved officials got their payoffs when the gas had made its way to Ukraine, and he enjoyed their trust.”
The Nadra Bank, which Firtash managed, was closed by the Ukrainian authorities. KPMG auditors found out that the bank owners, the Segal brothers, had stolen about 6 billion hryvnias and issued 16 billion hryvnias in substandard loans by 2009. Firtash officially gained control over the bank in 2011, with Ivan Fursin taking charge of its supervisory board. Notably, Odessa-born Segal brothers, who are now U. S. nationals and New York City residents, filed a RICO against Firtash and the Nadra Bank in 2013 accusing him of seizing their assets via credit fraud (The Insider studied the lawsuit). Previously, Firtash had succeeded in putting the Segals on the wanted list. That is, if Roitman is right, the Nadra Bank kept changing hands within the Solntsevskaya gang after Oleg Asmakov's assassination.
In 2008 Dmytro Firtash showed up at the U. S. Embassy in Kyiv accompanied by András Knopp, which was reflected in confidential diplomatic records published by WikiLeaks.
Firtash attributed the killings related to the Itera Company to the former prime minister of Ukraine, Pavlo Lazarenko, who had been convicted and was serving a sentence in the USA for financial crimes. Firtash told the American ambassador that Lazarenko, with assistance from Igor Fisherman, ordered the assassination of Donetsk businessman Yevhen Shcherban in 1996 and Oleksandr Shvedchenko, head of Itera in Kyiv, “for not sharing Lazarenko's vision of the gas business”. (It appears that Firtash failed to convince the ambassador because the latter made a written remark that Lazarenko's henchman Igor Fisherman is believed to be affiliated with Mogilevich.)
Responding to a series of questions about the Austrian lawsuit, the Spanish criminal case, and Leonid Roitman's testimony, Daniel Kapp, Firtash's frontman in Austria, wrote to The Insider: “On behalf of Mr. Firtash, we vehemently deny these allegations as completely false and slanderous. Mr. Firtash has empowered his attorneys to react most rigorously to any publication of slanderous accusations with any legal means available.” In response to a request to specify Firtash's understanding of slander, Kapp said it pertained to “the statements that you attribute to Mr. Leonid Roitman”.