Donald Trump, who is still being investigated for collusion with the Kremlin, initially tried to enter the Russian market through the Solntsevo criminal group, while his contacts with Russian organized crime are much wider than previously thought. The Insider collated data from witnesses and investigative bodies from different countries, and found out what links Trump with organized crime figures Mikhas and Mogilevich, how the Russian mafia ended up integrated into the American president's team, and what the Russian special services had to do with it.
Real estate meets the garbage business
In early February 2013, a rowdy VIP party was held in the Moscow hotel «Ukraine»: Sergei Mikhaylov, also known as Mikhas, the venerable leader of the legendary Solntsevo organized crime group (OCG), celebrated his 55th anniversary. «A whole floor was reserved for the fifty or so invitees. As far as I know, this floor was permanently kept on hold for Seva (Semyon) Mogilevich,» recalls one of party guests, Dietmar Clodo, speaking excusively for The Insider. “Some invitees came with their wives, others were accompanied by starlets and models. Guests were entertained by singer Emin Agalarov - the son of Araz Agalarov, Mikhas’s old drinking buddy "
In the words of Dietmar Clodo, who was intimately familiar with criminal mastermind Semyon Mogilevich (more about Clodo - here), in the course of the party there were also business talks: «There were two Americans at the party, whose names I do not know. I do remember though they discussed the construction of Trump Towers in Moscow and Kazakhstan. Mikhas and Avera (Viktor Averin, the guru-mastermind of the Solntsevskaya OCG - The Insider) insisted on participating in the project. Mikhas invited me to his birthday, so I could have a look at the Americans and give him my assessment if were not just hot air. They were not. As far as I could glean from their conversation, they referred to their prior meeting with Ivanka».
It was not by coincidence that Mikhas celebrated the birthday on the floor that was usually reserved for Mogilevich. Back in 1996, the FBI put Mogilevich on the top of the most-wanted list for laundering Solntsevo OCG’s funds. And, as we now know, these funds got laundered not without some help from Donald Trump.
For example, as far back in 1984, a Russian émigré - David Bogatin - bought five luxury condominiums in the Trump Tower in New York for $ 6 million, becoming neighbors with Sophia Loren and Steven Spielberg. This occasion warranted Trump’s personal attendance at the contract signing ceremony. The origin of the sizeable funds for the purchase was unclear. A mere three years later, Bogatin was found guilty of money laundering and tax evasion, and the apartments were seized in order to pay off the court-appointed fine. Bogatin’s activities were also the subject of Senate hearings in 1996, where Senators were informed of his work for the organization of the criminal mastermind Semyon Mogilevich. The connection between David Bogatin and Mogilevich can also be verified in open sources. For instance, in a rare interview with the BBC in 1999, Semyon Mogilevich himself admitted that he had established the US company YBM Magnex, but quickly thereafter transferred it to other shareholders. In the official register of the state of Pennsylvania, one can see the superseding director: Yakov Bogatin, brother of David Bogatin.
The Solntsevo gang members felt quite literally at home at the Trump Tower. The famous thief in law Yaponchik (Vyacheslav Ivankov), who was killed in 2009 in Moscow, engaged in active criminal activity in New York in the 90s. The FBI had been hunting him for a long time, until it located him at the Trump Tower, where, as it turned out, he owned his own apartments. A 2016 report from the Spanish Civil Guard on the Solntsevo OCG, a copy of which is in possession of The Insider, citing the FBI and other sources, reads that: "Ivankov maintained frequent, almost weekly telephone contact with Mikhailov (Mikhas), and both discussed joint projects and events in the criminal underworld. "
The Civil Guard’s case report in the Soltnsevo OCG investigatio case 1178/2016 goes on to say: "Nowadays, Mikhailov continues to play an important role on the stage of Russian organized crime. Despite the fact that he no longer takes an active part in day-to-day criminal operations, he is still responsible for the strategic direction of the Solntsevo group. This OCG is still involved in illegal activities - such as drug trafficking, money laundering and trafficking in persons. "
In September 2017, 26 people were detained in Marbella, Spain, as part of a sting operation in the case of the Solntsevo group; among them Alexander Grinberg and Arnold Tamm (Spivakovsky). In January-February of 2018 they were released on bail. They are charged with, among other things, laundering illegal funds through the Spanish company «Mijas Water» («Mijas», pronounced Mikhas in Spanish, was a play on words – it was not just a colloquial nickname for «Sergey Mikhailov», but also the name of the mountain range in Spain). A joint photo of Mogilevich, Mikhas, Averin, and Gafur Rakhimov was found in Spivakovsky's mobile phone. The photo creation date was August 10, 2017. Gafur Rakhimov, a native of Uzbekistan, is wanted in the United States for heroin drug trafficking; and in February 2014 the US included Adam Delimkhanov, State Duma MP (and a relative of Ramzan Kadyrov in the list of Treasury sanctions, designated as a close associate of Gafur.
From 1984 to the present day, a total of 13 criminal masterminds associated with Solntsevso OCG and its partner criminal organizations, owned real estate in the Trump Tower in New York, or at other Trump buildings. The main buyers of Trump real estate were clients from Azerbaijan, Russia and Kazakhstan. Most of the apartments belonged to offshore companies with opaque beneficial ownership.
In previous investigations of Trump's links with Russia, Mogilevich’s name surfaced mainly in conjunction with Trump's one-time election chief of staff, Paul Manafort.
In a charge brought by special prosecutor Robert Mueller on October 27, 2017, Manafort was named the beneficial owner of the Cyprus company Lucicle Consultants Limited, which received millions of dollars from the Ukrainian MP Ivan Fursin. Ivan Fursin, in turn, according to Austrian police’s case file of 1 9771781/1-II / BK31030 BK (2005-2006), a copy of which is in The Insider possession, is an associate of Ukrainian businessman Dmitry Firtash, and is part of the organization of Semyon Mogilevich.
The Insider collated independent reports of the Italian and Austrian police, Swiss counterintelligence, the Spanish Civil Guard, the FBI investigations, as well as evidence of a former Mossad officer, against data from open sources, and found that Trump's connections with the Solntsevsko OCG and structures close to it are much wider than assumed earlier.
Agalarov and his friends
The fact that Trump is linked to Emin Agalarov, who positions himself as a singer, and his father, billionaire Araz Agalarov, has never been a secret. According to the official version of events, Trump and Agalarov were introduced to one another by Miss Universe-2012, when Emin recorded a music video with her (as a result, Trump himself ended up starring in the video). And it was the son of “Mikhas’s drinking buddy" - Emin Agalarov - who was the man behind the notorious meeting between Trump's staff and the Russian lawyer Natalya Veselnitskaya, where she was expected to offer dirt on Hillary Clinton (nowadays this meeting is one of the central plots of the investigation of special prosecutor Muller into potential Trump-Russia conspiracy).
Due to the investigation into collusion with the Russian state, today the Agalarovs are discussed more often in the context of their relations with the Kremlin, thus ignoring their contacts with the criminal world. But the ties of the owner of «Crocus» Araz Agalarov with criminal circles were well known earleir. By way of an example, in 2006, the Azerbaijani underworld figure Hikmet Mukhtarov was shot in a car registered in the name of Crocus’s co-founder, Rail Zeynalov. Crocus’s press office then could not give a reasonable explanation to reporters. According to some sources, Vyacheslav Ivankov-Yaponchik (the one who was detained at the Trump Tower) was present at the Hikmet’s funeral in Azerbaijan. In turn, when Yaponchik was shot dead in 2009, Azerbaijani crime boss Mammad Masallinsky was noticed at his funeral.
Emin Ahmadbekov, a former Azerbaijani police officer who became a political refugee in France, told The Insider: "I worked for the police for 18 years. After I filed a claim against President Aliyev at the ECHR for, I was jailed on trumped-up charges. Two crime bosses were in jail with me, and they informed me that in the early 1990s, the group run by the thief in law Hikmet were in charge of security for Agalarov and his family. In the 90's it was impossible to work without backing form the criminal world. Hikmet had a team of 500 “athletes”. As far as I understand, Agalarov allocated a certain amount of money to the group’s obschak (common pot of illegal earnings, The Insider) and in return they provided security for him, his wife, his son, and so on. Then the thieves became businessmen. "
The beauty contest «Miss Universe» in Moscow, which Agalarov organized along with Trump, also proved to be quite a unique event. Suffice it to peruse the list of the key invitees to this event.
One of them was Alimzhan Tokhtakhunov (Tayvanchik, or the Taiwanese), who at that time was on FBI’s top-ten most wanted list. In 2011-2013, the FBI bugged the headquarters of the so-called Nahmad-Taiwanchik-Trincher organization at the Trump Tower, located three floors below the penthouse of Donald Trump. The organization was suspected of laundering money by organizing illegal gambling. Helly Nahmad was the son of famous billionaire collector, the Monegasque of Lebanese descent David Nahmad. He pleaded guilty. In the US, Helly Nahmad was sentenced to a large fine and a year in prison, at the same time an investigation into large-scale money laundering with his involvement is still going on in Switzerland. In 2013, Taiwanchik gave an interview to Radio Liberty from a luxurious restaurant downtown Moscow in where he was observed exchanging greetings with oligarchs and pop stars. He said that he «called (Vadim Trincher and Anatoly Golubchik – other suspects in the gambling ring) and placed bets», but «in Russia this is not against the law». In 2014, Vadim Trincher was sentenced by a US court to five years in prison for racketeering, extortion, organizing illegal gambling, and money laundering. Another member of the same group - Anatoly Golubchik, 57, also a native of the USSR - was given jailtime in the US. According to the investigation, the criminal group that they all ran, managed to launder about $ 100 million; the indictment said the laundered funds were channeled back to the US via Ukraine. According to the FBI report, as well as an indictment document of the Bologna (Italy) prosecutor's office from 2001 (one of the indictees is Tohtakhunov himself), Taiwanchik had close ties with the Solntsevo OCG.
Another honorary guest invited by Agalarov was the President’s aide and administration chief, Vladimir Kozhin. A lot can be written about him, but suffice it to mention that his signature can be found under the document authorizing construction of the so-called «Putin's Palace» - the $1 billion presidential residence on Cape Idokopas in the Black sea, while the state formally belonged to a corporation whose CEO turned out to be Jurg Wisman, known as the lawyer of the Tambov OCG. By a cosmic coincidence, the leader of this OCG - Gennady Petrov - turned out to be Kozhin's neighbor in an elite residence on the Kamenniy Island in St. Petersburg.
It was also curious that the gala dinner after the «Miss Universe» contest was thrown by Agalarov together with Sberbank’s CEO Herman Gref. In the phone calls intercepted by the Spanish investigation in the case of Gennady Petrov, Gref's name pops up repeatedly. For example, in the read-out of one intercepted call Anton Petrov's son asks his father to talk with (Vladislav) Reznik, because «Mikhas creates for us problems in this field» (setting up jewelry stores - The Insider), «with the help of Herman». Sergei Dozhdev, one of the detainees in the Spanish case focusing on the Solntsevo OCG in 2017, using his right of last word during interrogation, stated that the Spanish investigators did not understand who the true mafia in Russia is. The true mafia were not those prosecuted in the case, he said, but «much more important» people - such as Igor Sechin and Herman Gref.
Some members of the Solntsevo OCG consider Sechin and Gref "the true mafia"
Another honorary guest at the Miss Universe contest - Russian comedian Vladimir Vinokur - was also not a stranger to the Solntsevo OCG. For instance, in 1992 Vinokur along with Averin, Mihkas, Mona Elson, Yaponchik and other members of the organized criminal group attended a meeting with Mogilevich in Budapest. At the very least, this fact is mentioned in the indictment by the Italian prosecutor's office in the case of Tayvanchik. (For more details about Vinokur and Kozhin, read the article «Alexey Uchitel brought out $ 1 million in a bag» - Matilda author speaks out about the Kremlin obschak ").Agalarov's connection with people previously suspected of criminal activity can be traced in the US itself.
Araz's wife Irina Agalarova still lives in the United States, and only travels to Moscow occasionally. In her Instagram, she most frequently posts photos from Palm Beach and New York. On paper at least, she used to run a beauty salon in the US, but these days she does not engage in business. Agalarov’s daughter Sheila also lives in the USA.
The Insider has found that in 2005, a company by the name of «ZAO Crocus International, LLC» was incorporated in Florida, the directors of which were Irada and Michael Shvartsman. This company was wound down in 2012. Irada Shvartsman (nee Mamedova's) says, in her social network, that she was born in Baku. Michael Shvartsman has many friends from Baku and also Igor Ushakov, a Moscow officer of Agalarov’s Crocus, so it seems that this company was realated to Araz Agalarov’s Crocus (the press office of Crocus City in Moscow did not respond to The Insider’s query). Today, several dozen companies in Florida list Michael Shvartsman as CEO or owner, including Konkretno LLC. One of Michael Schwartzman’s social network friends is an émigré from Odessa, Semyon (Sam) Kislin. This person deserves separate attention.
Gentlemen from Odessa: How Jewish immigrants with criminal connections invested in Trump
The CEO of the company Trans Commodities Sam Kislin (born in 1935 in Odessa) started off in business with a single electronics store in Manhattan. The store was a favorite hangout for Soviet diplomats, KGB agents and members of the Politburo. In 1976, Kislin and his partner, another émigré from the USSR, Tamir Sapir (born Teimuraz Sepiashvili in a family of Georgian Jews), managed to sell 200 TV sets to Trump Commodore Hotel on 30-day credit terms. In an interview Sam Kislin praised Trump for paying up on time. The joint business did not stop at the TV sets. Sapir teamed up with two other Jewish Soviet immigrants, Felix Sater and Tevfik Arif, and invested in the Trump SoHo project, which included a hotel and a residential complex in Manhattan. Soon, Trump entered into a partnership with the development company Bayrock-Sapir, which was headed by the same trio.
All these four Jewish émigrés from the USSR - Kislin, Sater, Sapir and Arif - were directly or indirectly associated with organized crime.
Tefik Arif was arrested in 2010 during a police raid on a yacht in Turkey, and was accused of running an international criminal network trafficking in prostitutes, including minors. The case was dropped before it reached trial phase.
Sam Kislin, in FBI’s perception, was associated with Ivankov (Yaponchik) and the brothers Michael and Leo Cherny (of the Izmailovo OCG). Kislin’s Trans Commodities along with Blonde Management Corp. (another New York company run by Kislin's nephew) acted as co-sponsors of the US visa invitation for Anton Malevsky, the leader of the Izmaylovskaya OCG. Trans Commodities also served to funnel money on to Mikhail Cherny (Kislin did not deny his partnership with Cherny, but claimed he had never heard about Malevsky).
Felix Sater - who owned a large share of Bayrock-Sapir - is the most charismatic of these figures. His father was Michael Sheferovsky, the head of the New York criminal group of racketeers and extortioners operating within the Mogilevich syndicate. Sater himself, apparently, was actively involved in his father’s business: in 1991 he was convicted for slashing a business partner’s face with a broken glass . In 1993, he left prison and turned to securities fraud. And in 1999, Felix Sater moved one floor higher in Trump Tower and began to work directly on Trump. In the following 10 years he would serve as Trump’s personal advisor.
Could Trump not know that Suter was directly related to the Mogilevich gang and to security fraud scams? Well, what he probably did not know, was that the year before he came to Trump, Sater was already detained for securities frauds running up to $ 40 million, plead guilty, gave up his accomplices, and became an undercover informant for the FBI. And that a mere year later, Sheferovsky himself would be arrested. It is significant though that when Sater's verdict became a matter of public record in 2007, he did not lose his post as advisor to Trump.
A colleague of Mogilevich, German citizen Dietmar Clodo (in his youth a former Red Army Faction militant who spent 8.5 years in a Hungarian prison for preparing a bomb) confirmed to The Insider: «Felix Sater from Bayrock counted Seva (Semyon) Mogilevich, Mikhas and Yaponchik among his friends. Sater served as shamash to Seva when he resided in the US (Shamash is a person responsible for the administrative and economic activities of the synagogue - The Insider). According to the FBI, Mogilevich came to the United States three times: in 1992, 1994, 1995. Curiously, Clodo himself does not speak Russian, but this did not stop him from communicating with Mogilevich - they spoke Yiddish to one another. To validate Clodo's claims, The Insider contacted a former member of the Israeli Mossad who agreed to comment on the condition of anonymity: «Since Mogilevich had an Israeli passport, we were actively studying his activities in the 90s. I then interrogated him, and indeed, he really is fluent in Yiddish. Also I can confirm with absolutely certainty that Dietmar Clodo used to be a man from his inner circle. The fact that he again got into that circle after his time in jail, in principle, is also possible. "
It is conceivable that it was Sater himself who helped organize the very meeting of Trump representatives with Mikhas and Mogilevich in the hotel «Ukraine», described above. Beginning in 1987, Donald Trump tried five times to build a Trump Tower in the USSR and later Russia, but it was Felix Sater who got closest to implementing this task. In 2008, when Sater was still working for Trump (at any rate, by 2010 he was still giving out business cards calling him advisor to Donald Trump), he joined the board of Mirax Group, owned by Sergei Polonsky. He failed to finalize terms of construction of Trump Tower in Moscow City in partnership with Polonsky, as in 2010 Mirax went bust. However, while on the board, Sater met one of the top managers of the Mirax Group, Andrei Rozov, who soon went on to set up his own real-estate company «Expert».
On October 28, 2015 Trump signed a protocol of intent with the Russian company «I.C. Expert Investment Co., according to the terms of which it the Russian company would pay Trump a license fee for using his brand in the construction of Trump Tower in Moscow.
«Our boy [Trump] can become president of the US, we can make it happen, I'll sell this idea to Putin’s whole team of Putin,» Sater wrote to Donald Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen in November 2015. Sater also advised Cohen that the Trump Tower project would help improve relations between countries.
Shortly thereafter, Trump lawyer Michael Cohen wrote a letter to Dmitry Peskov, the Russian president's press secretary, asking him to support the project. Peskov later claimed that he received the letter, but never reacted to it. It is curious that in his letters Sater admitted that he had received funding for the Trump Tower from VTB Bank (VTB CEO Kostin later denied this), and that he was going to show his contacts in Moscow a video where Trump speaks positively about Russia, and would then somehow organize a public statement by Putin praising Trump's entrepreneurial talents. Sater was sure that such endorsement would help Trump win the election.
Meanwhile, while special prosecutor Mueller is investigating to what extent Sater was really able to realize his plans, the FBI became interested in another storyline about Russian interference in the elections – once again, as The Insider found out, may be connected with the criminal mastermind with Odessa roots.Torshin and his friends
In February, it became known that the FBI was investigating whether funds of the National Rifle Association, of which the deputy chairman of the Bank of Russia Alexander Torshin is a member, were illegally funneled to finance Trump's election campaign. It is known that in 2016, at one of the events of the organization, Torshin talked with the Donald Trump Jr.
Spanish law enforcement agencies consider Torshin a member of the Tagan OCG. In 2016, his representative, Alexander Romanov, who owned the Mallorca hotel Mar y Pins, was sentenced to confiscation of property and two years in prison for money laundering. Spanish media reported on the intentions of the prosecutors to arrest Torshin himself - based on the data of Romanov’s telephone wiretaps - but Torshin stopped visiting the island. As exclusively reported to The Insider by source in the investigation in Mallorca, «in the summer of 2015, at Romanov’s hotel, which was de facto controlled by Torshin, a gathering of thieves-in-law took place. According to some reports, it was on the occasion of the birthday of Evgeny Dvoskin.» Dvoskin (birthname Slusker) is a banker who was arrested in Monaco at the request of the FBI in 2008. In the 1970s he emigrated from Odessa to the United States with his parents. Spent several prison terms for extortion, and met Yaponchik in jail. He was detained with a fake passport and deported from the United States, whereupon he settled back in Russia (he himself claimed that he «left the US voluntarily»). Now he is engaged in banking in Crimea.
It should be noted that the Jewish-Soviet émigré group consisting of Kislin and the people of Mogilevich and Yaponchik, made proactive attempts to participate in the political life of the United States for quite some time. So, for example, Sam Kislin in 1998 helped Giuliani to organize a fundraising drive that brought $ 2.1 million to help him participate in Senate elections. At the same time, in 1996 and 1997, Mogilevich’s company YBM Magnex made donations to the National Republican Committee. No one at that time could dream, in all likelihood, that their own business partner Donald Trump would one day become their candidate for President of the United States.
But back to the TV salesman Tamir Sapir. His role in Trump’s entanglement with Russian criminal circles is less known, but no less significant.
Kushner and friends
In 2007, Trump organized the wedding of the daughter of Tamir Sapir and Rotem Rosen, CEO of the American branch of the «Africa-Israel», the company owned by Lev Leviev. The wedding was held at Trump's residence in Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach. A few months after the ceremony, Leviev met with Trump to discuss potential deals in Moscow. Present at the wedding was Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump’s future husband, and, like Leviev, an orthodox Jew. Later Kushner bought a building from Leviev for $300 million, and, in 2009, married Ivanka Trump.
Lev Leviev (a.k.a Levayev) is referred to in the above-mentioned Austrian police dossier as «the man of Mikhail Cherny» (of the Izmailovo OCG). At the same time, Leviev appears as a party to a transaction with Nordex, a company owned by Grigory Luchansky (Luchansky is another well-known Soviet-Jewish emigrant who was accused of laundering money on a large scale in several countries at once). In turn, the Spanish Civil Guard believes that Solntsevo OCG cooperates with Mikhail Chernoy, as described in the report on Solntsevo OCG (2016) in the Arnold Tamm case. But what is especially interesting is that Leviev is a business partner of Prevezon Holdings (owned by Denis Katsyv, who was accused of money laundering in the Magnitsky case). This company was represented by lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at a meeting with Kushner and the leadership of Trump's election staff, where she offered «dirt on Hillary Clinton» and asked for help in repealing the Magnitsky law.
In Israel, the name of Lev Leviev popped up in the press in 2011, when Hapoalim Bank demanded that he transfers 600 million shekels to repay his bank debt. This is the same bank where Prevezon’s Denis and Petr Katsyv had accounts for their offshore companies, and the Israeli police started an investigation of money laundering, but the matter ended in a civil settlement.
Vladimir Putin’s Shadow
Why did Mogilevich and the Solntsevo OCG end up so closely associated with Trump? In part this is a natural connection, since the development market in New York has always been closely connected with the mafia, and Trump never tried to actively avoid such connections. But, perhaps, it's not just that. Mogilevich was repeatedly used by the Kremlin for special assignments on delicate foreign policy issues.
For example, The Insider already wrote how Mogilevich's video-kompromat on Hungary's president Viktor Orban helped the Kremlin turn him from a fighter against Russia into Putin's loyal ally (for more on this, read in The Suitcase from Solntsevo: Does Putin have a video kompromat on the leader of Hungary?).
Another example is the creation of the RosUkrEnergo (RUE) company, which in 2004 became an intermediary in the gas trade from Russia to Ukraine. A clear explanation of why a gas deal between two states needs an intermediary who earns billions of dollars a year from nothing, could not be provided either by the government of Yanukovych or the government of Putin. On the Russian side, the shareholder of RUE was the private Gazprombank (at that time it was controlled by Bank Russia, that is, by Vladimir Putin's closest associate); while on the Ukrainian side it was controlled by the people of Mogilevich (Firtash and Fursin). After the 2004 Orange Revolution, the then new head of the Security Service, Alexander Turchinov, confirmed that, according to him, it was Semyon Mogilevich who was behind the operation of RUE. It is also significant that in the Ukraine Security Service a file on Mogilevich existed, but was destroyed under mysterious circumstances, and then partially restored. It is important to understand that the agreement on gas supplies to Ukraine was intergovernmental, which means that the participation of one of the key figures of the Solntsevo OPG could not but have been agreed upon at the highest state level. According to some reports, Mogilevich personally attended the Russian-Ukrainian gas talks.
Direct communication with the Russian top leadership can be traced not only to Mogilevich personally. For example, Mikhas boasted of receiving a gift watch personally from Vladimir Putin. The formal pretext was charity work. However, a lot of people are engaged in charity work in Russia, but few are lucky enough to get a presidential gift watch.
Questions about relations with the state, or rather, with Russian / Soviet special services, arise also about the «Odessa gentlemen» who settled in the United States. The report of the Swiss counterintelligence «On Cooperation of the FSB and OCG» from 2007 states that Jewish emigrants from the USSR cooperated not only with crime groups, but also with the KGB. Emigration began in the 1970s, and Mogilevich is only one of the well-known examples, quoted in the report. The special service assumes that it was a systemic practice of using Russian organized crime to helping move funds to the West, thus funneling out state property. Some of the many Russians who emigrated in the 1970’s Jewish aliyah, were KGB officers, the authors of the report believe. The incredible success story of Kislin and Sapir, who not only opened a luxury store on Fifth Avenue in New York, but also managed to conduct barter deals, exchanging electronics for contracts for the supply of petroleum and petrochemical products from the USSR, and then selling these contracts to American companies, gives the Swiss conclusions some plausibility. Considering that only the state sold oil in the USSR, without excellent connections with the Soviet leadership, such trade operations would have been impossible.
The same applies to Araz Agalarov. In 1989, Araz Agalarov founded the «Soviet-American» enterprise Crocus International. The identity of the American co-founder is mysterious. Based on from the official legend presented by Agalarov himself, his partner was his father-in-law Joseph Grill. Agalarov does not explain which of the two of them acted as an «American side». Most likely, it was the Grill, who could have left the USSR on the so-called «Jewish exit visa». Joseph Grill is a Jewish activist, founder of the Jewish Encyclopedia. Officially the enterprise was engaged in selling Soviet souvenirs in the US. «The joint venture required presence in the US, and» the family later decided to move to a permanent place of residence in America," reads the Agalarovs’ official biography.
However, it was hardly possible for just any Soviet citizen to create a joint venture in the United States in 1989. As Yuri Shvets, ex-KGB spy, recently told The Insider, "In 1989, we were obligated to create joint ventures with other countries. You come to work in the morning, you get a call from the chief: come on in, give me a report on how the joint venture with the Koreans is advancing.. After lunch, another call: come on in, let us know how that joint venture with the Americans is developing?"
The modus operandi in which the Kremlin accomplishes its tasks outside Russia through people with a criminal record is not uncommon. For example, funding for the actions of the «Wagner private army» in Syria, as well as the activities of the «Kremlin trolls,» was entrusted to Yevgeny Prigozhin, who, back in Soviet times, spent nine years in prison for robbery as part of an organized group, as well as for fraud and involvement of minors in prostitution. Financing of the 2014 invasion operation in Ukraine, in turn, was entrusted to Konstantin Malofeev, who at that time was on the receiving end in the criminal case for embezzling a $ 225 million loan from VTB. After his participation in the Ukrainian operation, the case against Malofeev was closed. The fact that Mogilevich, Tokhtakhunov, Gennady Petrov and other masterminds of the underworld, while being wanted in the US and Europe, operate unhindered in Russia, gives credence to the hypothesis of their cooperation with the state.