The “weakest link” of the family business. How companies connected to the former Ukrainian minister of defense Lebedev operate in Crimea, bypassing the sanctions
Pavel Lebedev was a member of the team of the fugitive President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych and from 2012 to 2014 was the Minister of Defense. After the annexation of Crimea, Lebedev left for Sevastopol, received a Russian passport and continued his family-owned construction business. The “Parangon” group of companies associated with it is one of the largest developers of the peninsula, and their main object is “Aquamarine”, the only five-star hotel complex in Sevastopol.
Among the founders of “Parangon” are several offshore companies from different countries: Panama, Belize, and the British Virgin Islands. Formally, this allows “Parangon” to bypass the EU sanctions. However, there is a firm in company’s sphere of influence of the company, which, as Current Time and “Municipal Scanner” have discovered, may violate the EU sanctions.
In Ukraine, Pavel Lebedev is on the wanted list. He is accused of reducing the country’s defense capability. In addition, the former defense minister is suspected of helping to suppress the Euromaidan protests with force.
Life and relaxation in VIP apartments
“The best place to stay in Sevastopol”, “a new format of recreation and accommodation”, “comfortable living standards in apartments with prices starting from 4.7 million rubles ($65,000)”. The advertising slogans of one of the largest developers of Crimea – “Parangon” company – talk about the 12-story apartment complex “Aquamarine-2” (aka “Aqua Delux”).
Even before the construction, the complex at Parkovaya 7, near the Victory Park in Sevastopol, was positioned as the second construction stage of “Aquamarine”. The building of the hotel “Aquamarine Resort & SPA” is located nearby, at Parkovaya, 11.
Buyers of new premium apartments are promised access to almost all the benefits of the main “Aquamarine”. These include a separate equipped beach, a bath-and-pool complex with spa treatments and one of the Crimea’s largest water parks “Zurbagan”, as well as sports grounds, an amphitheater, a nightclub, five restaurants, a fitness center and even its own dolphinarium.
The sales department assured Current Time that 80% of the living space have already been sold. The new owners can either live in the apartment themselves or transfer it to the management company, which will rent out the property on their behalf. There are 500 such apartments in the complex, from 29-meter studios to two-story penthouses.
Apartments in the main hotel were sold through a similar scheme earlier. However, the owners were dissatisfied. In the spring of 2017, the media wrote that the apartment owners received receipts for house maintenance, which included the costs of buying new furniture for the beaches, repairing restaurants on the territory, installing and painting benches in the park, and expenses for maintaining the infrastructure. The maintenance bill for 40-meter apartments, for example, reached almost 10 thousand rubles per month ($ 140), and for the repair of an already broken air conditioner, another 50 thousand rubles ($ 700) were added to the bill.
Lebedev family business
“Our owners are Lebedev and his wife”, – the receptionist of “Aquamarine” hotel told Current Time.
The hotel complex is legally registered as OOO “Grand Hotel Aquamarine RU”. Spouses Lyudmila and Pavel Lebedev officially were its founders until August 2015. After that, AO “Bytradiotechnika” became its sole owner. According to the annual report of June 29, 2018, which is at Current Time’s disposal, Lyudmila Lebedeva heads its board of directors. It also indicates that Lebedeva’s main place of work is OOO “Grand Hotel Aquamarine RU”.
“Aquamarine” hotel complex is the hallmark of the “Parangon” group of companies. It is often mentioned on the official website of the group and in all advertisements of the new construction stages of the complex.
According to the official biography of Pavel Lebedev, in 2012 he officially owned the Ukrainian Inter Car Group, which included the “Parangon” group. According to the Russian state register of legal entities, the current owners of OOO “Parangon Management Company” are companies from Belize, the British Virgin Islands and Panama, as well as the wife of Pavel Lebedev, who owns 0.0001% of the company. Last May, when the “singing fountain” was opened on the hotel grounds, the ex-minister Lebedev personally cut the ribbon.
Until April 2015, the Cypriot company Metyglow Holdings LTD was among the founders of “Parangon”. EU sanctions prohibit European companies from investing in real estate and tourism in the annexed Crimea, and thus Metyglow Holdings LTD has been removed from the list of owners.
However, OOO “Segas-Tour” falls under the EU sanctions, which prohibit the development of tourism in the Crimea. This is the company that received permission to build the aforementioned “Aquamarine-2” or “Aqua Delux” in 2015.
The weakest link
OOO “Segas-Tour” was re-registered in Russian jurisdiction on November 14, 2014. Until July 2017, 10% of the company belonged to OOO “Parangon Asset Management”. After that, the owners were two foreign companies – Vektz Commerce Inc. from Panama and Estonian Merlen Company OÜ. The EU sanctions apply on the latter.
“Segas-Tour” has two subsidiaries, and both are associated with the “Aquamarine” hotel complex.
One of them, OOO “Aqua Deluxe Steam Resort”, is the managing company of the eponymous swimming-bath complex in the new building of “Aqua Delux”.
The second subsidiary company is OOO “Aqua Deluxe Management Company”. This is the company apartment owners can transfer their apartments to for subsequent rental.
Among the owners of both subsidiaries is Elena Yakimenko. Current Time has at its disposal a document confirming her appointment in October 2012 as a member of the board of the Estonian Merlen Company OÜ.
Current Time managed to talk with the director of OOO “Aqua Deluxe” Oksana Karpenko, but she declined to answer the question about the EU sanctions.
“I’m not competent in this matter regarding the sanctions. Regarding the fact that «Segas-Tour» is located on the territory, this is a land lease agreement. Since «Segas-Tour» was developing this land, the land lease is at «Segas-Tour» and will continue to be at the moment”, – said the director of the management company.
Current Time has asked the “Parangon” group of companies for clarification. Commercial Director Nikolai Galichkin promised to answer several times, but soon stopped responding to calls and official inquiries. Current Time also tried for several weeks to talk with the director of OOO “Segas-Tour” Gleb Melnichenko, but each time the secretary replied that he was not at the workplace.