Unrecognized children’s camp. How Rinat Akhmetov owns travel business in Crimea in violation of the sanctions
Before the annexation of Crimea, Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine’s richest man, owned the “DTEK Krymenergo” energy company, two factories in Kerch, the “Novyi Kuchuk-Koy” residence in Parkovoye, and the “Bereg” children’s camp in Alushta. After the annexation, part of his assets – “DTEK Krymenergo”, “Kerch Railroad Switch Plant” and “Kerch Metallurgical Complex” – were “nationalized” by the actual Russian government of the peninsula.
Akhmetov’s holding SCM claims that the same fate befell the “New Kuchuk-Koy” residence, the sanatorium and the children’s camp – the businessman allegedly no longer has anything to do with them. Current Time and “Municipal Scanner” have found out that he still controls a part of them through European companies, which is prohibited by the EU sanctions.
From Mariupol to London. The “Ai-Danil” sanatorium
“Russia, Republic of Crimea, city of Yalta, village of Danilovka” This address is listed on the website of the sanatorium “Ai-Danil” in the village of Danilovka near Yalta. The company, registered in both the Ukrainian and Russian registries, used to be directly connected with the structures of Rinat Akhmetov.
The “Ai-Danil” sanatorium has been operating since 1974. Its administration writes on the official website that the most favorable conditions were initially chosen for construction: the sanatorium is located near the Nikitsky Botanical Garden, the sea and juniper groves. In Soviet times, Moscow managed the health resort through the USSR Ministry of Health. Government members and their families rested here.
“The medical equipment and techniques that were used at «Ai-Danil» could only be found in Moscow clinics of the same government department”, – the company writes.
After the collapse of the USSR, the resort was transferred to the government of the Ukrainian Autonomous Republic of Crimea. In 2003, the Crimean parliament sold the complex to “Mariupol Smeltery”.
The information site of the city of Mariupol called the period when the metallurgists owned the sanatorium “the utopia in which they believed”. The author of the 2010 article enthusiastically described the conditions in which the employees of the smeltery were relaxing. A ticket cost 180 hryvnias per person, at that time it was $22. The difference with the real cost was covered by the smeltery. Vacationers were offered four meals a day, cheap tours and entertainment for children and adults.
Since 2008, less and less metallurgists have been sent to the sanatorium, and “Ai-Danil” has reoriented itself to tourists from Russia. In 2010, the smeltery, together with all its property, was bought by “Metinvest”, which is a part of Rinat Akhmetov’s SCM holding.
In 2011, the sanatorium was turned into a separate company – OOO “Sanatorium-resort and health-improving complex «Ai-Danil»” (SKOK “Ai-Danil”) And in 2012, a new deal ensued: the Antimonopoly Committee of Ukraine allowed the London-based Casamo Limited to buy a 50 percent stake in this complex. At that time, the buyer’s capital was £4 (a little over $5). However, the company contributed 105 million hryvnias to the statutory fund of “Ai-Danil” – about $13 million at the exchange rate of that time. The same London company is now indicated as the owner of the complex in both Ukrainian and Russian registries. SKOK “Ai-Danil” was registered in the Russian jurisdiction in October 2014, shortly after the introduction of the EU sanctions.
There are three more owners of Casamo Limited: Birchstead Limited, Wissington Limited and Rakestone Limited. Exactly the same names are featured in ‘Offshore leaks”, the registry of Panamanian documents. The owners of the companies are “hidden” on the Isle of Man and the British Virgin Islands. The director of Casamo Limited – David Nicholas Solly – manages eight more companies in addition to it.
The “Ai-Danil” sanatorium was sold to Casamo Limited in 2013. “SCM’s business and SCM shareholder Rinat Akhmetov have nothing to do with Casamo Limited”, – the press service of SCM Holding told Current Time.
In the official British registry Companies House, it is stated that at least 25%, but not more than 50%, of Casamo Limited is owned by Ukrainian citizen Vladimir Potapov. In the articles on several websites, a person by that name was mentioned as the head of the sales department at the “Mariupol Smeltery”. It is also known that he is the son-in-law of the former director of the plant, Vladimir Boyko. Current Time tried to contact Potapov through his company “Stalkomplektimpleks” several times, but he did not respond to the requests for comment.
According to the Ukrainian and Russian registries of legal entities, since 2011 Vladimir Kuntsevsky has been working continuously as the director of the “Ai-Danil” sanatorium. In the local elections in Ukraine in 2010, he was elected to the Sevastopol City Council from the lists of the “Party of Regions”. In the “occupation” field, he indicated that at that time he was deputy general director of the “Mariupol Smeltery”.
Since August 2015, Vladimir Kuntsevsky was put on the wanted list list by Ukraine for treason. As a deputy of the Sevastopol City Council, he voted for “joining” Russia.
In 2014, the European Union banned European companies from working in Crimea in the field of tourism. But SKOK “Ai-Danil”, which is still owned by the British Casamo Limited, continues to offer to book rooms. The nearest available dates are from April 22, 2020, and the average room rate per night is 4250 rubles – this is about $68.
In addition, from September 2014 to July 2018, SKOK “Ai-Danil” signed 19 government contracts worth 38.6 million rubles, or approximately $590 thousand. Among its contractors were: a structure called “Russian Social Insurance Fund for the Republic of Crimea”, “Russia” airline, Transneft Siberia and Transneft Central Siberia. Since September 2014, Transneft has been under the sanctions of the EU and the USA.
According to the Federal Tax Service of the Russian Federation, in 2017 SKOK “Ai-Danil” has paid taxes to the Russian budget for a total amount of 15.7 million rubles.
Under the Russian administration of the annexed Crimea, “Ai-Danil” was suing its former owner, “Mariupol Smeltery”. Back in 2011, the smeltery transferred the “Ukraine” boarding house and the “Aliye Parusa” recreation center in Feodosia to the complex. But “Ai-Danil” did not manage to register the property rights due to the annexation. In March 2018, “Ai-Danil” was able to complete the registration through a Russian court.
The lost case. “Kuchuk-Koy” estate
The “New Kuchuk-Koy” estate was built at the beginning of the XX century by a distant relative of the artist Mikhail Vrubel, a St. Petersburg man Yakov Zhukovsky. Artists and sculptors of the Silver Age worked there. The estate was completed in 1913. The Ukrainian administration of Crimea has assigned a protected status to both the estate and the park surrounding it.
In 2004-2007, the estate in several stages fell under control of the Ukrainian “System Capital Management” (SCM) owned by Rinat Akhmetov. In December 2008, the company sold the estate to the Cypriot company Starvista Limited. The latter until July 2017 belonged to the Cypriot P.H. Premium Household, but later became the property of the Cypriot SCM Holdings. SCM Holdings owns the corporate rights of the assets of the “System Capital Management” group and is 100% owned by Rinat Akhmetov.
After the annexation of the peninsula, the company “Starvista Crimea” became the owner of “New Kuchuk-Koy”. It was registered in the Russian jurisdiction in August 2014. The founder of “Starvista Crimea” is the aforementioned Cypriot company Starvista Limited.
In the spring of 2017, the Russian state agencies of Crimea began the audit of “Novy Kuchuk-Koy”. The auditors found out that the owners built a house and a pool in the residence. The estate’s security status does not allow this. A Russian court in Crimea has ruled to transfer “New Kuchuk-Koy” to state ownership and redeem the property of Starvista Limited. In January 2019, the Russian Supreme Court declared this decision legal.
The press service of SCM told Current Time that it was the appeal to a Russian court in the annexed Crimea was forced.
“Predictably, we have not yet achieved any positive results, because, in our opinion, these “courts” cannot provide an objective and impartial consideration of disputes. We also initiated investment arbitration against the Russian Federation, the progress of which we will report additionally. Appealing to the “courts” in Crimea is a compulsory procedural step for all Ukrainian companies and individuals who have lost assets as a result of the annexation of Crimea”, – the press service replied.
The unrecognized camp
The companies of Rinat Akhmetov in Crimea are still listed as the owners of “Bereg” children’s health camp in Alushta. It is the second largest after the “Artek” international center. The camp is managed by OOO “DOL Bereg”. Since January 2015 this company is registered in Russian jurisdiction. “DOL Bereg”, despite the EU sanctions, is owned by the Ukrainian company “Esta Holding” and the Cypriot ESPV Limited. The founder of the Ukrainian “Esta Holding” is also ESPV Limited. The fact that the ultimate owner of the companies is Rinat Akhmetov is confirmed by the Ukrainian register of legal entities.
Since 2016, OOO “Dol Bereg” has signed five government contracts with Russian-controlled entities – the Ministry of Education of Crimea and the Youth Welfare Department of Simferopol. The total amount of contracts is almost 120 million Russian rubles, which is $1.8 million at the current exchange rate.
In an initial response to Current Time, the SCM press office called the “Bereg” camp “illegally expropriated”.
The deputy head of the camp, Vladimir Pryanikhin, denied this information in a conversation with Current Time. According to him, the camp owner has not changed after the annexation of Crimea. He claims that the institution has been running smoothly for five years, and in 2019 they were preparing to accept four shifts of 640 children each. He specified that the schoolchildren that rest in “Bereg” are from Russia, Crimea and mainland Ukraine.
“It is more complicated to deal with Ukraine – it is impossible to make bank payments”, – said Pryakhikhin.
However, after a second inquiry, the SCM press service still insisted that the camp did not belong to them.
“«DOL Bereg» was nationalized by the Crimean authorities – just like other SCM assets in Crimea. This happened in March 2017. According to our information, the so-called “temporary administration” was introduced into the camp, and the current director was removed. Since that time, we have not managed the camp and, as a result, have not taken it into account in the financial statements of “Esta Holding” under IFRS (international financial reporting standards – ed.). We have no idea how the camp is functioning now”, – SCM clarified its response.
However, according to the Russian and Ukrainian registries, as well as the director of the camp Sergey Rogachenko (he has held this position since 2010), there is no “temporary administration” in the camp.
“Have you read the director’s last name in the registry? You’ve read everything correctly then”, – he replied and later indirectly confirmed the connection of Akhmetov’s business with the camp: “Sorry, you need to contact SCM. Please excuse me, I have to go on business now, I can’t talk to you”.