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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Prosecutors launch corruption case against Russia’s richest man

With an estimated wealth of $25.2 billion, Andrey Melnichenko tops the country’s Forbes list

The Prosecutor General’s Office has filed a lawsuit against Russia’s richest man Andrey Melnichenko alleging corruption, according to documents from the courts in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk.

The prosecution addressed the court on the issue on Thursday, although Russian media only reported the development on Saturday.

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Melnichenko, who made a fortune in enterprises such as production of fertilizer and coal mining, currently tops Russia’s Forbes list, with an estimated wealth of $25.2 billion.

RBK news outlet, citing an informed source, reported that the lawsuit relates to energy-sector assets that, the prosecutors believe, Melnichenko had acquired from companies linked to Mikhail Abyzov, an entrepreneur and former minister in the Russian cabinet who oversaw the Open Government project between 2012 and 2018. Abyzov was detained in 2019 and is currently awaiting trial on charges of embezzling more than $62 million in 2011 from the shareholders of two energy companies in Russia’s Novosibirsk Region.

According to the text of the lawsuit, which was published on SovetBezRynka’s Telegram-channel, the prosecutors are seeking recovery of the assets of Novosibirsk-based Siberian Energy Company (SIBEKO) from Melnichenko, in favor of the Russian state.

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As part of the investigation into Abyzov’s case, data had been obtained which suggests that there had been a violation of anti-corruption laws by Melnichenko and legal entities under his control during the transaction to acquire SIBEKO shares, the lawsuit said.

Melnichenko had agreed the purchase of the controlling stake in SIBEKO with Abyzov during a meeting they had in Cyprus in February 2018, it said.

According to the lawsuit, the two men, who were said to have maintained “informal friendly relations,” came up with a scheme so that Abyzov could conceal his involvement in the SIBEKO sale.

The prosecutors believe that the deal amounted to “dishonest behavior” by the contracting parties, which provides grounds for all assets involved in the “anti-social transaction” to be seized by the state.

Melnichenko’s representative has confirmed to Russian media that the lawsuit has been filed against the billionaire but refrained from any further comment. The preliminary hearing at Krasnoyarsk Court is scheduled for September 7.