MOSCOW, November 5 (RAPSI) - The Basmanny District Court of Moscow has extended detention of the chairman of the board of Togliattikhimbank Alexander Popov until February 1, 2020.

The court has dismissed the defense’s motion to change Popov’s restrictive measure to house arrest, bail, personal surety or other non-custodial measure, the senior investigator for particularly important cases under the chairman of the Investigative Committee (IC) of the Russian Federation Mikhail Tumanov has told RAPSI.

The head of Togliattikhimbank Popov, along with other defendants in the criminal case, is charged with organization of a criminal community and participation in it (part 3 of article 210 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). Popov is also accused of fraud (Part 4 of Article 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation) and non-payment of taxes in a particularly high amount (Part 2 of Article 199 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation).

Uralchem JSC supports the court’s decision to extend detention of Popov, Dmitry Tatyanin, Director of Legal Affairs of Uralchem said. “We consider this decision legal and justified. Uralchem, as the injured party in several criminal cases related to the actions of the majority shareholders of Togliattiazot PJSC (TOAZ), is interested in conducting a thorough and complete investigation,” he added.

He also noted that the investigating authorities combined various episodes of the criminal activity of the main beneficiaries of Togliattiazot in a single criminal case, i.e. organization or participation in the criminal community using their official position (part 3 of article 210 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation), massive ongoing fraud committed by a group of preliminary conspiracy (Part 4 of Article 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation), non-payment of taxes in a particularly high amount (part 2 of Article 199 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). According to the lawyer, "this will allow the investigation to see the full picture of the criminal activity of the defendants and give them an objective assessment."

The accused developed and implemented complex illegal schemes for embezzlement of TOAZ’s export products, as well as illegally removed a significant part of the production assets from the enterprise. This caused multibillion-dollar damage to both Togliattiazot itself and its minority shareholders, said Tatyanin. The director hopes that “due to the work of investigative and judicial authorities, the damage to Togliattiazot and its minority shareholders will be compensated.”

High-profile case

In early July, the Komsomolsky District Court of Togliatti found ex-President of Togliattiazot Vladimir Makhlai, his son Sergey, ex-CEO of TOAZ Yevgeny Korolev and their Swiss associates Andreas Zivy and Beat Ruprecht guilty in absentia of embezzlement of more than 85 billion rubles ($1.4 billion at the current exchange rate) from TOAZ and its shareholders. 

According to the guilty verdict, the fraudsters sold at a lower price all the goods exported by TOAZ for the period from 2008 to 2011 to the Swiss offshore Nitrochem Distribution AG led by Ruprecht, which was proved to be a part of Zivy’s Ameropa AG holding. The Swiss then sold the same product at a market price. The participants in the criminal scheme distributed the profit among themselves, without paying any taxes on hidden profits to the Russian Federation.

The investigation believes that Popov played a key role in this fraudulent scheme that caused Togliattiazot such an enormous damage. In Togliattikhimbank (which was also controlled by him), he led a network of offshore companies affiliated with the accused, controlled their accounts, accumulated funds received from the illegal sale of products, and also provided corruption cover for fraudulent schemes.

In addition, Popov took part in a scheme that allowed participants of the criminal community to underpay taxes to the budget: in 2008, two LLCs controlled by the accused evaded paying taxes to the budget of the Russian Federation for a total amount of at least 320 million rubles. Then, a methanol production complex with a productivity of 450,000 tons per year and the piece of land where it was located were stolen from TOAZ. As part of this transaction, the value of the asset was significantly underestimated: at a market price of 13.5 billion rubles, the enterprise received only 132 million rubles for it.

According to a similar scheme with an understated sales value, Togliattiazot lost its ammonia unit No. 7 worth 2.4 billion rubles. According to the sale contract, it was sold for only 92.4 million rubles. The damage to the enterprise and its shareholders amounted to more than 1.9 billion rubles. All assets were transferred to the accounts of Tomet LLC, whose shareholders were foreign offshore companies controlled by the accused.

The money transfer transactions under the contracts of sale of assets belonging to TOAZ were handled by a bank controlled by Popov. As a result, Popov and other members of the group got the opportunity to own and dispose of both their own real estate and the equipment owned by Togliattiazot OJSC, which had been stolen from the enterprise.

According to the investigators, illegal schemes for the withdrawal of funds from TOAZ made it possible to underpay taxes in colossal amounts, and the tax authorities of the Russian Federation are now forced to collect them for each year in court. At present, in 2008-2013 alone, the total amount of taxes confirmed by all authorities to TOAZ was estimated for more than 3.5 billion rubles.

A criminal case under the article 210 was initiated by the Investigative Committee on May 16, 2019. The investigation documents say that the defendants, "acting in the form of a structured organized group, committed several serious economic crimes against the state, the property of Togliattiazot and other persons in the period of 2005-2013."

Popov was arrested at Vnukovo Airport on May 31 and detained on the same day.

In addition, the investigation noted that Popov involved many companies and individuals in the implementation of criminal schemes, and mainly his subordinates, dependent on him because of official relations. Accepting a decision to extend detention of Popov, the court agreed with the arguments of the investigation that, while at liberty, the accused could hide, destroy evidence, continue to engage in criminal activities, put pressure on witnesses and otherwise impede the investigation.