MOSCOW, June 15 (RAPSI) - Former Chairman of the Board of Togliattikhimbank Alexander Popov has been sentenced to 7.5 years in a maximum security colony and a fine of 500 million rubles ($7 million), according to a statement of Russia’s Investigative Committee.
The defense of Alexander Popov in court was carried out by several law firms, among which the most famous is "Yegorov, Puginsky, Afanasiev and Partners".
As established by court, the evidence collected by investigators was sufficient for sentencing Alexander Popov. He was found guilty of attempt to give a bribe in the amount of at least $ 2 million (Article 30.3 and Article 291.5 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation), the statement reads.
Investigators and the court established that the beneficiary owner and the head of OJSC Togliattiazot (TOAZ) Sergey Makhlai, being defendant in a criminal case over embezzlement of TOAZ products, was also found liable for a tax offense basing on the results of an on-site tax inspection.
According to the Investigative Committee, in order to avoid the obligations on the payment of taxes, as well as to avoid criminal prosecution, Makhlai decided through an intermediary to give a judge of Russia’s Supreme Court a bribe in the amount of at least $2 million for passing an obviously illegal court decision in favor of OJSC Togliattiazot that would overturn the decision of the tax authority. The same ruling he intended to use for settling problems related to his criminal prosecution.
As reported by the body, he conspired in this crime with Chairman of the Board of Togliattikhimbank Alexander Popov. The latter, acting on the instructions of Makhlai, in 2015 developed a criminal plan. At the same time, using his official position, in violation of the official procedure for registration of documents, he could open a safe deposit box with his bank, where he encased a part of the bribe handed to intermediaries. However, Popov failed to bring to fruition his criminal intent for reasons beyond his control, according to the statement.
In the framework of the investigation, the court seized 293 land plots owned by Popov as an interim measure in order to ensure enforcement of the court decision.
Sergey Makhlai was put on the federal and international wanted lists, even earlier he had been sentenced in absentia for embezzling the products of Togliattiazot, the Investigative Committee reminded. Investigators still continue their work in order to establish the circumstances of other crimes, including those committed by Popov and other persons, the statement reads.
Scheme of criminal activity
Popov was detained at Vnukovo Airport on May 31, 2019 and arrestedon the same day.
The fact of the attempt to give a bribe to the judges of the Supreme Courtof the Russian Federation was revealed during the investigation of the criminal case under Article 210.3 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (organization of a criminal community or participation therein), and is to be tried separately. The criminal case under Article 210 was initiated by the Investigative Committee on May 16, 2019. According to the materials of the investigation, it is said that the defendants in this case Popov, Vladimir and Sergey Makhlais, Andreas Zivy, and other persons (altogether more than ten people), acting as participants of a structured organized group, in the period from 2005 to 2013 committed several serious economic crimes against the state, the property of Togliattiazot and other personsand organizations.
Investigators allege that Togliattikhimbank (owned by Vladimir Makhlai until 2011, and then by his son Sergey Makhlai) headed by Popov was used as an illegal financial center within this criminal group.
Investigators could establish that Popov, acting as part of an organized criminal community, headed by the Makhlais, was responsible for illegal takeaway of money from Togliattikhimbank. As a member of the group, he was also responsible for the legalization of criminally obtained funds and distribution thereof across the offshore accounts of other members of the organized criminal community. Popov cashed out some money and allocated it for corruption purposes, what for a long time had allowed the organized group to address issues related to administrative and criminal prosecution of its participants by law enforcement and supervisory bodies, as well as courts.
Investigators believe that Popov played a key role in illegal schemes for siphoning off TOAZ profits to offshore entities (the respective damage is estimated to be at 85 billion rubles ($1.2 billion)), as well as the sale of the most liquid assets of the enterprise together with land plots (the damage to the plant and its shareholders amounted to more than 2 billion rubles ($28 million)). According to the Investigative Committee, Popov involved in these criminal schemes many companies and individuals, primarily dependent on him due to official relations.
Thus, according to investigators, Popov, together with his co-conspirators, in 2005 through 2010 ran an operation aimed at siphoning off TOAZ assets, which were to be transferred to Tomet LLC, which was controlled through offshore companies owned by Vladimir and Sergey Makhlais. An ammonia unit worth at least 10 billion rubles ($140 million) was sold to Tomet at a price 100 times below this value, in a similar way as the total methanol productionunit.
In 2008 through 2013, as a result of the understatement of export prices of TOAZ products, the amount of taxes the enterprise failed to pay made at least 2.5 billion rubles ($35 million); this money, according to investigators, Popov transferred to the offshore companies of the Makhlais.
Moreover, investigators revealed that in 2008 the organized group, a member of which Popov was, carried out a tax evasion scheme. Rodnichok LLC and Kontaz LLC, affiliated with the Makhlais, in 2008 sold at a nominal price of 1 ruble for share their interests in TOAZ to a Cyprus offshore entity. Rodnichok received 1.7 million rubles ($24,000) for its shares, the market value of which is estimated at 1.15 billion rubles ($16 million), whereas Kontaz earned 861,000 rubles ($12,000) instead of 576.8 million rubles ($8 million). In this way, the tax base was understated. Ex-CEO of Kontaz LLC Xenia Balashova was detained in April 2020. She was charged under the same articles of the Russian Criminal Code as Popov. Balashova completely admitted guilt.
In 2019, a court sentenced Vladimir and Sergey Makhlais, as well as Andreas Zivy, to 9 years in a penal colony; their Swiss partner Beat Ruprecht and ex-CEO of the plant Yevgeny Korolevreceived 8.5 years in a penal colony and fines. They were found guilty of especially large embezzlement committed by an organized group (Article 159.4 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation).