Norebo Case: Ex government official wanted for fraud surfaced in London at 37 Golden Square

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Norebo Case: Ex government official wanted for fraud surfaced in London at 37 Golden Square
Norebo Case: Ex government official wanted for fraud surfaced in London at 37 Golden Square
27 November 2020, 09:17Business
In Russia, Alexander Tugushev was arrested in absentia for large-scale fraud.

Alexander Tugushev, the former head of the State Fisheries Committee, who was put on an international wanted list in his homeland, as it turned out, now lives in the British capital. Informed sources revealed that Mr. Tugushev, who had served his previous sentence for bribery and is now wanted for large-scale fraud, enjoys peaceful walks in a London park, located near 37 Golden Square. Submit the extradition request! Provided that Tugushev has long overstayed his tourist visa that he used to enter the country, and he had to jump many hoops to obtain it due to his criminal record.

The London address at 37 Golden Square, where the fugitive official and ex-partner of Vitaly Orlov, the owner of the largest fishing holding Norebo, lives, truly is golden—both literally and metaphorically. This very address mysteriously unites Tugushev, who is trying to seize part of Orlov's company in a London court, and those who are considered to be the true beneficiaries behind the trial. The trial, known as the "Norebo Case", in which the heirs of the Russian criminal structures from the 90s are trying to get hold of one of the largest fishing companies in the country.

A businessman, an official and a prisoner of conscience

The story of Tugushev is typical for modern Russia in many ways. Tugushev started his business back in the 90s. In the beginning of 2000s, he teamed up with a Murmansk native Vitaly Orlov and a Swedish businessman Magnus Roth, creating the company Almor Atlantica, in which he owned about 15%.

In 2003, Tugushev decided to leave the business for a career of a government official: as Finmarket reported, the then prime-minister Mikhail Kasyanov appointed him to the position of deputy head of the State Fisheries Committee, and Tugushev was forced by law to withdraw from all his business activities.

However, the official's career did not go well. In 2004, Tugushev was arrested and later sentenced to 6.5 years [1] for fraud, although it was a banal bribe of $3.7 million, which the official received from the company Pollux, promising to provide them with fishing quotas. The company never received what it had been promised and turned to law enforcement agencies.

Alexander Tugushev paid his dues to the society: he served part of his sentence and was released on parole in 2009. Six years later, he came to the police with a statement that the shares of Almor Atlantica were stolen from him unscrupulously. Over the years, the company had absorbed more than a dozen of its competitors, became one of the largest in Russia, and changed its name to Norebo. In a word, there was much to fight for. Only, neither the institution of criminal proceedings, nor the searches in the office of Norebo, have confirmed that the theft indeed happened. From then on the story takes a rather mysterious turn.

Tugushev suddenly appears in London. The criminal past of the official, which supposedly was an insurmountable obstacle in obtaining a British visa, had the opposite effect. As previously reported in the media, Tugushev simply stated that he had fallen victim to the regime, and his case was nothing more than political persecution.

In July 2018, the High Court of London arrests[2] Orlov's assets in Britain. Interestingly, Orlov himself was not even summoned to court: the plaintiff said that he had no idea where to look for his former partner, although all his addresses are well known, and his location can be established at any given time. Also to obtain an arrest warrant, plaintiff Tugushev insists that Orlov can hide the property, including the shares of Norebo, forgetting apparently to explain to the court that the company caught fish on the state quota, and therefore it is simply impossible to hide it. The fact is quite obvious for the former head of the State Fishery Committee of Russia, but not for the British court.

Nevertheless, the property was arrested, but a year later the arrest had to be lifted[3]. And what was left for the judge to do if Orlov's lawyers clearly demonstrated that their client was a public person who did not plan to hide or hide his assets. This decision, one should think, did not please the true instigators of the "Norebo case", who have already managed to spend a lot of money on the trial, including considerable expenses to get a UK visa for Tugushev - a puppet, which is used to rip apart a successful fishing company.

37 Golden Square

Remember, that it was almost impossible to get a British visa for Tugushev, who had a criminal record. In addition, he managed to get into trouble with the law even after serving his sentence. Just before leaving for London in 2018, Tugushev managed to steal more than 40 million rubles from Alexander Sychev - co-founder of LLC "Vostok", whose company is engaged in fishing, processing, as well as wholesale of fish. For this, according to the TASS agency, Tugushev was arrested[4] in absentia in Russia and put on the international wanted list.

Meanwhile, 40 million rubles is clearly not enough to live in a posh area of London, or to pay court fees. According to experts, Tugushev's court costs for the "Norebo case" up till now are estimated at about 20 million pounds. For Tugushev alone, it is obviously impossible to cover the expenses.

As already mentioned in an expose by Novye Izvestia, Tugushev is more of a nominal holder of the "Norebo case," a kind of front man for organized crime. The newspaper named businessmen with, to put it mildly, questionable reputation and connections in the criminal world, as the true instigators and beneficiaries of this case, in particular, Ilya Traber, Roman Spiridonov and Vadim Gurinov.

It is the latter, Vadim Gurinov, who constantly resurfaces next to Tugushev in one way or another and seems to play a key role in this case. And lo and behold! It turned out that the luxury apartments in London, where Tugushev is hiding, belong to the New End Development company, and one of the beneficiaries[5] of the company is Vadim Gurinov.

At first glance, New End Development is simply an exemplary net asset. Registered in 2015, the company buys and reconstructs office buildings in central London, turning them into expensive luxury apartments.

In order to assess the scale of New End Development business, it is enough to look at the company's financial statements. For example, in 2019 alone £140 million passed through the accounts of the parent company and two of its subsidiaries, Halamar Golden Square Ltd and Halamar Chancery Lane Ltd.

The first subsidiary (Golden Square) was involved in the conversion of offices into 22 luxury apartments over seven floors in Golden Square, in the heart of London’s Soho district. The second, Halamar Chancery Lane Ltd. involved the Chancery Quarters, the conversion of three existing Grade II office buildings into 35 high-end apartments in the prime Chancery Lane area of central London.

The question naturally arises: where did Vadim Gurinov get the funds to invest in such expensive projects?

St. Petersburg's Trace

There is practically no information about Mr. Gurinov in open sources. This Russian businessman does not show up at social gatherings and does not give interviews to business publications, so he is practically unknown to the general public. For the first time his name comes up in connection with publications about the "Norebo case".

But here's what's curious: as soon as Gurinov appeared in an expose by Nezavisimaya Gazeta that linked the "Norebo case" with his name, Tugushev's lawyers ordered the article to be removed through the court. Interestingly, the court had not even started the proceedings on the merits: the decision to block the article was taken as an interim measure. And here is another strange thing: the case is being tried in the Naro-Fominsk court, which, we assume, could have been chosen by the plaintiffs due to formal circumstances. An unusual, to put it mildly, interim measure of blocking the article may be an indirect evidence of the fact that these very plaintiffs were expected in this very court. You be the judge: a certain Ulysses-Vector LLC, registered in Naro-Fominsk on September 18 this year, is named as one of the defendants in the suit together with Nezavisimaya Gazeta. On the same day, this company received the domain name noreboetxts.ru, where it immediately posted two texts - or rather, text fragments – by "Nezavisimaya Gazeta" and APN about Tugushev and his associates. At the same time, the lawsuit states that the materials were posted back on August 23, which is physically impossible: how could one post anything on a non-existent site? It seems that we are dealing with an ordinary nominal shell company, which is needed only for the sake of conducting the trial in a jurisdiction convenient for the plaintiff, i.e. the Naro-Fominsk court. This is also confirmed by the fact that the Federal Tax Service recognized the address of this "company" as unreliable.

But let us return to the mysterious Mr. Gurinov. A native of St. Petersburg, who started his business back in the "tumultous" 90s, is now a Cypriot citizen, and prefers to mention the United Arab Emirates as his main country of residence.

According to our knowledge, the name of Gurinov appeared in the scandalously known Panama papers In particular, it was stated that he acquired most of his assets from 1991 to 2015. He began his business by importing food products, then switched to clothing and then to money transfers. In 2003, he suddenly got a job at Sibur Company (at that time it belonged to Gazprom), the general director of which at that time was Alexander Dyukov, who in the 90s headed the port of St. Petersburg, which is an export gateway for Russian oil. In 2011, Gurinov became the head of Sibur-Russian Tyres, a subsidiary of Sibur.

Gurinov joined the development business through Ruric investment company. In 2004 Ruric AB (Russian Real Estate Investment Company) was established in Stockholm to develop commercial real estate projects in St. Petersburg. The plans announced were grand: until 2017 the Swedes planned to invest about 5 billion dollars in St. Petersburg real estate. However, the business does not seem to have worked out from the beginning, so there was no further talk. In 2008, the owners of the company announced the winding down of its activities and the sale of assets. As the company found itself in debt for a total of 100 million dollars, 35% of the shares went to creditors, and 27% of voting shares were acquired by the Virginia offshore Gano Services. The Panama papers mention Vadim Gurinov as the beneficiary of this offshore - through his brother Artem Gurinov[6].

Simply put, Gurinov ditched his Swedish partners, appropriated the company, took all its assets out of it, and then sold the shares of the wrung dry company again[7].

By the way, Gurinov did not forget about the Ruric development projects either. To get an idea of how Mr. Gurinov started doing business in the company, suffice to remember the notorious conflict with one of the largest clients of Ruric - the Ministry of Defense. The Swedes signed a contract with the military department back in 2006. At that time it was supposed that Ruric would move the Military Transport University from the center of St. Petersburg to Peterhof.

Under the contract, Ruric was to build residential buildings, barracks and educational buildings in Peterhof, and in return received a very attractive plot of land in the center of St. Petersburg, where it was planned to build a multifunctional complex "Teatralny" with an area of about 50 thousand square meters.

However, Vadim Gurinov apparently did not want to bother with the construction. That is why Ruric tried to reduce the area of "Teatralny" by half, and in response the Ministry of Defense refused to transfer ownership of land. The proceedings continued in court, where Ruric's representatives, with the help of first-class lawyers, managed to win back as much as 1.5 billion rubles from the country's main military department as compensation under a contract that the developer himself refused to execute.

In this scandalous episode, Ruric's activities in Russia actually ended. Subsequently, Vadim Gurinov pulls a U-turn on Ruric's activity: instead of investing in development projects in Russia, the company begins to invest in London real estate.

Today, Ruric holds 50% of the shares of New End Developments Ltd., which we mentioned above.

Partners in authority

The other half of New End Developments LTD is owned by Oracle Capital Advisors[8]. This company specializes in consulting services for Eastern European oligarchs trying to obtain legal status in the UK. The owners of the offshore are Malik Ishmuratov, a citizen of Kazakhstan, and Denis Korotkov-Koganovich, currently residing in Great Britain.

Not much is known about Mr. Koganovich. Even his real name and citizenship cannot be established precisely: he appears under the names "Denis Koganovich", "Denis Korotkov", "Denis Korotkov-Koganovich" and possibly also "Valery Korotkov". Apparently, he is from Kazakhstan, but Companies House lists his nationality as variously British and Russian. Until 2011, he served on the board of directors of an ALEF-Bank, which is registered to LankerEnterprises, an offshore in the British Virgin Islands.

In Britain today, he has significant assets and certainly is not a poor man. As we learned, Koganovich lives in northern London with his family in a house which, according to experts, is estimated at over 21 million pounds.

Koganovich also owns a 50% stake in Ashton Rose Ltd. and a 49.9% stake in Liberty, Georgia's third largest bank. The assets of this JSC are estimated at approximately 400 million pounds.

Mr. Koganovich's business partner Malik Ishmuratov, according to our sources, is associated[9] with Romania's major criminal kingpin, Dinu Patriciu, whose fortune was estimated at more than 2 billion euros. The Romanian law enforcement authorities have been investigating Patriciu for 20 years, trying to prove the facts of tax evasion, money laundering, fraud, and organized crime. If the investigation had been completed, Mr. Patriciu had every chance to get a 20-year prison sentence. However, Patriciu died in 2014, so the case was dismissed.

Another juicy detail about New End Developments Ltd is that the director of both subsidiaries created for the development of elite real estate projects in London, is Lord Clanwilliam. This English aristocrat has played an important role in our history: it is he who, according to his own revelations to The Guardian, runs the company 17ARM, which is de jure a sponsor of Tugushev in the trial against Orlov.

The lord, in general, seems to have a soft spot for Russian oligarchs. In the beginning of the 2000s, he consulted Vladimir Potanin, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Vladimir Yevtushenkov and was even an independent director on the board of directors of Polyus Gold, Russia's largest gold mining company.

Raiders from the 90s come back?

In the Panama papers we find a finishing touch to the portrait of Vadim Gurinov, who, as it turned out, can rightfully be considered the king of world offshore.

Thus, according to the Panama papers, Gurinov is listed as a beneficiary of several offshore companies. Punch Investments Ltd, registered in the British Virgin Islands in September 2011[10], Arcor Holdings Inc and Hercules Impex Ltd[11] - both with registration in the Bahamas. In Panama papers these companies are mentioned as important repositories of Gurinov's offshore assets. Apparently, these companies receive the assets that Gurinov manages to "grab" along the lines of Ruric acquisition scheme.

In this regard, the notorious "Norebo case" plays out in fresh colors. The situation looks more like dirty play of business competitors. At the same time, Alexander Tugushev turns out to be merely a very well chosen pawn in a big game. Norebo is a huge scoop worth fighting for. As we can see, those who want to rip apart a well-established and well-functioning business have already lined up. So, if the attackers' plans are successful, it is possible that the future of the fishing industry in Russia will fall into he hands of organized crime under the guise of some dubious development company under the leadership of an English lord with many faces. And, unfortunately, we all but too well know how these people are doing business

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