Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) has announced its intention to set up an autonomous non-profit association Elite sport. It will seek sponsors for the Sochi Olympics in 2014 as well as for the federations and athletes. The association is supposed to raise a total of at least $ 500 million. ROC itself and the Federation of Rhythmic Gymnastics of Russia already have a title sponsor, Rosenergomash concern headed by businessman Vladimir Palikhata. He is known as a philanthropist, industrialist and ... a distinguished raider. A little more than a decade ago Palikhata was involved in raider activities and dealing counterfeit coffee. He even served a sentence over this coffee business.
As for those who introduced him to the world of big money, they are Alexander Slesarev, a banker; Leonid Tyagachev, former head of the ROC; Lyudmila Narusova, the widow of Anatoly Sobchak; and Roman Tsepov, former bodyguard of her husband.
Man with a scar
The official biography of Vladimir Palikhata is as follows. He was born on September, 23, 1967 in the village of Zolotniki in Terebovlyansky district, Ternopol region, Ukrainian SSR. In 1985-1987 he served in the Soviet Army. In 1991 he graduated from the Borschevsky electrical engineering technical school thus getting the profession of an electrician and moved to Moscow. From 1991 to 1993 Vladimir Palikhata worked as shipping manager and then head of department at a purchasing cooperative. In 1993 he took up entrepreneurship starting his career as an independent trader in the Russian Commodity Exchange and Moscow Commodity Exchange. In 1997 Vladimir Palikhata stopped trading in the stock market and switched to investing in the real economy. “Over the subsequent decade Vladimir Palikhata consolidated assets in Russia and Ukraine placed in electrical engineering companies that deal in manufacturing of low-voltage switching equipment, complete electrical products, generators and motors; and headed united Rosenergomash”, says the press office of the concern.
His life repeatedly drew attention of Russian law enforcement agencies. And they have a completely different picture. When they turned for assistance to their Ukrainian counterparts, they were informed that in the late 1980s in Ukraine there was the so called Ternopol criminal group, an active member of which was a Palikhata. His gang was involved in raider activities and robberies. In the early 1990s police uncovered the gang and all its members including Palikhata fled.
The Ukrainian investigators pointed out that during one of the robberies the gang leader’s face was wounded with a knife. And Vladimir Palikhata who came to Russia around the same has a large scar on his face.
Russian police found no evidence that from 1993 to 1997 the businessman was an independent trader. But they have well-grounded guesses as to how Palikhata switched to investing in the real economy.
In 1998 he and a Vasily Nemna established Rumekspak ltd. At the same time the businessmen gained control over Integral where Palikhata became CEO and Nemna took a modest post of freight forwarder. In early 1999 a complaint was filed to Moscow Directorate for Combating Economic Crimes by the head of the security services of Nestlé Moscow division. He informed the law enforcers that Integral sells counterfeit Nescafe coffee (a brand owned by Nestlé). Policemen disguised as customers came into contact with Integral top managers. Business meeting with them was held by Palikhata and Nemna. The parties agreed to conclude the deal on March, 25, 1999. On the stated day alleged customers came to a warehouse in Serebryakov proezd Street, received 14,616 cans of counterfeit Monterrey coffee and paid the sellers 10 thousand dollars. After that Palikhata and Nemna were handcuffed.
When the police searched the warehouse they found yet another batch of Nescafe coffee jars and fake certificates of quality. Examination showed that all the jars contained low quality coffee powder. A case on fraud and forgery was initiated. Moscow RUBOP officers joined the investigation. They soon discovered two plants in Moscow and Moscow region that produced counterfeit coffee, tea, and shampoo of popular brands. Total amount of seized counterfeit goods was worth about $ 10 million. The investigation was transferred to the Main Investigations Directorate with the Moscow police.
RUBOP officers recall that they were repeatedly addressed with proposals to stop digging for information about those mentioned in the case offering large sums of money in exchange. Investigators received similar proposals. Palikhata associates found no support there and chose a different way, through the prosecution and the court
In remand prison Palikhata spent just over a year. Then the prosecutors decided to release him on bail. In 2001 the indictment was submitted for approval to the same prosecutor’s office and it returned the case to the investigators, saying they made a mistake defining the actions of Palikhata. As a result, instead of fraud, a serious crime, he was prosecuyed under one of the mildest articles of the Criminal Code, that is, consumer fraud. In the same year the Tver court of Moscow sentenced Palikhata to two years on probation.
According to the investigators, immediately after that head of security service of Nestle Moscow division was brutally beaten with a reinforcing bar in the entrance of his house. He was badly injured in the spine area and went home to Germany for treatment. He never returned to Russia. Later many other Palikhata’s enemies would also be attacked by unknown people with reinforcement bars.
In 2002 Palikhata’s life changed drastically due to a significant event. A banker, Alexander Slesarev, offered him to do business together.
A good taxi-driver becomes a poor banker
Aleksandr Slesarev's biography is even more interesting than the biography of Vladimir Palikhata. In the 80s he worked as a taxi-driver and then as a flower-seller. Later he established a firm which imported and dealt in merchandise. The Taganskaya criminal group cover-up business activities of the firm. In the mid-90s the group decided to capture a bank. Aleksandr Slesarev helped the group with the acquisition of controlling interest in Kredittrust Commercial Bank.
Kredittrust became a «blackhole» in Russian banking system. Criminals moved money through the bank. Millions of dollars were cashed, laundered and siphoned off abroad. Slesarev's bank provided services for large business corporations and financial companies. He struck up acquaintance with Alpha-bank management, Leonid Tyagachev (head of Russian Olympic Committee and Vladimir Putin's private mountain ski instructor) and Roman Tsepov, former security boss of Anatoly Sobchak, mayor of St Petersburg.
In 2002 Slesarev decided to buy another financial establishment - Sodbiznesbank, owned by Igor Zakharov, a businessman who was well-networked and had connections both in government and in criminal underworld. The price of acquisition was estimated $ 300-400 million.
Later Slesarev found out that Sodbiznesbank had unpaid debts, which he had had no idea of before the deal. Slesarev demanded Zakharov pay off some money, but Zakharov refused. Then Slesarev offered him to sell Moscow department storey (famous Moscow shop), but again the offer was declined. This triggered a dragged-out war.
Slesarev brought in all his influential friends, including Tsepov and Tyagachev (the latter became the head of the board of directors of Kredittrust in 2003). They provided support for Slesarev in top echelons of power. Vladimir Palikhata was involved as a brigade commander. According to the investigation, Palikhata met Slesarev when he laundered money from counterfeit coffee through his bank.
Eventually, Igor Zakharov was arrested on made-up charges and Palikhata's foot soldiers seized the building of the department store. The raiders managed to get the controlling interest in the firm. Subsequently the shares were sold to another people, who continued war for the shop.
Money were divided between Palikhata and Tsepov (police agents believe the third was Tiagachev). Slesarev got nothing.
The point is that in 2003 his bank faced grave financial difficulties. Slesarev began to move out assets, including the assets of his bigwig clients. Some grew dissatisfied with the banker and this dissatisfaction was poured out on Tyagachev head. Eventually Slesarev fell from grace. No one wanted to give share to the person whose game was over.
In 2004 Russia's Cenral Bank revoked the licences of Kredittrust and Sodbiznesbank. Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs initiated criminal investigation into the facts of assets stripping. Slesarev went underground and did not cooperate with investigation. Moreover he had to hide from bandits. According to investigators, they hunted Slesarev down searching for the common fund of the Tambov gang which mysteriously disappeared from the bank accounts.
As so often happens with people in trouble Slesarev became religious. In October 2005 he went to a church service with his family. On the way home, their car was shot in the Don highway (Moscow region). Slesarev, his wife and 15-years old daughter were killed.
After the takeover of Moscow department store Vladimir Palikhata's business was bouncing along.
Either in gaol, or struck with reinforcement rod
In 2003-2004 Palikhata and his foot soldiers (led by Palikhata's body-guard Vladimir Nesternko) seized the office building of Research and Development Institute of Elastomers public corporation (NIIEMI). At once the successful raider became a welcome guest in St Petersburg.
At the instance of Tsepov, Palikhata took part in several raids. But in September 2004 Tsepov was poisoned. Before his death he introduced Palikhata to leader of Tambov criminal group Vladimir Barsukov (Kumarin) and widow of ex-mayor Sobchak Ludmila Narusova. He is still on good terms with this persuasive lady.
Eventually pillage became Palikhata's firm business. In Moscow he raided buildings of State Design Bureau for Constructions in Chemical Industry (Giprokhim), Novoye Vremya editorial, Central Design Bureau «Sviaz'» and Infico close corporation. In Ulyanovsk - Kontaktor plant. In St Petersburg - Research and Design Enerprise «Terminal» public corporation. He raided a number of companies all other Russia.
Sometimes he made raids for his own sake, sometimes by contract. Notorious Russian oligarchs the Ananyevs brothers and owner of a chain of beer brasseries Kruzhka Evgeny Amosov were Palikhata's customs.
These raids involved forgery, bribes to judges and tax officials, corruption, virtually made-up criminal prosecution and sometimes violence and contract killings.
When in November 2004 Palikhata seized Kontaktor plant, director of the company was arrested on made-up charges. The criminal proceedings were initiated by South-West Administrative Circuit Department of Internal Affairs.
After one of Palikhata's raid, the director of enterprise in the defence sector was advised to seek help from bandits. Eventually he met a Fryazin and Bagdasarov, who presented themselves as members of a criminal group. They promised to «fight back» and return the enterprise. In return they wanted share in the enterprise. The agreement was signed by Viacheslav Bushuev, a lawyer. The director signed the paper without reading it through.
Very soon the agreement with the authentic signature of the owner was in Palikhata's pocket (Bushuev turned out to be Palikhata's man). It stipulated a controlling interest as a share. The document was presented before the court and a company controlled by Palikhata became the legal owner of the building. Deceived director rushed away to report the police and betrayed Fryazin and Bagdasarov. Soon after that both bandits were killed in different districts of Moscow.
Aleksey Dushutin and his wife, the owners of «Sviaz'» Central Design Bureau, firmly stood up against Palikhata's attempt to seize their enterprise. They were beaten up with reinforcement rods by strangers. An owner of NIIEMI got a hard blow to the head from a reinforcement rod. During the forced takeover of Moscow department store there were beatings.
$ 1,5 million for prosecutor
For the first time law-enforcement agencies paid attention to Palikhata's takeovers in 2005. At that time Moscow's Central Distict procuracy initiated criminal investigation into the hostile takeover of NIIEMI. The investigation was carried out by Andrey Grivtsov.
Little by little the investigation was getting at the roots of the matter. The investigators found out masterminds of the raid - Vladimir Nesterenko and Vladimir Palikhata (the first being put on the wanted list). Both fled from Russia and found protection in Kiev and Monaco.
Some time later member of Federal Council (Russia's Upper Chamber) "senator" Lyudmila Narusova revealed under interrogation (she asked the police to question her!) that she constantly met «decent businessmen» Palikhata and Nesterenko in the capital of Ukraine and in the principality. Nesterenko was Narusova's driver while she was on business. According to the police agents, the raiders catered for the lady-senator and indulged all her passions, including financial one. In response she took trouble over «decent businessman» and solicited their case on every level of power.
However the support of «the widow of Russian democracy» was insufficient. In 2006 Palikhata send a Lawyer to Deputy Prosecutor of Moscow's Central District Ruslan Parkin (immidiate superior of Grivtsov). The raider wished the prosecutors forgot about him. Lawyer Belousov reached out to Parkin's heart. They thrashed the matter out and stopped at the sum. The price was finalized at the personal meeting of Palikhata with Parkin, which was held in Germany by precautious Deputy Prosecutor.
Eventually, at the time Ruslan Parkin was abroad, Palikhata's representatives put $ 1.5 million in the slot of a Moscow's bank. From there a courier delivered the money to teh depository of Slaviya bank (the bank belongs to Lawyer Parkin's friends). The bank moved them out of Russia.
In 2006 Vladimir Palikhata came back to Russia and the hostile takeovers continued (now Palikhata felt himself protected). Nesterenko was still hiding in Ukraine where he spent time with Sergey Kirimov, also a wanted raider who did not belong to Palikhata's squad. Nevertheless Nesterenko frequented St Petersburg (where he used to come through Belorussia). He was involved in raids in St Petersburg.
Sometimes Palikhata sold the building he had taken over to «honest people», other buildings became his own property. Together with brother Ivan he owns enormous office building of Giprokhim in Shcherbakov Street in Moscow. The premises are let and the tenants are numerous. Palikhata's Rosenergomash Concern has offices in Narodnogo Opolcheniya Street in Moscow, in the building of former «Sviaz'» Cenral Design Bureau. The concern invests money acquired by takeovers in the machine building enterprises. It bought up plants both in Russia and Ukraine: Plant of large electric machines (close corporation), Kolomensky plant of heavy machines, Novokakhovsky machine building plant, Elektromashina, Etal.
Four years ago Palikhata grew tired of notoriety and the reputation of raider (even if successfull). He began to create an image of philanthropist. Since 2007 Rosenergomash has been a general sponsor of Russian Olympic Committee. The agreement was signed by Leonid Tyagachev, at the time the chairman of the committee. The concern sponsors All-Russia federation of сallisthenics. He provides «Vladimir Tretyak's international sports academy» and Nika Awards in cinema with financial support. And this is not a full list of organisations which generous Vladimir Mironovich showed much favour to.
Vladimir Palikhata also tried to participate in the political life of Ukraine. Through his brother Ivan he financed the political party of Yulia Timoshenko.
$15 million for the investigator
Palikhata faced more trouble in 2009 when the group of officers of Russia's Investigative Committee headed by Oleg Pipchenkov was carrying out a number of high-profile cases, namely the case of Vladimir Kumarin. The investigators found out that Palikhata and Nesterenko had been involved in the raids in the northern capital of Russia. Andrey Grivtsov, an investigator, worked with the materials about the takeovers. He also used earlier evidence, gathered over the investigation of NIIENI takeover.
Simultaneously Kisin, an investigator of the Invesigative Committee of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, issued an arrest warrant for Vladimir Palikhata over the forceful takeover of the building of Infiko close corporation. In 2009 the police agents got information about Vladimir Nesterenko's plans to come to St Petersburg through Belorussia. He was detained in Minsk.
The place was getting too hot for a newly-fledged philanthropist. He used all resources at his disposal to solve the problems. The person he went to was his old friend Lyudmila Narusova.
The Federal Council member began sending the requests to Prosecutor General Yury Chaika, head of Russia's Investigative Committee Aleksandr Bastrykin and head of the Investigative Committee of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Aleksey Anichin. She demanded them to secure «decent businessmen» against corrupt investigators. Narusova and Palikhata succeeded and Kisin's warrant was nullified. Next the crafty trick was used to make Palikhata intact, knock Andrey Grivtsov out and to target Oleg Pipchenkov.
There was a person in Palikhata's retinue whom the police had been searching until 2008, a Sergey Kirimov. He played ice-hockey with top-brass police officers, including head of a department in Moscow police Sergey Khatsernov, who was the best friend of Ruslan Parkin, from 2009 a lawyer. Bearing in mind their previous cooperation, Palikhata asked Kirimov to speak with newly-fledged Lawyer and sound him out on the question of help.
Vladimir Mironovich did not care about Nesterenko, extradited to Russia in 2009. He cared about himself and wanted to ward off the attack on him. When Parkin contacted Palikhata, the former reported to the police. He wrote a statement to the Department of Internal Security of Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs, saying he was been extorted. The police bugged all negotiations from now on.
Parkin was on friendly terms with Grivtsov. They discussed the details of investigation into the cases of the takeovers. Having gathered all necessary information, the Lawyer asked Palikhata for $ 20 million. Trying to frighten Palikhata, Parkin told him that he would be interrogated by Russia's Investigative Committee and even showed him the list of questions, which he received from Grivtsov.
Palikhata negotiated over the price, which went down and stopped at $ 15 million. The deal was to take place at the beginning of 2010. Parkin and Khatsernov зrudently abandoned Russia. On January 13, Kirimov came to a depository of Interkommerts bank to take a chunk of the bribe - $ 5 million. He planned to take money and carry them to Slaviya bank, which was to move them out of Russia (according to Parkin's plan). However when he was taking money (which turned out to be fake), the police arrested him. A day later the police detained investigator Andrey Grivtsov, who was later set free on recognizance not to leave.
At this moment Lyudmila Narusova became active. Now she began sending not simple requests but vast memorandums, giving advice on what the Prosecutor General and the head of Investigative Committee had to do. The member of Upper House of Russian Parliament reccomended to bargain with Nesternko. She attached a reference in 3 pages to the memorandum: «When making decision about pre-trail bargain between accused Nesterenko and prokuracy it is necessarry to take into account the following…»
It might be strange but the Prosecutor General's Office accepted a plea bargain from Nesterenko (which did not add any new eveidence to what was previously gathered) and he got a suspended sentence.
Narusova also asked Bastrykin to «tamper» Oleg Pipchenkov, Grivtsov's superior. Officers of the Investigative Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs wrested the admision that he shared the bribe with his boss from Grivtsov.
Only half of Palikhata and Narusova's plan worked. Pipchenkov continues carrying out investigation in St Petersburg. Grivtsov, Karimov and Khatsernov (who came back to Russia after the Investigative Committee promised not to arrest them) are no getting themselves acquainted with the materials of their case. Parkin is on international wanted list.
On the other hand, Palikhata runs on the loose and feels confident for a time being. The investigation into the takeovers of NIIEMI and Infiko are virtually frozen. But there are many objects raided by Palikhata. That means the philanthropist can be easy targeted and soon find himself behind the bar.