The scandalous bankruptcy of the Phaeton holding of Sergey and Michael Snopok brothers, which contributed a lot to one of the largest corporate conflicts over the past few years in St. Petersburg, has unexpectedly continued.
On September18, the field investigators of the Department of Energy, Transport and Industry of the Department on Economic Crimes and Counteraction to Corruption, which were carrying out a raid to detect illegal trade in fuel, made a control purchase on an underground filling station in the Pushkinsky district, at the house 15, Moscow highway. At the site, they found two tanks of diesel fuel at 500 liters apiece. The “underground” price was 24 rubles per liter (official suppliers provide it for about 30 rubles). The tanker, which proved to be, as well as his goods, illegal, was detained.
At the same time a fuel truck with the logo of Phaeton arrived to the gas station. Without having noticed policemen, it began to pour the fuel into the tank. The driver was also detained to establish connection between the underground filling station and bankrupting but quite legal market participant.
Estimating the situation of Phaeton Company soberly, the experts tend to believe that it is already experiencing oil hunger on its current needs buying fuel at high prices. Therefore, the side running at a price below the average is simply unwarrantable. Perhaps, this is a personal initiative of the driver or the shipping company. However, given that the battle for the Phaeton is coming closer to the finale, and the advantage is now on the side of the creditors, it can be assumed that the owners of the company decided to work “on the side” hoping to break at least any profit from the bloodless company. It's not a secret that after the last increase in the excise tax on fuel, private traders are forced to work almost at a loss. And as the brothers may soon lose everything, it is obviously that they no longer care about the prosperity of the company. But the desire to earn money on illegal trade is quite understandable.
Until last year, the Snopoks were able not only to control the bankruptcy of Phaeton-Aero but also delay the process. However, on 20 June 2011, the company entered bankruptcy proceedings, and Denis Lebed, a member of ‘Inter-regional self-regulatory organization of professional arbitration managers’ was appointed the bankruptcy trustee. From his first days at the new position, he faced the opposition from supporters of the leadership of Phaeton. In addition, Sergey Snopok petitioned the court several times for dismissal of Lebed.
In May 2012, a criminal case on charges of abuse of power was initiated against the bankruptcy trustee. The reason for this case was that Lebed, without the consent of the mortgage creditor, prolonged the rent contract of the chain of petrol stations which are pledged as security for the loans received from Petrokommertsbank. But the term of the lease contract of JSC Faeton-Aero with JSC Phaeton - fuel network number 1 expired in February 2012. Since then, Lebed vainly tries to return the filling station to the legitimate owner. Moreover, initially the lease contract on the filling station was concluded long ago and in the interest of Phaeton. Lebed just prolonged the contract.
The meeting of the creditors of the company made a number of decisions in the interests of the beneficiaries of the holding, including applying to the court with the petition for Denis Lebed's replacement by Dmitry Krasnov, interim manager of Phaeton - network number 1, loyal to the Snopoks. VTB Bank immediately appealed against the solution of the meeting in court. Consideration of the complaint is scheduled for September.
Let's remind that about 20 banks, including Sberbank and VTB, try to obtain returning of their funds from the Snopoks and their structures. The total accounts payable of the group comes nearer to $1 billion. Now Saint-Petersburg Main Investigations Directorate of the Russia's Investigative Committee is engaged in Phaeton case. SK administers materials of the criminal case raised on the facts of non-payment of taxes. Besides, there are materials on the holding in the Main investigatory Department of the regional GU the Ministry of internal Affairs of the Russian Federation as well, where the holding’s activity was qualified for the crime under Art. 176 of the Criminal Code (illegally obtaining credit).
In December 1991 Sergey Snopok and Vladimir Khilchenko established legal-advise firm called Phaeton LLC. Soon the company bought a couple of privatised petrol stations. By the beginning of the 2000s the company grew into a powerful holding, which unites over 20 enterprises. Vladimir Khilchenko was responsible for building new stations, Sergey Snopok - for fuel supply.
At the beginning of the 2000s Vladimir Khilchenko made controversial attempts to sell the chain of petrol stations first to Yukos, then - to Slavneft. The deal was wrecked by the tax police. The rumour has it that the police acted in the interests of the Tambov criminal group. In 2004 Vladimir Khilchenko and Sergey Snopok devided business: Sergey Snopok got Phaeton, Vladimir Khilchenko got Sozveszdiye holding company (development, wholesaling, transportation etc).
Source: Ruspres, 3 March 2007
Since very beginning, Phaeton has been under protection of the mob of Mikhail Mirilashvili (Misha from Kutaisi). When Mirilashvili was put behind the bars, another mobster Andrey Volov (Little Andrey), former comsomol activist from the Krasnogvardeysky district of St Petersburg, ran protection racket for the company.
In July 1999 Volkov was arrested and sentenced almost to life imprisonment. Vladimir Khilchenko and Sergey Snopok did not find protection and had serious problems in 2004.
Source: Nasha Versiya SPb, 7 November 2006
In 2008 Phaeton holding proposed to equip some cars in St Petersburg’s underground with easy chairs, mini bars and coffee machines. Such cars for VIPs would have been equipped with turnslites. The price for travel would have been from 100 to 1000 euros per month.
Sourse: Delovoy Peterburg, 8 May 2008
The beginning of 2008 saw first show of Phaeton's financial instability. The company declined an offer to buy a chain of Czeck petrol station, saying it lacked funds. In May 2009 the company stopped paying out the credits. VTB bank was first to file RuR670m ($23m) non-payment suit. Other banks followed the example. Phaeton owed RuR133m ($4.6m) to UniCredit, RuR152m ($5.3m) to Russia bank, RuR94m ($3.3m) to Uralsib, $2m to Globex, RuR121m ($4.2m) to Svyaz-bank. Soon Phaeton took counter-action. The company, that runs 13 petrol stations in St Petersburg and the Leningrad Region, brought in an Arbitration Court bankruptcy motion. At the same time the motions for non-payment were brought in against Phaeton by two companies, little known before,Oktan and Promtrans.
The court applied the same principle both to unknown companies and federal banks. The Arbitration Court obliged Phaeton-Aero pay Oktan and Promtrans 2.7b roubles ($93m) in damages. Major banks asked the police to interfere. St Petersburg police (the GUVD for St Petersburg and Leningrad Region) opened a criminal investigation into non-payment of duties. The police seized the company's books and the evidence confirmed investigators' darkest suspicions. Oktan and Promtrans were affiliated with Phaeton.Phaeton-Aero, Oktan and Promtrans had one owner Andrey Nosovich. He foundedPromtrans and was a head of a security company called Paritet which was part ofPhaeton holding. Oktan, the other Phaeton's creditor, was full subsidiary of Phaeton-Aero.
Source: Kompromat.Ru, 16 December 2009
Phaeton-Aero initiated its own bankruptcy in May 2009. In May 2010 a meeting of creditors established banktrapcy administration. The move was approved by an arbitration court, which gave 1.5 year for the company's financial recovery.
Following Phaeton-Aero, a number of other companies from the holding initiated bankruptcy proceedings. In August 2010 the court allowed VTB to supervise the activities of the holding. In November 2010 the supervision was established over Phaeton development group in accordance with the company's own wish. At the same time,Phaeton - chain no.1 fuel operator started its bancruptcy. Their duties consisted mainly of the bails, the companies put up to secure loans of Phaeton-Aero.
Source: Biznes na prodazhu, 17 January 2011
In 2010 brothers Snopok guaranteed fully the Sberbank’s loan to the company. The bank made a concession and passed the right to claim RuR1.2b roubles ($43m) duty toPhaeton-chain no.1, subsidiary of Phaeton LLC. The company guaranteed clearance of the debt until November 2010. Other banks did not make concessions to Snopok's companies and filed suits against it. Phaeton-aero fuel company was the first company to go bankrupt.
The agreement with Sberbank allowed the brothers to influence decisions of a meeting of creditors. They established bankruptcy administration, despite the wish of the banks to sell off the assets and liquidation of the company. But after the suit filed bySberbank,external controller began the bankruptcy proceedings.
Source: Delovoy Peterburg, 24 January 2011
In January 2011, Elena Snopok filed a lawsuit against both her husband, the director general of Phoeton Company Mikhail Snopok and Sberbank in St Petersburg’s Vasileostrovsky Court. Snopok asks court to nullify personal guarantee of her husband, who secured 1.2b ($43m) roubles loan of Sberbank. Her appeal came short afterSberbank filed 8 motions in the same court against Phaeton and his owners Sergey Snopok (99%) and Mikhail Snopok (1%) for non-payment of duties.
Sergey Snopok, core owner of Phaeton holding, said that Phaeton-Aero refusal to pay off debts has nothing to do with the suits of Sberbank.
Source: Delovoy Peterburg, 1 February 2011