Chelyabinsk Ski-Masked Raid

Chelyabinsk Ski-Masked Raid


Recently, the names of people who organized the “ski-masked raid” with the seizure of Moscow’s office of Pokrovskiy Rudnik, goldmining enterprise in the Far Eastern Amur region and a subsidiary of Petropavlovsk plc, have been made public.

Konstantin Strukov was behind showdowns in the Russian capital as in 1990s.

Tough guys who introduced themselves as “athletes from Chelyabinsk,” organized a mayhem in a four-storey building in Rubtsovsky lane in Moscow. They were led by Maxim Meshcheryakov who presented himself the CEO of Petropavlovsk plc. Their behavior was “extremely rude.” They jumped over turnstiles, knocked on doors and yelled. Moreover, they shamelessly threatened their employees and paralyzed the company's operations by going on their computers and, in fact, destroying accounting and legal databases. This was organized by none other than the Chelyabinsk oligarch Konstantin Strukov whose cherished dream was to use Pokrovsky Rudnik as “a milk cow.”

Tasty Morsel

Strukov who is on the Forbes list of billionaires, decided to take this asset in hand long ago, deliberately fueling tensions around the company. Back at the beginning of the year, the Yuzhuralzoloto group of companies controlled by Strukov, bought 22.37% of shares and 5.97% of convertible bonds of Petropavlovsk plc from his competitor Roman Trotsenko. The step built up his influence further. The position of an ordinary minority shareholder in Yuzhuralzoloto was clearly not enough for him, so Strukov started making some moves.

His company did not support the re-election of Pavel Maslovsky, the founder of Pokrovskiy Rudnik. Currently, deputy CEOs from his team run the company. Maxim Meshcheryakov, who took part in the raid on the Moscow office and presented himself as the new CEO, is not mentioned either in Rusprofile, the service accumulating the legal dara on Russian businesses, or in internal documents of the company.

“It was impossible to change the top executives of Pokrovsky Rudnik legally,” said a representative of the company’s legal department. “This required the original founding documents. They are in the company's possession and were not passed on to third parties.” According to Maslovsky, “Yuzhuralzoloto itself is an absolutely privately-held company. There is a lot of contradictory information that is available to the public including serious claims of the Russian regulatory authorities in terms of compliance with tax and environmental laws and labor protection.”

Permanent Bankrupt

Konstantin Strukov made his first financial gains in the midst of Perestroika, using the harsh and cynical methods characteristic of that period. Boorishness, rudeness and blackmail are typical for him. In 2006, in a fit of wrath, Strukov kicked his subordinate, the chief engineer of Yuzhuralzoloto. In 2009, he offensively spoke with reporters of a popular French daily newspaper because they were going to make a report about one of his enterprises.

Along with that, Strukov was involved in several corruption-related scandals and at least four times pulled off bankruptcy schemes targeting companies in Chelyabinsk. This is what the media calls “permanently broke.”

Over the past 20 years, Strukov has repeatedly changed the legal status and names of the Yuguralzoloto firm. As a result, he became the owner of 99% of its shares through the Cyprus-based UGOLDLimited offshore company.

Strukov likes to repeat that he is like King Midas and can turn everything he touches into gold. His fellow countrymen are not likely to agree with this statement. Everything that Strukov touches, will crumble to dust over time while his employees will be drained dry. Thus, in 2012, the residents of the Roza mining village located near the Korkinsky coalmine literally had to be rescued by Vladimir Putin. As the owner of Chelyabinsk Coal Company, Strukov was told to reclaim the strip-pit and to resettle the residents of emergency houses sliding into the Korkinsky coal mine. Although the federal money was allocated under the guarantees of co-financing, he decided to hold up for his own use the 1 bln rubles ($12.74 mln) promised to the Russian president. Then in accordance with the usual scheme, he bankrupted the Chelyabinsk Coal Company. Thus, all the “obligations and expenses to eliminate the ecologically problematic asset” were dismissed. He acted along the principle “if there was no legal entity, there was no problem.”

Scorched Earth

Scandals related to the activities of Konstantin Strukov's enterprises have long become a constant topic of general gossip. The region is invariably in Russia’s environmental disapproval rating. And Strukov has contributed to the situation. Thus, coal openings of the enterprises have triggered mass fires near the Kurochkino lake near Kopeysk, the township located to the southeast of Chelyabinsk. As a result, people get scan of breath even in winter. Last year Kopeysk even had to introduce an emergency situation. The consequences of the activities of Strukov's company had to be eliminated from the budgetary funds.

There was a juicy scandal that shook the whole country. It was related to rock-fall on Yuzhuralzoloto’s mines in the spring of 2017 that caused death of two miners. People responsible for the tragedy were never found. There were also strikes and illegal redundancies, which Strukov also got away with. In the same 2017, due to non-payment of wages workers of the Vershino-Darasunsk mine in the Trans-Baikal territory, which was a part of Strukov’s business, were forced to go on hunger strike. They received their money only after the regional authorities stepped in to save the situation.

During one of Yuzhuralzoloto's bankruptcies, its employees were forced to strike for getting 16.5 mln rubles ($210,210.) Strukov owed an average of 200,000 rubles ($2,548) to each miner. Although failure to pay salaries to employees is routine practice for Strukov, criminal proceedings were initiated against him only once in 2007. At that time he was a co-owner of Kuzbasspolymetal. Frightened Strukov hastily withdrew from the company and fled abroad. Later, the enterprise itself was liquidated. Commenting on the situation, Aman Tuleyev, the then governor of the Kemerovo region, said that the co-owners of Kuzbasspolymetal quarreled and plundered the enterprise.

There is also non-payment of taxes on the list of Strukov’s other “feats.” In January 2018, as part of the investigation, police came with a search warrant to Yuzhuralzoloto’s office in the Chelyabinsk region. According to the media, Strukov might have failed to pay about 1 bln rubles. Rumor has it that he returned about 300 mln rubles ($3.82 mln) to the treasury soon after that. However, given the fact that Strukov is a law unto himself, this event is unlikely to be isolated.

Seemingly, he scrimps on everything but not on himself. With an income of 4.46 bln rubles ($56.8 mln,) he got into the top three ranking of the richest deputies and civil servants of Russia made by Forbes.

In the 2016 elections to the State Duma, he actively tried to get to one of the party tickets and even donated substantial amounts of money. However, this did not help him. The figure of Strukov was considered too toxic. For insurance, he has been long keeping a place for himself in the regional legislative assembly. There it is much easier to solve any issue with his powers and capabilities. Seemingly, the long-standing impunity played a nasty joke on him. Standing behind an ostentatious raider attack that took place a couple of kilometers away from the Kremlin is not the same as fooling defenseless coal miners. One can well pay with criminal responsibility for impudent actions of this kind. Apparently, the criminal proceedings against Konstantin Strukov might be initiated in the near future.

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