The hostile takeover of Moscow’s Krylatskoye golf club, one of the best in Europe, together with the Moscow-based Consortium and Sovengo companies which belong to businessman Vladimir Zhukov is a case story of Russian law enforcement agencies and courts’ involvement in property redivision.
This story is not about helping the victims.
Zhukov's fight against corporate raiders has been going on for years. It wouldn’t have lasted so long if law enforcement agencies did their job. In that case, the raiders would have even partially served the sentences handed down by courts. Alas, it did not happen because Moscow police acted as an onlooker, as if it is not their duty to protect the legitimate interests of the owners or uphold law and order. The Argumenty Nedeli newspaper published a timeline of the attempts to seize the golf club and assets of Consortium and Sovengo in Moscow.
Although the story of the seizure of businessman Zhukov's property began with a false transaction in 2014, the raiders moved on to violent acts only three years later, when numerous representatives of organized criminal community, accompanied by Nizhny Novgorod mobsters, twice forced their way into a hotel complex and business center on Malaya Nikitskaya Street in Moscow in 2017. As a result of the armed seizure, the buildings were looted and rendered completely unusable. The bandits were chucked out by the National Guard of Russia (Rosgvardiya,) while the Moscow Central District police were ordered to stand by. It was only under the pressure of the Prosecutor's office that a criminal case was initiated on September 12, 2018 against unidentified persons over lawlessness rather than organization of crime syndicate and banditry as you might have expected.
Even this case has not been investigated yet. It is unlikely to be just a fault of investigators who continue to add new episodes to the case. They wouldn’t have to if the central Moscow robbery had been punished.
The same people wearing the same “uniforms” as two years before appeared with the same goals at the gate of the Krylatskoye sports complex in September-October 2019, but neither the police, nor prosecutors reacted in any way to the incident.
April 14, 2020, 4:00 a.m. More than 20 bruisers in eight cars with Nizhny Novgorod license plates drove all the way across Moscow which was locked down due the COVID-19, and arrived once again at Malaya Nikitskaya Street. They cut down the gates and doors of the hotel and business center with angle grinders and barricaded themselves inside. After they left, the owner only found mutilated walls in the place of the business center and the hotel complex. There has been no reaction from Moscow Central District police up to date.
A new attempt to take Krylatsky by force was made at 4:00 a.m. on May 30, 2020. After that, the sports complex had to be rebuilt. The police, Investigative Committee, and Prosecutor's Office kept silence for months taking no action.
Exactly one year later, at 4:00 a.m May 30, 2021, the Alper company tried to force its way on to Krylatskoye premises with the help of three dozen retired military men and two private security firms from Nizhny Novgorod (?!). Only the professionalism of the guards and incorruptibility of the officers of the Department of Internal Affairs of Moscow Western Administrative District stopped the seizure. Again, there were no consequences for the raiders. The documents seem to have been lost somewhere at the Investigative Committee or the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Moscow.
Overnight to July 31, under cover of darkness, the “brave warriors” again attempted to take over Krylatskoye. Security guards with the help of the Western District police fought off the attack.
Criminal proceedings were initiated only once during all these years. In February 2021, the Department for Investigation of Priority Cases of the Investigation Committee for the Nizhny Novgorod region, on orders from Moscow, filed a case over larceny covered Article 159, Part 4 of the Criminal Code. The main suspect was Antello Holding Ltd. However, on March 23, D.G. Kononerov, deputy head of the Investigative Committee for Nizhny Novgorod region, at the suggestion of the deputy regional prosecutor, dismissed the case under the pretext of further investigation.
Despite all this lawlessness and police and the Investigative Committee’s inaction, the case is being investigated in courts. Interestingly, the hearings are taking place in the Nizhny Novgorod region, to which the parties have formally no relation. Moscow judges turned out to be less corrupt and refused the raiders’ claims.
Let’s get back to the beginning of the story, when a certain Alfred Victor Brewster, as CEO of Antello Holding Ltd. allegedly signed a 280 million ruble ($3.82 mln) loan agreement in Moscow with the Consortium on July 8, 2014, under which the loan was secured by three promissory notes. Antello Holding Ltd. was registered in the Seychelles just a few days before the signing of the agreement, i.e. it was probably established to take over Consortium. Alfred Victor Brewster is a British citizen living in the Seychelles, where more than a hundred companies are registered to him.
Obviously, Brewster is a kind of a nominal president covering up the activities of an international gang. Its members’ names appear in numerous official documents related to the bankruptcy or takeover of Zhukov's companies and bankruptcy of other ones including strategically important (like RUMO plants) Russian enterprises. Brewster’s associates are A.Y. Gorshkov, D.S. Velkhovsky, M.V. Kuznetsova, Z.V. Eliseev, O.V. Piyashova, I.V. Goryaev, O.V. Smirnov, A.Y. Yashkov, G.G. Toskin, etc.
The scheme is the same: forged documents, street gangs, corrupted private security firms and the Guarantee self-regulatory organization of bankruptcy trustees. So, Velkhovsky and Gorshkov became the beneficiaries of Antello Holding Ltd.
It was only a few months later that the Consortium CEO (who performed duties as acting director when the company owner was seriously ill) was able to see the copies of the Loan Agreement and Acceptance Certificate allegedly signed by Brewster. The latter had probably never been to Moscow and his signatures on the documents turned out to be fakes.
The Consortium CEO, who previously had no experience in fighting raiders, decided to start the process of bankruptcy on the advice of a trusted lawyer, although there was no mention of the loan, promissory notes or allegedly received material assets on Consortium’s balance sheets (signed by the bankruptcy managers who had already taken over the company) either for 2014 or subsequent years.
Well, then the legal twists and turns began between Consortium and Antello Holding Ltd.
The Arbitration Court of Nizhny Novgorod Region initiated bankruptcy proceedings against Consortium. The court decision was based on two documents, the Loan Agreement and Acceptance Certificate which according to the expertise of the Ministry of Justice were signed not by Brewster, the only authorized signatory, but by an unknown person. This means that the Arbitration Court of Nizhny Novgorod Region made its decision based on invalid documents. At the same time, the court did not request the bills of exchange, did not investigate exactly how the payment for the transaction had been made, and did not verify which Russian bank had provided its cash cover, etc.
The raiders, in turn, began to deliberately “split” the case into episodes in Volgo-Vyatsky region courts, pushing through the decisions they needed. At least two judges in the Arbitration Court of Nizhny Novgorod region refused to consider the bankruptcy case against Consortium because of the lack of necessary documents. The raiders then did find the judge who made the decision to turn it bankrupt. However, he stopped working on the case soon thereafter.
The lawsuit landed on the desk of the newly appointed judge Pishin. He unexpectedly rejected all claims of the raiders. There were about a dozen of them at that point, but Pishin’s decision is easily explained. Moscow courts had previously considered these episodes and the related rulings, made in favor of Consortium and Sovengo, had long come into legal force. However, Volga-Vyatsky region appeals courts overturned all of Pishin's decisions.
Raiders, who received a second chance, went to Moscow courts which turned them down again. Meanwhile, Consortium’s owner filed a claim with the same Arbitration Court of Nizhny Novgorod Region to recognize the Loan Agreement as unconcluded. The case was given to judge Pishin. He had a chance to bring it to a close as all the previous decisions had been based on the Loan Agreement, which a priori had been perceived as authentic. However, by the time Pishin got the case, the Ministry of Justice had already announced that the key documents had been forged.
In February 2021, the Arbitration Court of Nizhny Novgorod Region considered the claim of Consortium representative Zhukov V.N. against Antello Holding Ltd. who insisted that the loan agreement was invalid. Experts who had issued an opinion that Brewster's signature on the document was fictitious were waiting outside the courtroom.
Suddenly the judge went out and only returned after a long absence. He announced that the claim had been dismissed because “the case materials contained no proof of disputable evidence falsification, established by the court ruling which had come into force.” That is, Pishin did not consider the expertise of the Ministry of Justice to be sufficient evidence? Or did something happen during his sudden absence from the courtroom that he could not stand against?
Apparently, as soon as persons from the Seychelles offshore appear on the horizon of Nizhniy Novgorod or Moscow security ministries, people in uniforms and robes are immediately overtaken by a complete and unconditional powerlessness for some reason.
Of course, this is not the end of the story. On August 11, judge Pishin was expected to consider and allegedly approve an amicable agreement to end the bankruptcy of Consortium, signed by Piyashova and Smirnov, a criminal couple of “representatives who had nothing to do with the company itself; of course, without the participation of the Consortium owner.”
The day before, the Arbitration Court of Nizhny Novgorod Region was supposed to examine the case over the assignment of dubious accounts payable of the companies belonging to Zhukov to some shady electronic exchange owned by A. Gorshkov, who had already been convicted for large fraud.
In March 2021, the Nizhny Novgorod District Court finally ruled on the case against Andrei Gorshkov. The investigation and hearings lasted almost 10 years. It was found that bankruptcy trustee Andrey Gorshkov had withdrawn a part of the proceeds from the municipal enterprise through an affiliated firm, used the money to travel and pay remuneration to himself and his team. The court sentenced Gorshkov to two years in prison but freed him from punishment due to the statute of limitations.
Gorshkov had also been accused of fraud in the bankruptcy of a federal state unitary enterprise. The investigator said that he had included fictitious claims totaling 39.5 million rubles ($538,582.50) in the debt register. The court found Gorshkov guilty of this crime and gave him a five-year suspended sentence.
In other words, three grave crimes that carry a penalty of up to ten years in prison are punished by a suspended sentence.
If one believed until now that miracles only happened in the courts of the Krasnodar territory, this is just because one did not know what Nizhny Novgorod judges were capable of.
Until recently, Vladimir Zhukov's companies used to transfer tens of millions of rubles annually in taxes to the Russian budget. The only thing needed now for the survival of these companies is for the law enforcement agencies and judicial authorities, who live off these taxes, to simply do their duty and protect the Russian citizens from criminality, asset-grabbing and arbitrariness.