Skeleton in the Closet of Trust Bank CEO Mikhail Khabarov

Skeleton in the Closet of Trust Bank CEO Mikhail Khabarov

Photo: http://www.kommersant.ru


Trust Bank chaired by Mikhail Khabarov continues collecting bad debts. Among others, for example, the bank needs to deal with the legacy of Bin Bank left by the oligarch Mikhail Gutseriev and his relatives and business partners. Mikhail Khabarov risks his reputation because of the story with the withdrawal of MMK assets

In particular, new information appears on transactions that were carried out by the Gutserievs’ companies on the verge of their bank’s collapse, presumably for the withdrawal of assets. Many of them should be of interest to both law enforcement agencies and Trust Bank. We are talking, for example, about the sale of more than 70 % of the oldest Moscow Tsentralnaya Hotel on Tverskaya Street to the Companies controlled by the owner of the Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Works (MMK) Viktor Rashnikov. About 30 % still remain in the possession of the Gutserievs.

Experts believe that the asset was sold as “toxic” with a significant discount and that the difference between the book value and the market price was not taken into account. However, there are doubts that the team of lawyers subordinate to the First Deputy Chairman of the Trust Bank, the executive director of the state bank Mikhail Khabarov, will challenge this deal. Viktor Rashnikov may well know why, once a criminal case on the withdrawal of assets and money from MMK had been initiated, Khabarov went abroad and never returned until the case was closed. This 20-year-old episode with a criminal flavor can greatly affect the reputation of the Trust Bank CEO, who can “cover up” the deal between Gutseriev and Rashnikov to mutual satisfaction of the parties.

Treasure keeper

Mikhail Khabarov claims to be a direct participant in the privatization of MMK. In 1994, he allegedly got "off the street" into one of the country's largest and most influential credit institutions – Inkombank and became an "analyst for metallurgical enterprises" there. He was involved in the valuation of shares in industry companies: Inkombank was one of the first banks to acquire industrial assets that were then transferred to the controlled structures.

Its portfolio also contained a 10 % stake in MMK, which, according to some information, was at one time purchased at a price significantly lower than the market price — for only 8 million rubles, while the stake’s real value was at least 50 million rubles. Moreover, an exchange of shares took place in 1994 when the Magnitogorsk Steel Financial and Industrial Group (FIG) was established by decree of the President of the Russian Federation; it received more than 30 % of MMK shares and was controlled by the Works. Thus, MMK ended up holding 5 % in Inkombank, one of the Magnitogorsk Steel founders.

Rashit Sharipov, who at the same time became the Chairman of the Board of Directors of MMK, headed the FIG. Prior to that, he used to be the Head of the MMK Privatization Department and, on behalf of the Works’ management, was engaged in the repurchase of MMK’s shares from minority shareholders. To represent the interests of Inkombank, two bank employees were introduced to the Board of Directors, and the FIG employed Mikhail Khabarov, who was appointed to the high position of the Deputy General Director for Economics, Finance and Strategic Development.

Here is how the Trust Bank CEO himself recalls that work, “there were no more than ten experts understanding both metallurgy and securities in the market, that is why I was offered the position of deputy chairman of the MMK’s board of directors at the age of 26”. In fact, Khabarov then became a kind of a treasurer keeping Inkombank assets and, in theory, should have acted to its benefit. However…

30 percent and 8 criminal cases

When there was a conflict between the then MMK General Director Anatoly Starikov and his deputy Viktor Rashnikov, Sharipov took the side of the latter. Together, they managed to remove Starikov, and Rashnikov took over as General Director. The struggle for control over the MMK did not end there. Whereas the former and current directors of the enterprise (by the way, later they again began to work together) acted as “red directors”, who tried by all means to prevent all kinds of “strangers” – including those coming from foreign companies – from managing the plant, Sharipov, who initially played on the side of Inkombank, soon set his sights on a tidbit asset.

He managed to transfer 30 % of MMK's shares owned by Magnitogorsk Steel to offshore companies controlled by him. Allegedly, Sharipov suggested that the shareholders hide the stake, which was a collateral for the loans. Inkombank confirmed its agreement with such a maneuver, but as soon as it became clear that the FIG General Director was playing his own game, the credit institution entered into a coalition with Rashnikov to protect the asset.

Further events developed rapidly. When it became obvious that Rashit Sharipov simply withdrew the asset – during one year the shares went through many registrars and owners and fell into the hands of “bona fide purchasers” – several criminal cases were brought against him at once. He was accused of embezzlement of MMK securities, conscious non-compliance with the laws, and abuse of official powers, and since Sharipov fled abroad, he was put on the international wanted list.

There are reasons to believe that his subordinates helped him implement the fraudulent scheme, since criminal cases (eight in total) were also instituted against a number of Magnitogorsk Steel employees. Among them, for example, was Sharipov's deputy Alla Ptashnik – she was detained right at the Zurich airport. It seems to be unlikely for Mikhail Khabarov, Chairman’s Deputy for Economics and Finance, to know nothing about withdrawal of shares. Moreover…

Criminal network

The FIG Magnitogorsk Steel shareholders well remember their annual general meeting in March 1998. They were to elect a new Board of Directors because Rashit Sharipov was prematurely removed from the post of General Director of the Group. The list of candidates included Sharipov's people – his former deputies Mikhail Khabarov and above mentioned Alla Ptashnik, who represented Enitex Trading Company. In fact, this company should have had the authority to delegate its candidates to the Board of Directors; however, the audit revealed that Enitex did not provide any information about itself.”

We do not know if this was the company to which 30 % of the shares were transferred. However, no associates of the ex-general director of Magnitogorsk Steel, including Khabarov, were elected to the executive body of the FIG. The reason could be not only the secrecy of Enitex, but also the much more serious “sins” of the former group management.

In particular, an internal audit revealed that the actions of the Sharipov’s team led to the destabilization of the Magnitogorsk Steel activities. Moreover, originally created to serve the interests of its members, the FIG has essentially turned into an "organization controlling its founders." Under the leadership of the team that included the current CEO of the Trust Bank, “using its status and due to the involvement of the FIG members’ financial assets into its business turnover, Magnitogorsk Steel obtained substantial profit, which was mainly used to strengthen the company itself, create a whole network of subsidiary commercial structures that were already formally uncontrolled by the FIG itself.”

In fact, it was about the withdrawal of money from the group by the Magnitogorsk Steel management. By virtue of his position, Mikhail Khabarov was supposed to control the financial flows of the Magnitogorsk Steel and we find it hard to believe that he was not aware of these dubious schemes. It remains to be seen how he managed to avoid the investigation.

Action at home and flight to the USA

Mikhail Khabarov keeps enthusiastic memories of his work in the FIG – the status of the Deputy Chairman of the Board of Directors of MMK “seduced me”. Khabarov believed that in Inkombank he was just an analyst, and here he had “a separate office, an company car, a good contract”, “the board of directors included monsters of the metallurgical industry: Lisin, who now owns the Novolipetsk Metallurgical Plant, Khristenko, the current Minister of Industry and Energy, Rashnikov, the owner of MMK”, he recalled in 2008.

Khabarov’s position allowed him to be aware of all financial processes not only in the FIG, but also in the Works. Moreover, he was then in the midst of corporate fights, which he admitted, “At three in the morning you could be in Magnitogorsk, and at five in the morning you would already fly to Chelyabinsk with a stopover in Yekaterinburg. The main thing in all this is not constant flights and travels, but a tough corporate struggle, which today is almost a thing of the past”. Although Mikhail Khabarov’s subsequent activities steering A1 Company known for its aggressive behavior in the M&A market proved that this time had returned to him and, it must be said, with renewed vigor.

Back then this “action, movie-like work” captured him so much that he even had some nerve to “jump over” to Sharipov’s side instead of upholding the interests of Inkombank. It is understandable: as the media wrote, Sharipov had very powerful forces behind him, seriously aiming at MMK, while Inkombank was already having trouble and began to gradually withdraw its assets and prepare for bankruptcy. However, Khabarov miscalculated – the "red director" Viktor Rashnikov turned out to be stronger and more influential.

Time has shown that the MMK General Director has not lost his foothold. Obviously, Rashnikov can tell about the events that took place 20 years ago enough for the First Deputy Chairman of the state bank Trust to start worrying about his position. Especially if it turns out that Mikhail Khabarov’s criminal prosecution at home caused his hasty departure to the United States in 1998.