Kuchuksulphate Resisting Hostile Takeover

Kuchuksulphate Resisting Hostile Takeover

Photo: https://altapress.ru/

Kuchuksulphate, a major sodium sulphate producer located in the industrial township of Stepnoye Ozero in Russia’s Altai Territory has been a target of illegal attempts to force its shareholders to sell the company's assets since 2017.

The masterminds published numerous slanderous articles about the company and its shareholders on dozens of websites. The publications are fakes alleging that Kuchuksulphate has not paid billions of rubles in taxes. It was accused of causing multi-billion-ruble damage to the environment, exceeding production levels by billions of rubles and operating without a license.

As a result of the massive smear campaign and reports to government agencies, Kuchuksulphate was bombarded with enquiries and inspections by supervisory authorities such as the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, the Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resources (Rosprirodnadzor), the Federal Tax Service, the Investigative Committee for the Altai Territory, the Federal Tax Service Directorate for the Altai Territory, the Altai Territory Prosecutor's Office, the Interdistrict Environmental Prosecutor's Office for the Altai Territory, the Federal Taxation Service Interdistrict Tax Inspectorate for the Altai Territory's No. 8, etc.

Kuchuksulphate has received about 300 inquiries on a total of 520 pages from these authorities from July 2020 up to date. In response, the enterprise has provided more than 10,000 pages of information. Ninety-four administrative inspections were carried out at Kuchuksulphate by more than ten different state agencies during three years.

All defamatory publications have been refuted by the results of numerous inspections of the company's activities conducted by the above-mentioned state bodies.

The watchdog agencies found no violations other than those specified in the instruction to the Rosprirodnadzor inspection report of 20.11.2020 which is questionable in terms of legitimacy. The Investigative Committee is currently conducting a pre-investigation check into the falsification of the Rosprirodnadzor's inspection review of 20.11.2020. Five Rosprirodnadzor employees confessed in Moscow to falsifying that document.

Judicial bodies have established that Kuchuksulphate had been illegally ordered to remedy 22 out of 28 violations listed in the inspection report by Rosprirodnadzor. Possible financial penalties for all 28 violations specified in the Rosprirodnadzor's report total no more than 1.5 million rubles ($20,415) in fines.

Andrei Elinson, an executive partner of Alfa Group Consortium [one of Russia's largest privately owned investment groups, with interests in oil and gas, commercial and investment banking, asset management, insurance, retail trade, telecommunications, water utilities and special situation investments] talked with the deputy chairman of the Altai Territory government in September 2020 over the acquisition of Kuchuksulphate.

Having failed to achieve their unlawful goal, representatives of raiding party began to exert pressure on Kuchuksulhate’s chairman of the board to force him to sell company shares threatening physical violence. The criminal case over this episode was initiated by the Investigative Department for Altai Territory on 12.03.2021. In addition, the Altai Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee is conducting a pre-investigation check into threats of violence against the chairman by four other individuals.

As Kuchuksulphate shareholders and the chairman of the Board of Directors came under administrative and criminal pressure, the following persons approached it with the offer to sell company assets:

- I. Martynov, Head of the Security Department of Alfa Group Consortium, Moscow; in 2011-2013, Deputy Head of the MVD Main Directorate for Criminal Investigation; Lieutenant General.

During the attempted hostile takeover of Kuchuksulphate, he asked incumbent and former high-ranking officials of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (in the rank of General) for assistance to acquire its shares in the interests of Alfa Group Consortium. On top of that, a current police general arranged a meeting at Martynov’s request between the Alfa Group Consortium managing director and the chairman of the Board of Directors over the acquisition of Kuchuksulphate assets under threat of administrative pressure. This information can be found in the pre-investigation check file in crime log No. 229 dated 15.06.2018 of the Investigation Committee for the Altai Territory

- A. Asachenkov, Managing Director of Alfa Group Consortium. He made a proposal to sell the enterprise at a price understated by several times in the interests of an oligarch, whose name he refused to tell, threatening to make problems for the company in case of refusal. This information is available in the pre-investigation check file in crime log No. 229 of 15.06.2018 of the Investigative Committee for the Altai Territory.

A number of other Alfa Group agents offered the Kuchuksulphate board chairman to sell company assets under the threat of administrative pressure.

Nine (!) unsubstantiated attempts to obtain information from the shareholder register through various state bodies have been made since 2017. The registrar refused to provide any data from the Kuchuksulphate register to all interested parties due to the groundlessness of these requests.

Another attempt to get information from the register of Kuchuksulphate shareholders was made on 06.08.2021. Whereas earlier requests for information from the register of shareholders were sent by middle-ranking officials of tax, law enforcement and other state authorities, the latest request was sent by Major General V. Prokopenko, Minister of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Yakutia (Sakha), on 06.08.2021, and this fact raises questions.

The distance between Kuchuksulphate and the Republic of Yakutia is several thousand kilometers. At the same time, the enterprise and its shareholders have never had any business, economic, political or other relations with Yakutia. A legitimate question arises why does the Minister of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Yakutia need a register of Kuchuksulphate's shareholders?

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