Will A1 Challenge Altai's Integration Into Russian Empire?

Will A1 Challenge Altai's Integration Into Russian Empire?

Photo: http://r-storona.ru/

The arrest of Kamchatka police chief Mikhail Kiselev, and Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev’s order to dismiss several police generals in Moscow was certainly not the end of the shake-up of the internal affairs agencies.

For example, here is the case of Yakutia’s Interior Minister V.N. Prokopenko who suddenly demanded the shareholder register of Kuchuksulphate, a major sodium sulphate producer located in the industrial township of Stepnoye Ozero in Russia’s Altai Territory. To justify his interest, Prokopenko cited inspection report No 13/16 of 23.09.2016 concerning the enterprise. According to Kuchuksulphate, the company and its shareholders have never had any business, economic, commercial, political, or any other relations with Yakutia’s organizations. Therefore, its law enforcement authorities have no justified reason to check Kuchuksulphate, not mentioning the urgent request to provide the company's registry, Kuchuksulphate representatives said. In this connection, the company has already contacted the investigative authorities in connection with this request as a legitimate question arises: why would General of Yakutia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs need the register of shareholders of Kuchuksulphate, which is located in Altai?

However, General Prokopenko is not the only law enforcement officer in Yakutia who is interested in Kuchuksulphate’s shareholder register. Similar enquiries had been sent by V.M. Arbuzov, Head of the Economic Security and Anti-Corruption Department of the Interior Ministry of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), A.V. Shibina, Acting Head of the Department for Supervising the Enforcement of Laws in Economics and Ecology of the Prosecutor's Office of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) and O.G. Sirotin, Head of the Department of the Federal Security Service of Russia in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia).

The register of Kuchuksulphate shareholders was of interest to D.V. Smadich, Investigator of the Investigation Department for the Western Administrative District of Moscow, I.A. Chibisov, Investigator of Russia’s Investigative Committee, I.N. Zamyatina and O. Fefelova, officials of the Federal Tax Service Administration for the Altai Territory. Each sent her own request.

However, this is just a drop in the ocean of all sorts of enquiries and inspections that have fallen upon Kuchuksulphate in recent years. The company has received about 300 enquiries from various agencies in the past year alone. In addition, various supervisory bodies checked it 94 times over the past three years.

No serious violations were detected during these inspections. Except for those indicated in the prescription to the Inspection Act of 20.11.2020 by the Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resources (Rosprirodnadzor.) However, the Act itself raises questions from supervisory bodies. The Investigative Committee is currently conducting a pre-investigation check into falsification of the Act by Rosprirodnadzor inspectors.

The heightened interest of various law enforcement and other government agencies in Kuchuksulphate is associated with the hostile takeover attempts that began against the company in 2017.

Back then, its management came under administrative pressure to sell the company, Kuchuksulphate’s representatives said. Of the ten agents that have tried to negotiate the sale, some openly admitted their association with the A1 firm, a member of Alfa Group Consortium. Andrei Elinson, a managing partner of the A1 company, discussed the acquisition of Kuchuksulphate and spoke to A.A. Klimin, Deputy Chairman of the Altai Territory Government, in September 2020.

Moreover, other purchase offers, according to Kuchuksulphate, were accompanied not only by the conditions of purchase, but also by threats of both administrative pressure and physical violence against Chairman of the Board of Directors. Therefore, on 12 March 2021, the Investigative Department of the Altai Territory initiated criminal proceedings over “compulsion to complete a deal or to refuse to complete it under the threat of violence.”

The unjustified interest of various law enforcers in the company's register is also explained by the fact that once they gain access to the owners’ personal data and addresses, it will become possible to put targeted pressure on shareholders and use physical violence to compel them to sell the company's assets in the future. The role that generals and other officers of security services and law enforcement agencies might play there seems rather questionable.

In addition, the administrative attack on the enterprise is accompanied by the spread of false stories. Dozens of articles published on the Internet tell of the allegedly billions of dollars worth of damage to the state, the environment and the subsoil resulting from the enterprise's activities, which has not been confirmed by a single audit. Meanwhile, no one has estimated the damage caused by takeover scheme perpetrators to the enterprise that was paying taxes on all levels of budgets and wages to thousands of workers.

As the pressure exerted over the past four years has not led to anything yet, the attackers have launched a new tactic.

Unsubstantiated inspections of events dating back 30 and even 60 years have been started at the company, such as the privatization of the enterprise by its employees (about 1,600 people). Interestingly, the current shareholders have nothing to do with it. The legality of land plots allocation by the USSR Council of Ministers and the Ministry of Chemical Industry in the early 1950s for plant construction and subsequent production activity is being examined as well.

The very fact of such inspections raises questions: is it possible to run a stable business in Russia? Have the bureaucrats and those involved in illegal activities aimed at seizing assets ever heard Russian President Vladimir Putin's statement that privatization results in Russia will not be revised?

If that does not help either, chances are A1 will soon start pushing for revision of Altai's integration into the Russian Empire in the 17th century.

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