I have one more Promsvyazbank story to tell, but this story came up yesterday and I want to clarify a few things about it.
According to documents seen by the Financial Times, lawyers for Lehram wrote to Russia’s justice minister last week demanding damages of $500m, and threatening to begin international arbitration proceedings if an agreement is not reached within three months.
There are multiple problems with this article, not least of which is that Lehram Capital Investments Ltd. is “British” in name only. Not one person on the paperwork filed with Companies House is British. Second, the company has been “dormant” since its inception in November 2011. According to its most recent filing, there is only £900 “cash at bank and in hand”. What exactly is it doing then? Certainly not buying up “distressed assets”, as it claims.
“Daniel Rodriguez”, whom the FT says is Lehram’s shareholder is never named on Lehram’s paperwork, which raises even more questions about Lehram and who it really represents.
The sole shareholder is named as BVI company Hasbrone Overseas Limited. Hasbrone is using the address of the self-proclaimed “leading international offshore law firm” Harneys.
Another dead end.
A quick background for those unfamiliar with the real story as I was:
In October 2013, Russian mining conglomerate Evraz agreed to sell its Gramoteinskaya mine to the unknown Lehram Capital Investments Ltd. for 10,000 rubles. The mine had been shut down since a methane leak that had hospitalized seven miners in late 2012. But even so, the company was valued at $13 million just three months before it was sold.
Evraz said that the disposal is part of its ongoing strategy to get rid of badly performing assets, and the company is putting its focus on developing its coking coal mines for steel-making.
The Western press is vague about what happened and when, and has a habit of contradicting itself (see for example this Guardian coverage from 2015), so I had to go to the Russian media for details.
According to Novaya Gazeta, Russian businessman Alexander Shchukin is tied up in the ongoing political crisis taking place in Kemerovo, where Gramoteinskaya is located.
Interpol put in a request to Russia sometime in the autumn of 2015 for paperwork related to Shchukin’s offshores and illegal transfer of “several hundred million Euros” out of Russia via Cyprus. But nearly a year later, nothing had happened on the Russian side. This was despite the fact, Novaya points out, that the source of the request came “from the materials of the trial in the Royal Court of London, initiated by Shchukin’s relatives.”
The Shchukins were involved in another court case in London at the time, trying to get their money back from a man named Adrian John Lumley Burford who they claimed had defrauded them.
The High Court has heard how Burford, 51, wove an elaborate web of lies by claiming to have links to MI5, a senior role in management consultants McKinsey & Co and business relationships with the rich and powerful around the world.
In 2014, Burford was ordered to repay £12.5 million he had stolen from the Shchukin family.
Back to Russia and the Gramoteinskaya mine. Within two months of the transaction between Evraz and Lehram being reported in the media, the shares were transferred to an offshore entity belonging to Alexander Shchukin.
Allegedly, Shchukin used his influence with Kemerovo governor, Aman Tuleyev, to have Lehram’s representative in Russia arrested and imprisoned for some period of time (between 10 days and three weeks, depending on which version of the story you believe) in order to force Lehram to sign the shares over to Shchukin.
0.01% of the authorized capital of the Gramoteinskaya mine was linked to Shchukin. Later, the mine was sold to KuzGri LLC. Then, as early as April, 2015 the 100% of the mine was transferred again to Cyrith Holdings Ltd. This Cyprus-based company is also the owner of another Shchukin’s mine – ‘Polusukhinskaya’. Cyrith is reportedly owned by another Cyprian offshore – Lassiter Limited that is in turn owned by Forcena Investments Limited. And the latter is owned by the British Virgin Islands-based Yuvia Holdings. Who is behind of this offshore remains unclear…
This was not the first time Shchukin had pulled this stunt in an effort to take control over local mines in Kemerovo.
In April 2013, the local department of the SKR [often referred to as Russia’s equivalent of the FBI -ed.] opened a case against a local coal mine owner, Boris Yakubuk. He was released after two months, but “only after he signed all the documents on the sale of his assets, which eventually came under the management of a company controlled by Shchukin,” Novaya Gazeta writes.
Shchukin was arrested in Cyprus in November 2016, and placed under house arrest. His current status is unclear.
“Moreover, even the presence of Shchukin under house arrest does not hinder his companions and relatives from withdrawing money from Russia, as one might assume. Thus, for the first quarter of 2017, Shchukin’s Polusokhinskaya Mine moved 1.1 billion rubles to his Cyprus offshore as a “dividend”; PTC-Coal, registered in Shchukin’s wife’s name, sent 3 billion rubles to Cyprus in the first three months of 2017. Another 2.5 billion rubles went to Cyprus from Shchukin-controlled JSC Aktiv-Capital.”