Vladimir Putin is a patriot and don’t you forget it. Throughout his presidency, Putin has repeated often and resolutely that Russia’s business elites should be allowed to enjoy wealth only insofar as it enriches Russia as a country. Since the annexation of Crimea and successive waves of Western economic sanctions, the president has only further stressed the need for Russian wealth to reside in Russia. The Kremlin’s actual commitment to repatriating capital from abroad begs a few questions, however. That’s the essence of a new investigative report by Dmitry Velikovsky at iStories, which describes how the brother and sister-in-law of presidential adviser Igor Levitin built a vast business empire worth at least $300 million, relying on offshore companies. Meduza summarizes Velikovsky’s report.
iStories discovered assets ranging from a resort in Montenegro to apartments in the Czech Republic and real estate in Russia registered to the Cypriot company “Quortia Limited,” owned by Leonid and Nelya Levitin.
The family’s connections to such enormous wealth apparently started at a transportation company called “Severstaltrans,” where Igor Levitin worked for several years before joining the government. The company belonged partly to Nikita Mishin, Andrey Filatov, and Konstantin Nikolaev, who later became frequent business partners of Levitin’s brother, Leonid. In 2003, shortly before Igor Levitin was tapped to serve as Russia’s transport minister, Severstaltrans’s other shareholder, billionaire Alexey Morshashov, paid well over market value for 8.8 percent of Bank Rossiya. iStories describes this investment as Morshashov’s “membership fee” into the St. Petersburg Elites Club.
Four years later, Mishin, Filatov, and Nikolaev bought Morshashov’s stake in Severstaltrans and reorganized it into two companies: “Global Ports” and “Globaltrans.” These companies’ headquarters are registered at an address in Cyprus — the same address as the legal offices of various companies owned by Leonid and Nelya Levitin. The same director also managed all these enterprises.
iStories also found that the Levitins’ 25-year-old daughter (Igor Levitin’s niece) served on the board of directors at the “Chelyabinsk Metalwork Plant” for three months in late 2016. The factory apparently has ties to the “Mostotrest” construction company, which is in turn controlled by Mishin, Filatov, and Nikolaev (the longtime Putin ally and billionaire Arkady Rotenberg has an interest in the business, too).
Acting through Quortia Limited, the Levitins have also acquired 10-percent stakes in several fast-food chains in Russia, including Alexander Kolobov’s ubiquitous cafe network “Shokoladnitsa.” Kolobov and the Levitins (acting through another Cyprus offshore company, “Blupex Trading Limited,” with the same address as Quortia Limited) also owned a fast food restaurant that rented space at Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow in 2013 before breaking its lease and dissolving without paying the airport 26 million rubles ($351,000) in owed rent.
Anna Kozkina contributed to Dmitry Velikovsky’s report. Roman Shleinov and Alexandra Zerkaleva edited the story.
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