Sometimes they return: Friedman forgot Kuzmichev in France | Latest news The Moscow Post
09 December 2023

Sometimes they return: Friedman forgot Kuzmichev in France

While Mikhail Fridman "repents" in Russia, his former partner in France was suspected of several crimes at once. But what about the financing of the Armed Forces of Ukraine?

Billionaires who returned to Russia, co-owners of Alfa Group Mikhail Fridman and Peter Aven called their investments in Western countries a "colossal mistake." Now they pretend that they have nothing to reproach. But what to do with the fact that their structures financed the Armed Forces of Ukraine, attempts to "launder" from Western sanctions, as well as the detention of their long-time business partner Alexei Kuzmichev, who was suspected of money laundering?

Details - in the material of the correspondent of The Moscow Post.

The Russian people are amazing, all-forgiving. It is difficult to explain the lack of any consequences for the oligarchs Friedman and Aven to return to Russia.

Until recently, they gave interviews to all Western media, where they could, tried to dissociate themselves from Russia, left Russian assets, rewriting them to their own managers (for example, with the sale of the Friedman VimpelCom).

Now they are back, as if nothing had happened. And Fridman suddenly doubted - should he sell his stake in Alfa Bank, which he had previously announced quite confidently?

The Kremlin, which treats Friedman and Co condescendingly, can be understood. Formally, law enforcement agencies have no complaints about the oligarchs - at least not yet. But there is an interest in the fact that large business, "frightened" by the SVO (or rather, related sanctions), returns to the country. But ordinary people have the right to ask them questions.

Now Mikhail Fridman and Peter Aven realized that the money was worth keeping in Russia. She does not impose the first sanctions on anyone, does not freeze anyone's assets and finances. At the same time, the same Aven expressed the words about the "mistake" of investing in the West after a three-hour interrogation of the British authorities. It looks like undeclared terror against Russian business. And on September 19, Friedman was imposed new Western sanctions in Britain.

This time, the restrictions affected ships and aircraft associated with the businessman. They are prohibited from entering the ports and airports of the kingdom, registering in the ship or aviation registers of the country. Sanctions provide for the possibility of detaining such ships and aircraft, as well as a ban on providing them with any technical assistance.

It seems that the oligarch realized that despite his best efforts, no one will give him to become "his" in the Western establishment. Moreover, at one point it may simply not be released from the country. And it cleared up in my head.

Kuzmichev "took" in San Tropez

However, in Russia, questions may still arise to the co-owners of Alfa Group. As recently as October 30, their longtime partner Alexei Kuzmichev was detained in France. He was questioned in connection with alleged tax evasion, money laundering and circumvention of sanctions. Writes about this Novaya Gazeta. He was subsequently released on serious bail.

Along with this scandal, the world also learned about some of Kuzmichev's real estate, for example, a gorgeous villa in San Tropez. In parallel with this, searches were carried out in the same place, in the villa, as well as in a huge mansion next to the Orsay Museum in Paris. The property turned out to be so huge in area that 60 police officers took part in them. Numerous bundles of money were found at the site.

Perhaps Friedman had such packs. After all, few people believe that after freezing accounts, he really had nothing to maintain his mansion in London. And the question arises: if his close ally and partner Kuzmichev could really be involved in money laundering, then they were obtained by criminal means? But until recently, the bulk of the business of Kuzmichev, Fridman and Aven was common.

Alexey Kuzmichev did not have time to "escape" from Europe? Photo: Sergey Karpukhin/Reuters

Recall that on March 15, 2022, Alexei Kuzmichev was included in the sanctions lists of the European Union together with the co-founder of Alfa Group, German Khan. At the time of the introduction of EU sanctions, Mr. Kuzmichev was already in France.

Hold my "Alpha"

In March last year, Alexey Kuzmichev and German Khan left the shareholders of Alfa-Bank. Through ABH Holdings, they owned 16% and 23% of the bank's equity, respectively. They transferred their shares to another beneficiary - Andrei Kosogov. I.e. Fridman and Aven parted ways with Kuzmichev and Khan only about a year and a half ago, and only in the wake of sanctions.

By the way, the very sale of shares close to Fridman Kosogov can be a fiction that we have already seen in the history of Russian oligarchs. Of course, we are talking about Mikhail Gutseriev and his longtime comrade Oleg Deripaska.

In 2006, a criminal case was opened against Mikhail Gutseriev regarding illegal entrepreneurship. Later, articles on tax evasion and money legalization were added to it. At that time, the key asset of Gutseriev was Russneft - he personally led the company.

Of course, he was not going to meet with investigators, and through Belarus he entered the same Britain, where Fridman would sit out almost 20 years later. And so that Russneft was not taken away from him and shoved into someone else's pockets, he quickly transferred this asset to the owner of Rusal Oleg Deripaska. After Fridman decided on the issue of criminal prosecution (all charges were dropped and the case was closed) and returned to Russia, Deripaska calmly resold Russneft to Gutseriev. Thank you, as they say, for holding.

It is very likely that in the case of Kuzmichev, Khan and Kosogov, the same "scheme" could take place. Like, we have nothing more to do with the Russian Alfa Group. Moreover, to the Russian state. Only Kuzmichev was not saved from the attention of Western law enforcement officers. How the dissociation from Russia and the Russian leadership did not save Friedman from sanctions.

Regarding Peter Aven, it should be added that law enforcement officers also "aroused" him in Britain - he was suspected of evading sanctions. The oligarch was supposed to spend no more than 2.5 thousand pounds from his frozen accounts, but he clearly lived beyond his means. This alerted Western sanctions officials. If his home was thoroughly searched, maybe there would be bundles of cash, like Alexei Kuzmichev's? Or the money came from the nominal owner of his own funds, which did not fall under restrictions. Surely Friedman also had a stash.

Money for Russia's enemies

But that's one side of the question. For Russia, in the current situation, another is much more important: the structures of all these excellent businessmen, and now the "returnees," could sponsor the Armed Forces of Ukraine, which kill people in the Donbass. But this for Russians can be much more serious than even mythical tax fraud.

As wrote, in 2017, Alfa-Bank declared Crimea and Donbass occupied by Russia. And not only it, but also other localized assets - such as the mobile operator Kyivstar, which is a subsidiary of Veon (in Russia - Vymplekom or Beeline). Almost the entire Ukrainian press voted about how much money Kyivstar raised for the need for Ukrainian soldiers.

By the way, after his father, it seems, his son Alexander, known for his video message to Zelensky, in which he called himself a Ukrainian, could come to Moscow, reminded that he went to rallies in support of Ukraine in London, and left everything in Russia - from friends to business.

Not to mention the fact that Alfa-Bank was one of the first international banks to stop working in the Crimea and Donbass - after Kyiv lost control of these territories. The fact that the new Kyiv authorities will iron civilians with bombing did not touch the bank's management - the main thing is to save face for Western partners.

Mikhail Fridman pretends that nothing happened. Photo:

Less than a month ago, the "grateful" Ukrainians repaid Fridman and Avena for their kindness - they confiscated all their Ukrainian assets for more than $460 million. And here you could gloat, but there is nothing cheerful from the word at all. Can Mikhail Fridman get away with all this just because his business pays taxes and provides jobs in Russia? Unfortunately, it looks like that.

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