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READER CAUTION: in tough times collection methods get tougher. The following translation from the Russian, originally published on June 14, is presented without editing. A slightly different version appeared in Izvestia on June 13. One of Russia’s leading investigative journalists comments: “the hired criminals did exactly what they were instructed. They did not kill, but intimidated. Completed the task and disappeared. Judging by the state of the law enforcement agencies, they will not be found soon, if ever. Criminals of this kind do not carry the requisition order with them. There are different versions of who could be the customer. The question is whether there is evidence.” Basic Element, the holding owned by Oleg Deripaska, and now directed again by his longtime collaborator Gulzhan Moldazhanova, issued a release on September 6, 2010, charging that shareholder funds had been misappropriated through false invoicing. At the time the holding said it had filed charges with the police, and that it “will try to get back the funds, if possible” As for last week’s acts, nothing should be read into this report to suggest there is any public evidence whatsoever about the identity of the perpetrators, their employers, or the motives. The reader is cautioned against the suspicion that the shooting has had precedents involving any of those identified. For more information about the history of Sochi port’s construction problems, see here.

An attempt on the former CEO of one of the Basic Element’s subsidiaries, owned by the billionaire and aluminium king Oleg Deripaska has taken place in the Moscow region. The senior manager’s career was broken after he had been accused of embezzlement and kickbacks worth hundreds of millions of rubles. The given criminal episodes may have become the motive for the attempt.

The attempt was stated to the police by Ivan Kuznetsov, the former CEO of the company Transstroy, acquired by Basic Element in 2007, writes the newspaper Izvestia. The crime had been committed back on June 8, but the information became public just now.

The 48-year-old businessman Ivan Kuznetsov and his driver Anton Panov were shot at by three assassins when they were on their way to the birthday party of another entrepreneur. At the 12th kilometer of the Novorizhskoye highway the businessman stopped by the market to buy flowers. When the ex-head of Transstroy came close to the mall, he was approached by three men who opened fire.

After the attack Kuznetsov and Panov managed to reach the Moscow-based Sklifosovsky Institute of Emergency Medicine on their own. Doctors removed the bullets from the bodies of the wounded, and then reported to the police. A few days later the businessman and his driver wrote formal statements to the police. The statement indicated that the criminals shot three bullets into the driver, wounding Panov in the cheek, arm and leg. Kuznetsov himself had both legs shot.

Scandalous parting with the oligarch

The name of Ivan Kuznetsov, the head of OAO Corporation Transstroy until the autumn of 2010, became widely known after his controversial parting with his boss, the oligarch Oleg Deripaska. In early September 2010 the company press office issued a release stating that Kuznetsov had been charged with embezzlement and kickbacks. At the same time spokesmen for Deripaska’s Basic Element reported theft facts to the General Prosecutor’s office. Later the Investigative Department of the Main Directorate of the Ministry of the Interior in the Central Federal District opened a criminal case regarding the embezzlement of 337 million rubles.

“The case is still being investigated by the police”, confirmed the press service of the Investigative Department. Meanwhile, according to the sources of Izvestia, Kuznetsov is not yet a suspect. Transstroy also believes that the attack has nothing to do with the company’s activities and former claims to the CEO.

The story of the Kuznetsov-headed Transstroy’s partnership with the Deripaska corporation began in 2005 when the construction company was engaged in the reconstruction of the Sochi airport, and then the Gelendzhik one. Both facilities were owned by the company called Airports of the South, a subsidiary of Basel. Soon Transstroy was fully acquired by Basel, and the company began to carry out contracts for Olimpstroy.

The Olympics construction disagreement

The conflict between Oleg Deripaska and Ivan Kuznetsov was preceded by another incident, which may have been the hidden agenda for the scandal. In December 2009 a storm washed away the new Sochi cargo port which Deripaska was building on equal footing with the state budget – both were to invest six billion rubles. What was left after the storm was impossible to fix: it was easier to build it again from scratch, builders would say.

But then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who visited the ruins, was most upset by the fact that the new port was the key target of the Olympics construction – the required amount of materials such as cement can be shipped to Sochi only by sea. The port should have reached full capacity in late 2010, but those hopes crumbled, Forbes wrote in September of that year.

The Minister for Regional Development Victor Basargin then directly expressed doubts that Basic Element would be able to implement the Sochi 2014 Olympics program.

According to one version, the criminal cases soon opened against Ivan Kuznetsov were an attempt to find a scapegoat and a person responsible for the Sochi failures.

The first episode was that on March 31, 2008, Kuznetsov chose the company Ekogazinform to be the contractor. The contract specified the sum of the transaction equal to 140 million rubles for the implementation of several engineering tasks during the construction of the Elga coal deposit infrastructure in Yakutia. The statement of works specifies some non-specific activities like “organization of all-Russian market of building materials” and “participation in planning and carrying out of environment protection activities.” All these works were paid for.

And in January 2009 a supplementary agreement worth 50 million rubles was signed. As a result, “the cost of the work many times exceeded the average market price”, and Kuznetsov, acting in collusion with the management of Ekogazinform, transferred the money to the accounts of front companies, the plaintiff believes.

On January 11, 2010 Kuznetsov on behalf of ZAO Engineering Corporation Transstroy (subsidiary of Transstroy) entered into an agreement with the company OOO Firma IKEM. The contractor promised to develop the tender documentation for a liquefied gas transshipment complex in the port of Ust-Luga. The cost of the work was 142 million rubles. The contractor company was owned by the wife and the son of Valentin Pavlyuchenko, the former deputy head of Minneftegazstroy of the USSR, whom Kuznetsov has known since the mid-1980s.

As a result, the documents about these doubtful transactions were shown to the shareholder at the time when Oleg Deripaska in turn found himself in a difficult situation because of the Sochi failures: the contracts were frustrated and the Kremlin and the government were growing discontented. Kuznetsov had to either assume all the responsibility or to point at someone else, the newspaper concludes.

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