Pandora Leak once again brings up a familiar Russian name: Sergei Chemezov, CEO of Rostec
His face can be seen in grainy photos of Russian President Vladimir Putin during the Dresden era as a Soviet KGB officer, and his name – Sergei Chemezov – has featured prominently in a growing number of much more recent reports. indicating potential corruption.
When the Panama Papers leaked in 2016, it was revealed that Chemezov’s son Stanislav, owned an offshore company which benefited from the construction of a $ 550 million national fiber-optic highway by Rostec, the state-owned conglomerate Putin appointed to head Chemezov, one of his oldest and closest associates, in 2007.
In 2019, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, as part of its ongoing Russian Money Laundromat series, published allegations that Chemezov’s parents and close associates of Rostec own luxury villas in an exclusive Spanish enclave called S’Agaro, worth tens of millions of euros.
In the same year, opposition politician and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny claimed that Chemezov’s wife was the registered owner of a 1,400-square-meter, two-storey plot. apartment in Moskva hotel, opposite the Kremlin, worth an estimated 5 billion rubles ($ 69 million).
In response to Navalny’s presentation, Chemezov told Russian media RBC: “I don’t accumulate wealth. I don’t put money in corners. I don’t have yachts or planes.”
The new Pandora leak of some 12 million confidential financial files on offshore wealth kept in global tax havens, however, seems to call this claim into question. One of the Russian chapters of the global scandal was information indicating that Chemezov’s daughter-in-law, Anastasia Ignatova, owns an offshore company called Trident Trust which in turn owns an 85-meter luxury yacht called Valerie worth around $ 140 million. The Russian angles of the Pandora documents have been analyzed by Istories, an investigative journalism group that has been called a “foreign agent” media organization by the Russian government.
The latest investigation also linked Chemezov’s parents and associates to several other luxury villas in Spain. In total, journalists estimated the foreign assets linked to Chemezov by the Pandora leak at around 22 billion rubles ($ 302 million).
Despite the cloud of scandal that has surrounded Chemezov for years, he has not been affected. So far, this would also appear to be the case with Pandora. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on October 4 that “we did not see any hidden wealth” in the reports.
“So far we haven’t seen anything in particular,” said Peskov, who himself has been the target of unexplained wealth accusations. He claimed that the documents mainly expose poor financial regulations in the United States.
Rostec did not respond to requests for comment from Istories and did not immediately respond to a request for comment from RFE / RL on October 4. When the media reported on the allegations in 2019 about villas in Spain allegedly controlled by those close to Chemezov, he replied that he was “not responsible for them”, that they had their own business interests and were making money out of them. profits.
Chemezov, 69, is a long-time insider into the political system created under Putin, which political scientist Karen Dawisha and others have dubbed “Putin’s kleptocracy”. Originally from the Irkutsk region, he joined the KGB at the end of the 1970s. He worked on a scientific and technical espionage mission in Germany. During the 1980s, he lived in the same building in Dresden, East Germany, as Putin and the two men get closer.
Later, Chemezov was deputy director of a KGB-controlled trade association called Sovintersport, which handled international appearances for Soviet athletes. American boxing promoter Lou Falcigno told the New York Times in 1989 he paid Sovintersport about $ 200,000 for each fight involving a Soviet boxer. According to other reports, Sovintersport was taking as much as 95 percent of wages paid to Soviet hockey players playing in the NHL.
During this same period, Chemezov became involved in the Itera, scandal-ridden oil and gas export company, which for many years largely controlled the export of Turkmen natural gas and made billions sell it to Russian Gazprom.
Chemezov’s wife, Yekaterina Iganatova, was co-founder of Itera, and her son, Stanislav, worked there in the 2000s. The other co-founder, businessman Igor Makarov, was a former Soviet cyclist and later president of the Russian Cycling Federation. He and Chemezov were further linked through the sponsorship of the professional cycling team Katusha from 2009 to 2019 by Itera and Rostec.
In 1996, Putin left the government in St. Petersburg to become deputy head of the administration of President Boris Yeltsin. As a foreigner in Moscow, he began to strengthen his position by bringing in former comrades, including Chemezov, whom he asked to head the administration’s foreign economic relations department – a post similar to that which Putin himself occupied in the government of the city of St. Petersburg. Petersburg.
From then on, Chemezov held a series of foreign trade positions with state-owned enterprises including Promeksport, arms dealer Rosoboroneksport, and then Rostec, which was called Russian Technologies until 2012.
Rostec is a sprawling defense and tech giant comprising more than 700 companies controlled by 14 holding companies. The conglomerate, and Chemezov personally, have both been targeted by Western sanctions following Moscow’s 2014 capture of Ukraine’s Crimea region and its fueling of military conflict in parts of eastern Ukraine. Ukraine.
In 2007, as Putin’s second presidential term came to an end and he searched for a “successor” – and finally landed on Dmitry Medvedev, who kept the presidential seat warm until Putin returned for two other terms from 2012 – some analysts named Chemezov as potential candidate.