Turk­ish bil­lion­aires and Rus­sian in­dus­try moguls

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - Al­bert Galea

Turk­ish bil­lion­aires and a num­ber of Rus­sian busi­ness fam­i­lies are among those granted Mal­tese cit­i­zen­ship in 2017, The Malta Inde

pen­dent on Sun­day can re­veal. The list of new cit­i­zens, pub­lished in the Gov­ern­ment Gazette at the end of each year, in­cludes roughly 3,000 new Mal­tese cit­i­zens, com­bin­ing nat­u­ralised cit­i­zens and those tak­ing up dual cit­i­zen­ship due to Mal­tese de­scent with those who have at­tained cit­i­zen­ship through the con­tro­ver­sial In­di­vid­ual In­vestor Pro­gramme (IIP). Fur­ther­more, con­trary to what is stan­dard prac­tice, the names are listed in al­pha­bet­i­cal or­der ac­cord­ing to first name, rather than last.

How­ever, in a de­tailed ex­am­i­na­tion of the list of new cit­i­zens by this news­pa­per, var­i­ous names stood out, in­clud­ing those of prom­i­nent Turk­ish bil­lion­aires and Rus­sian busi­ness­men.

Suzan Sa­banci Dinçer (right) and Cig­dem Sa­banci Bilen (be­low) are bil­lion­aire sis­ters whose names ap­pear among the new Mal­tese cit­i­zens. Ac­cord­ing to Forbes, Cig­dem was at one point worth $1.2 bil­lion, while Suzan’s net worth has also climbed above the $1 bil­lion mark over the past few years. The sis­ters are third gen­er­a­tion mem­bers of the bil­lion­aire Sa­banci fam­ily and grand­daugh­ters of Haci Omer Sa­banci, who founded Sa­banci Hold­ings – now one of Turkey’s largest con­glom­er­ates. Sa­banci Hold­ings con­trols 70 com­pa­nies and em­ploys around 65,000 peo­ple across 15 coun­tries. The Sa­banci fam­ily is es­ti­mated to be worth around $30 bil­lion.

The hold­ings com­pany also holds a 40 per cent share in Turkey’s sec­ond largest bank, Ak­bank, which has branches in Malta and Ger­many.

Suzan Sa­banci Dinçer is the chair­per­son of the bank and an ex­ec­u­tive board mem­ber, a po­si­tion she has held since 2008. She has re­ceived sev­eral awards from dif­fer­ent coun­tries, in­clud­ing the ti­tle of Com­man­der of the Most Ex­cel­lent Or­der of the Bri­tish Em­pire (CBE) in recog­ni­tion of her proac­tive and influential con­tri­bu­tions to the de­vel­op­ment of Turkey-UK re­la­tions, and the Or­der of Merit of the King­dom of Spain. Suzan has two chil­dren: Haluk Akay Dinçer and Ceyda Dinçer. These names also ap­pear on the list of Malta’s new cit­i­zens. Cig­dem Sa­banci Bilen, mean­while, also has a stake in Ak­bank, ac­cord­ing to Forbes, and is mar­ried to Faruk Bilen, who was Sa­banci Hold­ings’ chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer be­tween 1997 and 2016, and who is now an ad­viser to the same hold­ings group. They have two chil­dren to­gether. The list of new Mal­tese cit­i­zens in­di­cates that both Cig­dem Sa­banci Bilen and Faruk Bilen ob­tained a Mal­tese pass­port in 2017, along with Gizem Bilen and Goz­dem Bilen, pre­sum­ably the cou­ple’s two chil­dren.

A num­ber of other Turk­ish names ap­pear in the list. The

Kara­manci name is one of those, with a Mehmet Fatih Kara­manci is listed as a new cit­i­zen along with an Esra Kara­manci and a Fatma Yasemin Kara­manci. Al­though it can’t be con­firmed, they could have links to an­other prom­i­nent Turk­ish busi­ness group – Kara­manci Hold­ings – which pro­vides ma­te­rial to denim brands such as Levi Strauss, Diesel and Tommy Hil­figer. A fur­ther nine pass­ports were also is­sued to peo­ple shar­ing the com­mon sur­name of Köseoğlu. The name Ozer Hin­cal listed among the new cit­i­zens also matches the name of the CEO of Ar­vento Mo­bile Sys­tems, which is de­scribed as the mar­ket leader for ve­hi­cle track­ing sys­tems and fleet management in Moldova, Ge­or­gia and North­ern Cyprus.

There has, in fact, been a re­cent surge in Turk­ish ap­pli­ca­tions for cit­i­zen­ship schemes such as Malta’s, with the BBC last Novem­ber partly ty­ing this in­crease to how the po­lit­i­cal scene in the coun­try has de­vel­oped over the past few years. The Malta In­de­pen­dent has al­ready re­vealed that one new Mal­tese cit­i­zen is Vadim Vik­torovich Vasi­lyev, the vice-pres­i­dent and di­rec­tor-gen­eral of French foot­ball pow­er­house AS Monaco. Vasi­lyev, how­ever, is far from be­ing the only new cit­i­zen of Rus­sian ori­gin: sev­eral other names on the list of new cit­i­zens match those of Rus­sian busi­ness­men, al­though due to the sheer lack of de­tail that the gov­ern­ment’s list pro­vides, it is dif­fi­cult to con­firm most of these find­ings.

Gen­nady Ivanovich Ko­zovoy is one such listed name. Gen­nady I. Ko­zovoy is listed by Bloomberg as be­ing a coal min­ing mag­nate, with a strong say in the run­ning of the Ras­pad­skaya min­ing com­plex, which is Rus­sia’s largest un­der­ground coal mine. In 2017 it mined 11.4 mil­lion tonnes of coal. Ko­zovoy was listed on Forbes’ list of bil­lion­aires in 2011, when it was

es­ti­mated that he had a net worth of $1.3 bil­lion. Ko­zovoy was, ac­cord­ing to Bloomberg, the gen­eral di­rec­tor of the Ras­pad­skaya Coal Com­pany when 66 min­ers were killed in an ex­plo­sion at the mines. He was given the post of head of the mine ten days af­ter that ex­plo­sion, on 18 May 2010. Vy­ach­eslav Kon­stanti­novich

Kim is an­other name, likely from Kaza­khstan, to have ob­tained Mal­tese cit­i­zen­ship, and he is joined by Vy­ach­eslav Vy­ach­eslavovich Kim, Mikhail Vy­ach­eslavovich Kim, Safiya Vy­ach­eslavovna Kim who, it is pre­sumed, are his chil­dren. This as­sump­tion is borne of that fact that Rus­sian tra­di­tion dic­tates that the sec­ond name of a per­son is taken from that per­son’s fa­ther. Vy­ach­slav Kim’s most ev­i­dent tie to Malta is that he is one of three share­hold­ers of a com­pany called VID In­ter Lim­ited which, ac­cord­ing to data from the Par­adise Pa­pers re­leased by the ICIJ, was reg­is­tered in 2011 to an ad­dress in Gżira con­nected to 410 other en­ti­ties.

It is in­ter­est­ing to note that some new cit­i­zens share a com­mon place of em­ploy­ment. Yan Leon­dovich Izak and Maxim Valerye

vich Shubarev both work high up in the ranks of Setl Group – a ma­jor Rus­sian com­pany which was es­tab­lished as a con­struc­tion com­pany and now ad­ver­tises it­self as be­ing one of the coun­try’s lead­ers in con­tracted real es­tate de­vel­op­ment, es­pe­cially in res­i­den­tial ar­eas. Izak is the CEO and a mem­ber of Setl’s board of di­rec­tors, while Shubarev is the chair­man of that same board of di­rec­tors.

There is a sim­i­lar pat­tern be­tween Il­dar Alia­gaev, Yaroslav Se­men­ovich Okulov and Pavel Vladimirovich Zh­danov, who are all reg­is­tered as work­ing in the higher ech­e­lons of Rus­sia’s sec­ond largest oil pro­ducer Lukoil. Zh­danov comes up in var­i­ous me­dia re­ports as be­ing in­volved within the cap­i­tal mar­ket op­er­a­tions sec­tor of the com­pany, while Okulov is the chief fi­nan­cial offi- cer of Lukoil’s Mid­dle East branch. Il­dar Alia­gaev’s name, mean­while, ap­pears in Rus­sian me­dia as be­ing the di­rec­tor of Lukoil Saudi Ara­bia Lim­ited, an 80 to 20 per cent joint ven­ture be­tween Lukoil and the Saudi com­pany Aramco, re­spec­tively.

As a com­pany, Lukoil reg­is­tered $102 bil­lion in rev­enue in 2017 and owns seven oil re­finer­ies in Rus­sia, Ukraine, Ro­ma­nia, and Italy. The com­pany also has a 45 per cent stake in a re­fin­ery in the Nether­lands, while also own­ing four gas re­fin­ery plants in Rus­sia. In March 2018, The New York

Times re­ported that Lukoil had held meet­ings with Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica, where rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Rus­sian giants had asked the data firm for in­for­ma­tion on how Amer­i­can vot­ers were be­ing tar­geted dur­ing the most re­cent pres­i­den­tial elec­tions. In 2015, the Ukrainian Se­cret Ser­vice also ac­cused Lukoil of “fi­nanc­ing ter­ror­ism” in two break­away re­gions of the coun­try’s war-torn eastern seg­ment. Lukoil has de­nied both al­le­ga­tions.

Var­i­ous other names on the list seem to match those of Rus­sian or Soviet-era busi­ness­men. The name Gleb Yurievich Gurin is on the list, with the same name ap­pear­ing as the chair­man of the management board and a di­rec­tor at the Rus­sian Joint-Stock Com­mer­cial Roads Bank OJSC. Stanislav Gumerovich Eni­keev, along with three oth­ers who seem to be fam­ily mem­bers, is also a new cit­i­zen, and is a di­rec­tor of the com­pany At­las Biomed Group Lim­ited, which is a Lon­don-based com­pany spe­cial­is­ing in DNA and mi­cro-biome test ser­vices. Dmitry Ana­tolye­vich Los­chinin, also marked as a new cit­i­zen, is the CEO of Lux­oft, an in­ter­na­tional cus­tom soft­ware de­vel­op­ment com­pany with more than 12,900 em­ploy­ees, 41 of­fices in 22 coun­tries in North Amer­ica, Europe, Asia Pa­cific, and South Africa. It is in­cor­po­rated in the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands, has its op­er­at­ing head­quar­ters in Switzer­land, is tax domi­ciled in Lon­don,

and is listed on the New York Stock Ex­change. It had a rev­enue of $906.8 mil­lion this year.

Oleg Fauzelovich Dzha­gaev, who is marked as liv­ing in Malta by the United King­dom’s Com­pany Reg­is­ter, is an­other new cit­i­zen. He is the di­rec­tor of the com­pany Lins Wall­pa­per Lim­ited, which is re­port­edly worth around £50 mil­lion. The same UK Com­pany Reg­is­ter notes that the com­pany has not filed any ac­counts since 31 De­cem­ber 2016. The com­pany’s ac­counts for 2017 were due by the end of last Septem­ber; how­ever, it seems that they have not been sub­mit­ted so far.

The vice-pres­i­dent for com­merce and lo­gis­tics at Ros­neft Oil Com­pany, Otabek

Kuchkarovich Ka­ri­mov, is an­other name on the list, and is joined by what is as­sumed to be his two sons, Timur Otabekovich Ka­ri­mov and Tair Otabekovich Ka­ri­mov. Ros­neft Oil Com­pany is a Rus­sian in­te­grated en­ergy com­pany and the third largest com­pany in Rus­sia in terms of rev­enue. In fact, the com­pany, which in 2014 em­ployed 261,500 peo­ple, reg­is­tered $103 bil­lion in rev­enue in 2017 and, in turn, $5.09 bil­lion in net in­come the same year.

The new cit­i­zens aren’t lim­ited to those hail­ing from Rus­sia. One name noted dur- ing this news­pa­per’s anal­y­sis of the cit­i­zens list was that of Yusif Hasan Jab­barov. That same name ap­pears as be­ing the chair­man of the Su­per­vi­sory Board, which is the high­est rank­ing board of the Azer­bai­jani com­pany Gold­enPay. Gold­enPay was launched in 2008 and is Azer­bai­jan’s largest on­line pay­ments com­pany. The com­pany’s shares are all owned, ac­cord­ing to the com­pany’s own web­site, by Gold­enPay In­ter­na­tional, which is reg­is­tered on the Caribbean is­land of St Kitts & Ne­vis. Cu­ri­ously, while there is a biography on the com­pany’s web­site for each mem­ber of the su­per­vi­sory and ex­ec­u­tive boards, Jab­barov is the only per­son who does not have a cor­re­spond­ing biography to his name.

The take-up of Mal­tese cit­i­zen­ship hasn’t been lim­ited to those from the east, how­ever – two names cor­re­spond to a ma­jor Aus­trian com­pany. Erich Er­ber was born in Saint Polten, Aus­tria, but his name ap­pears on the list of new cit­i­zens along with that of

Piyapa Er­ber. Both work with the Aus­trian an­i­mal health and nu­tri­tion com­pany Biomin, which sup­plies over 100 coun­tries with var­i­ous forms of an­i­mal feed. In­ci­den­tally, Erich Er­ber is the founder of Biomin, hav­ing started the com­pany from a ware­house in 1983. Piyapa Er­ber, mean­while, grad­u­ated from Kaset­sart Univer­sity in Thai­land, and is the chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of Biomin’s branch in the same coun­try.

Launched in 2014, very lit­tle is known about Malta’s cash for pass­ports scheme, de­spite the fact that those who pay large sums of money and buy/rent prop­erty on the is­land are en­ti­tled to a Mal­tese pass­port, cit­i­zen­ship and the right to vote. The gov­ern­ment has re­peat­edly re­fused to pro­vide an ex­act, sep­a­rate list of those who have ob­tained cit­i­zen­ship through the IIP scheme.

In­stead, the names of those ob­tain­ing a pass­port through the IIP scheme are in- cluded in the an­nu­ally pub­lished list of new Mal­tese cit­i­zens. Ear­lier this month, the reg­u­la­tor for the IIP scheme, Carmel De­gabriele, even said in his an­nual re­port that the names of the cit­i­zens tak­ing up cit­i­zen­ship through the IIP scheme should be kept com­pletely se­cret save to mem­bers of par­lia­ment, who would have to sign a dec­la­ra­tion of se­crecy be­fore see­ing the list of new cit­i­zens. This was fol­low­ing con­cerns ex­pressed by the agents re­spon­si­ble for sell­ing Mal­tese cit­i­zen­ship, who said that the pub­li­ca­tion of the names of their clients was a ma­jor con­cern for those same clients.

Setl Group’s management. Maxim Shubarev and Yan Izak’s names both ap­pear on the list of new Mal­tese cit­i­zens.

Erich Er­ber sign­ing a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing with Kaset­sart Univer­sity in Thai­land. Piyapa Er­ber also ad­dressed the event.

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