A Related Party and a Criminal Case

Mayya Bolotova is not the only person from Tokarev’s inner circle who is attracted to Cyprus. Michail Arustamov, who for many years worked as Tokarev’s deputy and is described as a person close to Tokarev’s family, has an address in Cyprus as well, in the same town of Limassol.

Reporters for OCCRP found Arustamov’s name in the Panama Papers, documents from the law firm Mossack Fonseca which were leaked to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), OCCRP and other media partners all across the world.

According to the Panama Papers, Arustamov owned a number of offshore companies. In 2014, he listed his home address at Vasileos Georgiou Street 44 in Limassol.

People who know Arustamov describe him as very close to Tokarev, a connection backed up by public records. For instance, until January 2012 Arustamov, with Tokarev’s wife Galina, owned the real estate company Pramo Technologies in the Czech Republic. Russian companies linked to Arustamov were also involved in a dubious deal in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which resulted in a criminal case in Russia. In early 2016, the Investigative Committee of Russia started a criminal case and interrogated a number of top managers from Transneft and Zarubezhneft, a state company which was headed by Tokarev in the beginning of 2000s.

Three sources confirmed to OCCRP that the case is related to an acquisition by a company called Neftegazinkor, owned partially by Zarubezhneft, of some assets in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Neftegazinkor owns a refinery, a network of gas stations and a motor oil plant in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In 2007, when the acquisition took place, local officials believed that Neftegazinkor belonged to the Russian state. But in fact only 40 percent of the company was controlled by the state-owned Zarubezhneft. The remaining 60 percent was split among private firms: 40 percent belonged to the Russian companies Nepata and Invest-Technology, while 20 percent belonged to NOMOS-Bank, whose top managers, Vasily Fedorov and Alexander Gaek, founded Ronin Partners in 2008.

When word surfaced on the ownership structure, Bosnian authorities admitted they had no idea who was behind the company. “We don't know who are the owners of these companies,” said former Finance Minister of Republika Srpska Svetlana Cenic to Radio Liberty.

Despite the fact that the majority of Neftegazinkor belonged to private companies, Zarubezhneft nonetheless made significant investments in the company despite owning just 40 percent of it. For instance, in 2009 Zarubezhneft invested $76 million to modernize plants in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

By 2010 Zarubezhneft bought out the stake of the private companies in Neftegazinkor.

Why would a state-owned company invest in a mostly private asset?

Nepata and Invest-Technology were actually connected to Arustamov, Tokarev’s former deputy In 2013 Nepata became a minor co-owner of the company Richland that is majority owned by Larissa Arustamova -- the relative of Mikhail Arustamov. Richland and Invest-Technologies shared the same CEO. Nepata’s contact phone number was the same used by Arustamov's company. The representative of Zarubezhneft stated he did not know anything about the criminal case, but confirmed that the state-owned company bought out the stakes of private companies. He didn't disclose how much money changed hands.

The Investigative Committee of Russia did not respond to the request about the case.

According to Ilya Shumanov from Transparency International-Russia, many questions remain unanswered.  “If a former top manager of a state company or his relatives are doing business with its contractors or their assets are connected to state company, it raises a lot of questions. It looks like they are using their position and administrative resources for their own benefit”.