In May 2012, Makhonov acquired 50 percent of Nortwest Management. This company was effectively the first ‘Russian doll’ or Matryoshka in what became an extensive offshore network, concealing his other companies.
According to the anti-corruption law, as a government official Makhonov is not permitted to engage in any business activity or possess foreign financial instruments, including shares. However, the law prohibiting foreign assets was enacted in 2013, a year after Makhonov became half-owner of Nortwest Management. Nonetheless, the Mossack Fonseca data shows that Makhonov retained his shares after going to work for the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA). Makhonov joined the MIA in November 2012 as the chief of the Department for Information Technologies, Communication and Information Security. Prior to this, he was in charge of Elektronnaya Moskva, a state-owned company created by Moscow authorities to enlarge the IT and information infrastructure sectors in the city and government. In 2015 Makhonov was promoted by Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin to Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs.
Makhonov effectively serves as the main vetting agent for ministry employees: for instance, he heads the employee certification commission, as well as the commission for compliance with professional performance requirements that oversees the ministry’s employees.
Yet in May 2012, just a few months before joining MIA, Makhonov and his business partner Dmitry Karyakin founded Nortwest Management, a parent company to a complex offshore network that stretches from London to Riga and Moscow.
Through his offshores, Makhonov held shares in London-based Nemo Telecom, managed by his partner Karyakin. Nemo Telecom is behind Nemo TV, an online TV streaming service, which began to grow in 2012 at the same time Makhonov became half-owner of Nortwest Management. Today, Nemo TV is available on Smart TV platforms, as well as Android and iOS devices in 12 countries, with more than 800,000 subscribers. A joint advertising campaign heavily contributed to the fast and successful growth of the project. It was supported by one of the largest home appliances manufacturers, Samsung, who, with the purchase of their Smart TVs, offered a free three-month Nemo TV subscription with 100 channels available to browse. (Nemo TV offers access to more than 170 channels, 5,000 movies, along with archives of past TV programs and world TV show premieres.) Recently, the service became available on LG Smart TVs. Nemo TV’s website says its services are provided by a Latvian subsidiary of the London-based Nemo Telecom, while subscription payments are managed by an outside agent, the Russian company Digital Commerce. Its beneficiary (through one Russian and four offshore companies) is Nortwest Management. Both the Latvian subsidiary of Nemo Telecom, and the Russian company Digital Commerce, also appear to manage subscription and fee payments on the popular online streaming service Amediateka. In an interview with RBK+, one of the founders of Nemo TV, Matvey Otroshenko, stated that Amediateka is built into the Nemo TV platform, which provides exclusive Hollywood films and TV shows.
The Nemo TV platform can also be accessed with Nemo Box HD, a detachable TV device that streams content to any TV. The device is distributed in Russia by N Trading, whose beneficial owner is – Nortwest Management.
Otroshenko estimated in a media interview that Nemo TV attracted US$ 20 million in startup investment. Some of the investors can be tracked in the Mossack Fonseca database. For example, in 2013, the company New Media Platform Management belonging to that same Nortwest Management received a €7 million loan from Corkhill Investments Ltd., another BVI-registered firm. Novaya Gazeta was not able to confirm who owns Corkhill Investments. According to a statement released by Otroshenko, Nemo TV was planning to ask investors for another round of funding – about an additional US$ 30 million last year.
No documents in the Mossack Fonseca database show a change in ownership in Nortwest Management after May 2012 when the company was registered. Mossack Fonseca email records contain a screenshot from the internal database of a registered agent, showing the computer desktop’s date as Aug. 13, 2013. The screenshot reveals a list of directors and shareholders of Nortwest Management Inc. and shows Makhonov as owning half of the company’s shares. At the time Makhonov was already working for the Ministry of Internal Affairs.