On 12 April a source close to Mirax Group made a striking announcement that in the nearest future a subsidiary of the company, the well-knownPotok set up by Sergey Polonsky, might change the owner. The news has been confirmed by Aleksandr Dobrovinsky, a business partner and lawyer of Polonsky. It is known that 90% in Potok will be brought into the ownership of Roman Trotsenko, another business partner of the notorious real estate developer. Following an old habit of his, Trotsenko refrains from making any comments.
A failed spy
During the perestroika, this resourceful young man while being a student of the Institute of Asian and African Studies at Moscow State University was actively selling computers and cigarettes. Later Trotsenko mentioned that he did this because “times change”. At first he was preparing to serve at the well-known First Main Directorate of KGB as the Institute was a traditional source of new personnel for USSR special services. This is where all the rumours about his connections among power ministries employees stem from, regardless of how much Trotsenko denies he has any. In fact, without such connections his further achievements look highly improbable. For instance, the numerous shadow activities of the successful businessman did not lead to any consequences.
In late 1980s Trotsenko was sent to Kazakhstan for on-site training. Almost immediately he became financial director of the Asiya-TV network covering the whole republic. Yet, there are two versions as to the date of this appointment. According to one, Trotsenko got the position notlater than in 1987, the other claims at least 1990. It is a fact that the network was established in 1989-90. Up until 1990 it had no broadcasting niche.
Looks like Trotsenko managed to get a position in a non-existing company. Moreover, it is a well-known fact that in 1987-89 Trotsenko went for training to the USA and Portugal. Does this make the second version right? Not at all. It is also a fact that in 1989 Trotsenko became chairman of the board of trustees at the international bank Al Baraka Kazakhstan, having left his previous position. It is not clear why he would want to keep a year and a half of his life out of sight, but the so-to-say missing years match the period of his serving at the bank, directly after which in 1991 Trotsenko became a co-founder and financial director of an international medical exchange. Is it just a coincidence that Trotsenko suddenly had the money to make such a bold move? His further business activities rather prompt that it was no coincidence.
Trotsenko's guide to loaning money
After a little while of being part of the newly born Russian exchange market of the early 1990s that emerged literally out of the blue, Trotsenko founded a company with an unpretentious name Financy i kredit that was engaged in activities within the popular business sphere of the time. Trotsenko prefers to keep this part of his biography away from the public eye as well. Part of the reason for this is that in 1993 while he was heading the company he was a witness in three criminal cases over theft with the help of forged payment advice notes.
Finally, in 1994 he was appointed charman of the board of trustees in the newly established Platinum-bank. Methods he employed become clear if you look at a story that unfolded in 1996.
That year Platinum-bank took out loans from Intellekt-bank and Alta-bank amounting to 2 billion dollars. It is easy to guess that it was Trotsenko who mediated for the loan. He presented his fellow bankers a balance sheet report of Platinum-bank for February and March 1996 where he overstate the final figures by 8 billion rubles. The loan issued by the two banks never made it to the Platinum-bank. Both Trotsenko and the money stayed in Moscow.
However, the victimized bank was in no rush to uncover Trotsenko's activities. On the contrary, all his colleagues took his side. According to the new board of trustees chairman, Roman Trotsenko was a decent man and all that happened was just dirty tricks of the loan givers to whomPlatimun-bank defaulted on the loan obligations. Later when Trotsenko was reminded of this story once in a while, he only showed a bit of annoyance and kept silent. According to him, the hired managers set him up, and mass media “distorted the whole thing as usual”. This is how the banker paid back to his former colleagues for the good they did for him.
Nevertheless, in October 1996 Trotsenko was arrested and put behind bars up until the end of investigative proceedings. It is peculiar that his naive colleagues would bring him warm clothes and food. Leftenant Yuri Stenin was even awarded a badge and was promoted for having arrested Trotsenko. Meanwhile, the hunter and his prey were getting along and became friends.
Elegant scam with a disturbing finale
The bank that Trotsenko had been managing soon went bankrupt and its money vanished. Trotsenko was released since the loaners dropped their claims to the no longer existing Platinum-bank. Yet, it was not over for the businessman. Intellekt and Alta turned a blind eye to this story quite easily, but the main loan provider of Platinum-bank, Novy Moskovsky bank, lost 20 billion rubles because of the bankruptcy and was ready to wage war. NMB did understand who was behind the loan scams and targetted Trotsenko.
Meanwhile Roman Trotsenko found new grounds for shady business when he headed bank Voskhod, which just like Financy i kredit has never been officially recorded as part of Trotsenko's working places. Probably it is due to the fact that in late 1990s he was under investigation for alleged illegal transit of 200 million dollars abroad.
NMB decided to harm Trotsenko's plans and tried to interfere into acquisition of shares in Southern cargo port in Moscow he was aiming to carry out. The bank was anxious because Trotsenko claimed he could not return the money due to lack of financial capacity. But he did have the money to buy the shares, thought the bankers, thus he should have the capacity all right.
Novy Moskovsky bank failed to take into account that Trotsenko had long had relevant protection His buddy Yuri Stenin made an agreement with Sergey Ivanov, a friend of his who worked at the anti-corruption 6th department of Regional Administration for combating organized crime, and on 9 January 1998 the department employees along with SOBR special police conducted a raid search at the NMB office allegedly connected to the bank employees being involved in theft of loan money, initially formed by NMB funds, Tatenergo. Immidiately after that NMB preferred to drop any demands it had for Trotsenko to respond to.
In acknowledgement of this favour, Trotsenko hired Strelets private security agency owned by Stenin to help him rid of smaller rivals at the cargo port. As for Ivanov, they simply ditched him and, without the support on the NMB case, he was fired. A little later special police conducted searches at Strelets and Trotsenko broke off his ties with Stenin. Roman Trotsenko had a surprisingly well-regulated skill to leave people behind.
Trotsenko's profit rose considerably after he acquired the cargo port. He still is reluctant to give any comments concerning the peanut price he paid for the thing. For instance, the first 30% of the shares cost him as little as 300 000 dollars.
Soon restructuring of the port, which Trotsenko bought on the money he “loaned” from the banks, drew attention of the Federal Transport Service and Trotsenko became head of Moscow inland navigation division. In 2001, with full consent of the authorities, he bought out all shares of the division and his position grew to be more than well-established. Starting at that moment Trotsenko's business empire started to expand at high speed.
He emerged at the real estate development market, as well as at real estate retail one and that of construction materials manufacturing. A number of companies was working for him in this sphere. Some of them were established by Trotsenko, others bought out like concrete goods plant ZHBI no. 6. His manner of doing business was considered aggressive. At that time it meant that the businessman resorted to dirty tricks as well. He even had a raider team of his own, for tasks that needed careful implementation.
Still, when he needed to do something really big, Trotsenko preferred to join forces with other front line businessmen. The most notorious major raider take over was that of Research Institute for elastomers in 2004.
Trotsenko chose an experienced accomplice, Vladimir Palikhata. At first Sfera company, headed by Palikhata, occupied the building hosting the research centre and then it took over control of the entity. In order to legilize their status, the raiders forged share sale agreement. After that there was a number of lawsuits and litigations all resulting in favour of Sfera which pre-paid the court rulings to ensure the favourable outcome. Then all happened in accordance with the common scenario: the entity was reregistered in a different city (Novosibirsk) and sold to the commissioner of the take over, e.i. to Moscow inland navigation division.
When Sergey Reznichenko, the actual owner of the research institute, decided to appeal to court, he faced a criminal case initiated against him to force him drop claims. Meanwhile, investigator who was looking closely into the activities of the raiders died under strange circumstances. It was getting really dangerous and Trotsenko, following an old habit of his, ridded of the raider team to brake off any connections.
In 2007 Trotsenko united all of his companies into AEON group with a joint turnover of 1.2 billion dollars. AEON includes Russia-Holland companyTimmerman Yachts manufacturing yachts of premium class. Trotsenko loved yachting since he was a child and when he fulfilled his most ambitios plans in this area, in 2009 he was invited by Igor Sechin to head state building holding company OSK (United Shipbuilding Corporation).
With protection from the most powerful but one person in the country, Trotsenko resorted to even more bold methods. In 2010 his wife Sofia organized First All-Russia contest of industrial design in shipbuilding exuberantly titled “Building the fleet of a great country”. It is clear that the main participant of the contest was Trotsenko's entity, Winzavod Moscow Centre for Modern Art headed by Sofia Trotsenko. The contest was organized on the federal funds.
Trawler construction programme won by Winzavod in the framework of the contest proved a complete failure. Workers at state-own shipbuilding yard received no pay. The usual question following the tracks of Trotsenko arose: where did the money go?
Unfortunatelly for Trotsenko, the same question worried investigators at the Prosecutor General's office who rushed to conduct probes and audits at OSK. Igor Sechin was informed about the activities of the corporation president and Trotsenko could face imprisonment under art. 201 of the RF Criminal Code for abuse of office. In particular, investigators found out that a total of 4 billion rubles owned by OSK was deposited to private banks for the sake of interest payments.
The scandal was about to burst out, but finally it was blanketed, not without efforts. However, there was no stopping Trotsenko at that point. In 2011 OSK demanded that Ministry of Defence increased pay for government contracts. Trotsenko, the notorious raider, must have confused having private business with heading a state-own company jeopardised defensive capacity of the country pursuing his own financial interests.Igor Sechin had to intervene.
Finally, on 1 July 2012 Roman Trotsenko left OSK. Immediately he became advisor to Igor Sechin who was heading Rosneft.
State employed raider
While working for the OSK Trotsenko made yet one more risky move. He lent money to the Mirax group. One could see just how risky it was from the tensity of relations between Igor Sechin and Arkady Drorkovich, Sergey Polonsky's benefactor.
Still, Trotsenko felt free to transfer a total of 200 million dollars of the state funds to his business partner and friend Polonsky. Using federal budget money as if it was his own, the efficient shipbuilding manager created a certain dependence for himself on the success of Mirax group in its struggle to pay off its debts.
However, Trotsenko was not so foolish when he lent such a significant sum of state funds to a company on the verge of bankruptcy. All he did was part of a brilliant and easy to carry out scam of trasferring the money to his private accounts. In April 2011 it became known that OSK is holding negotiations with Mirax concerning restructuring of the debt. The plan was to convert part of the debt into Mirax shares and bring them into the ownership of… AEON.
Then, the events came thick and fast. In July 2012 Sergey Polonsky who owns 75% in Potok (former Mirax) announced that he owns the entire company. Minority owners including Trotsenko opposed the businessman. Most likely this was exactly the moment when Trotsenko developed a plan to take over Polonsky's business.
His first move was to rid of another Mirax minority shareholder and long-time business partner of Polonsky, Maksim Temnikov, who had been Polonsky’s business partner ever since he started his business many years ago. When Temnikov left his position as executive manager several days after the notorious announcement by Polonsky, Trotsenko had to share control over Mirax with Vladimir Golubev, co-owner of Adamantgroup of companies.
In October 2012 when Potok was headed by Aleksey Alyakin, it looked like the shareholders found common ground. Alyakin signed preliminary agreements with all shareholders on buying out their shares in former Mirax. Then, according to Polonsky, he subtracted part of the assents in his favour. In February 2013 while in prison in Cambodia Polonsky announces that Alyakin is fired. Aleksandr Dobrovinsky became the new chairman in Potok. On 12 April 2013 it was announced that Dobrovinsky and Trotsenko are aiming to buy out the remaining part of Polonsky's business from the owner.
As usual, raiders do not plan to pay off the debts of the company itself. And apart from major construction market participants, other people whose lives are jeopardised are simple workers, builders and, first of all, hoodwiked investors who participated financially in the construction ofKutuzovskaya Mile residential complex. Polonsky ows them about 5.7 billion rubles. It is clear that Polonsky, who lost control over the situation, by no means could return such a large sum to the investors. However, there is even less hope that it will happen after Trotsenko gains control over Mirax.