Russian oligarch Fridman sold assets in Poland and Denmark after being sanctioned, investigators find

20 December 2022, 05:16 PM
Mikhail Fridman (Photo:NV)

Mikhail Fridman (Photo:NV)

Russian oligarch Mikhail Fridman was able to dispose of his assets in Poland and Denmark even after being sanctioned, an investigation by the U.S.-funded Radio Liberty’s Skhemy (‘Schemes’) project revealed on Dec. 15.

Skhemy journalists were able to discover that Fridman was able to divest himself of assets in Poland (food manufacturing) and Denmark (IT).

The owner of both these businesses was the Maltese company PHM Investments Europe Limited, Skhemy writes – the ultimate beneficiary of which is Mikhail Fridman (35.5%) and fellow oligarch Andrey Kosogov (44.3%). In total, four businesses were registered to this company.

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An audit report of the Maltese company revealed that after the application of sanctions against him, Fridman lost two of the four businesses: PHM Danish Topco ApS, the IT company, and PHM SF Dutch Topco BV, the food manufacturer.

According to Skhemy, the sale of the IT company by the Russian oligarch was not publicized – though the Polish food manufacturing concern was a high-profile case.

In the summer of 2022, Polish employees of the ready-to-eat food company MAGA FOODS began to protest after the company was added to the country's sanctions list in April. According to Polish authorities, the indirect owners of the concern were sanctioned oligarchs Fredman (37.86%) and Petr Aven (12.13%). The employees were reportedly unaware of this, with the president of the board of MAGA FOODS, Piotr Pawinski, claiming that they are "in no way connected with Russian capital".

However, Skhemy investigators established that until March 31, MAGA FOODS shares were held by the Fridmfan-linked Such company PHM SF Dutch Topco BV. On March 31, the oligarchs managed to sell their shares to another company  – SIGNATURE FOODS GROUP BV, which was registered three days before with a capital of €1,000, no employees, and a single shareholder.

According to the documents published by the Polish government, the newly established Dutch company, SIGNATURE FOODS GROUP BV, took a loan to buy MAGA FOODS shares from another company — Pamplona Capital Management, which is the owner of Pamplona Capital Partners V.LP, indirectly co-owned through LetterOne Investment Holding. LetterOne was established in 2013 by Fridman and Aven. With these sales, Fridman was able to continue benefiting from MAGA FOODS, despite the supposed sale. As a result, Poland’s Interior Ministry rejected MAGA FOODS’ appeal to remove it from the sanctions list.

Two months after the rejection of the appeal, the new owner of SIGNATURE FOODS GROUP BV began liquidating the company.

"The shareholder launched the liquidation procedure precisely in order to erase any connection with the Russian oligarch," said Nataliia Sichevliuk, legal advisor of Transparency International Ukraine.

“Because when a company is liquidated, its shares are sold off.”

According to her, all the employees of MAGA FOODS bought the company's shares in order to become the new owners of the company – after which the Polish authorities removed the company from the sanctions list.

In early December, the National Crime Agency of the United Kingdom arrested Fridman on charges of money laundering, though he was later released on bail.

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