WANTED BY INTERPOL, COVERED BY RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT BECAUSE OF HIS LINKS WITH PUTIN
On of the leaders of Tambovskaya criminal group.
Short description: with other leaders of Tambovsakya criminal group and corrupted government officials (Putin and others) they got control over fuel monopoly in St. Peterburg. Apart from this they did money laundering, drug trafficing (specially colombian cocaine) and other stuff.
“My chef Ilya Ilyich Traber [aka Antiquar] received visitors, his friends, comrades, business people in his antique shop. Vladimir Putin was often came there, he was visiting my boss. In principle, he then [in the early 1990s] was nobody, just a grey mouse. And he came to my boss for advice”
(memoirs of Sergey Kosyrev, a former bodyguard of Traber, September 2013).
As The Insider found out, money made by Russian businessmen with gang affiliations and Kremlin connections in Russian ports are still being laundered in Monaco and Liechtenstein – after being exposed in corruption scandals, the old “laundries” simply changed their company names and management. The money in question belongs to the Tambovskaya gang and criminal bosses Ilya Traber and Sergei Vasilyev – those in control of Petersburg Oil Terminal, which transships oil products of Kirishi Oil Refinery overseas. Our sources claim that both have the president’s special trust and have been welcome guests at his birthday parties. Meanwhile, straw men in Monaco and Liechtenstein keep up fruitful cooperation with companies owned by Putin’s friends, including Gennady Timchenko and Vladimir Yakunin. Even such influential organizations as the Bank of New York are known to have been part of the money laundering schemes. Loud corruption scandals were just a minor nuisance for those in the spotlight: Traber was put on the Interpol’s wanted list after Spain accused him of participation in an organized crime group (in spite of multiple protests lodged to the Spanish authorities by the Russian Prosecutor General), while Sergei Vasilyev keeps visiting European states with an Italian visa, according to our source.
On February 12, 1999, the Monegasque police received a radiogram from the National Central Bureau of Interpol, Russia. The Russians requested assistance in regards to a criminal case of money laundering, asking to identify two Monaco-based telephone numbers. As it turned out, the numbers belonged to a company called Sotrama, and the police decided to take a closer look into the company’s de-facto owners.
On May 19, 2000, the government of Monaco passed Resolution 00-62, barring entry into the principality to Dmitry Skigin, de-facto managing director of Sotrama. According to the Monegasque police, Dmitry Skigin, co-owner of Petersburg Oil Terminal and OBIP, retained close contact with Ilya Traber, who is known for his affiliation with the Tambovskaya gang.
Traber and Skigin have indeed worked in close cooperation: Skigin used to control Petersburg Oil Terminal (PNT), while Ilya Traber headed it in 1996 (the current head of PNT is Dmitry Skigin’s son, Mikhail Skigin, whereas its formal ownership is distributed among several Cypriot offshore companies). Moreover, Ilya Traber sometimes paid Dmitry Skigin personal visits at his place of residence at the French Riviera, which was documented by the Monegasque police on February 4, 2000 (the police reports on the inspection of Sotrama are at our disposal). The police drew up a number of reports on the alleged affiliation of Sotrama with “organized crime groups from the CIS countries.” In the meantime, French media shed light on Ilya Traber’s luxurious villa at the French Riviera.
In 2002, Crown Prince Albert (the current Prince of Monaco) hired Robert Eringer, an American journalist, who undertook to investigate the activities of foreign organized crime groups in the country. His official capacity remains unclear; according to Eringer’s own words, he was head of the Monegasque intelligence, whereas Prince Albert denied the very existence of such a service in the principality and claimed that Eringer had been looking into the “rumors” he caught wind of “at his own discretion.” Either way, there are documents confirming that Eringer received regular wages from the Prince’s palace, while the documents and evidence he released are noteworthy, with the information being backed by a number of other sources.
Eringer stated that he had been studying the Sotrama oil-trading company since 2005, driven by his suspicion that the company acted in the interests of both the organized crime groups and Vladimir Putin personally.
Generally, money laundering through export of natural resources is not unheard of: time and again, Russian gangs try to get hold of legitimate European enterprises to play on the difference between domestic and export prices or launder money through actual or fake shipments during multiple resale transactions. For instance, such was the case of the Izmailovskaya organized crime group (with Oleg Deripaska and Iskander Makhmudov as suspects, the case was transferred to Russia for investigation in 2011 and eventually closed in Spain in 2016). A Swiss intelligence report mentions that crime boss Semion Mogilevich was involved in the Russian natural gas export, while gangster Zakhariy Kalashov (also known as Shakro Molodoy – “Young Shakro”) acted on behalf of Lukoil in Spain, to be subsequently convicted both in Spain and in Russia.
The search of information on Sotrama became easier after Dmitry Skigin’s death in Nice in 2003, when his widow hired Spanish lawyer Pablo Sebastian to prove her entitlement to the property her deceased husband had left behind in a number of countries.
Dmitry Skigin’s surviving divorced spouse was not the only contender for his inheritance. In 2014, Maxim Freidzon, Skigin’s former business associate, filed a lawsuit to the American court against such companies as Gazprom, Lukoil, Gazprom Neft, and Gazprom-Aero under the U. S. Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). Freidzon claimed that he and Skigin had co-founded a company named Sovex, which engaged in jet fuel deliveries; 34 percent of its shares belonged to Horizon International Trading, represented by Graham Smith. Horizon International Trading, in its turn, was acquired by the aforementioned Sotrama. In 1997, crime boss Sergei Vasilyev, who answered to Vladimir Kumarin (head of the Tambovskaya gang), “ordered Traber to withdraw Sovex’ incorporation documents and corporate stamps” and to alter the list of founders. According to Freidzon, the incorporation documents were falsified, and the Tambovskaya crime group gained control over the company. Today, equal parts of its shares belong to Lukoil and Gazprom – two of the companies sued by Freidzon in the USA.
“Vasilyev and Kumarin used Sovex not only for tax evasion purposes but also for the laundering of their ‘dirty’ money through Horizon International in Liechtenstein and the Bank of New York. The scheme was realized by Graham Smith and Dmitry Skigin,” says Freidzon in his claim.
Alexei Miller, a former official of Vladimir Putin’s Committee for External Relations, was in charge of direct “investments in the port” through Liechtenstein. In 1998–1999, he occupied the position of director for development and investment in the Sea Port of St. Petersburg at OBIP CJSC.
“Alexei Miller, director for development at OBIP, worked in close contact with Graham Smith. After the main adversary of OBIP was assassinated [The Insider’s note: Mikhail Manevich], the company secured a contract with the city administration for the control over the Sea Port of St. Petersburg (Traber and Skigin’s enterprise),” according to Maxim Frteidzon’s claim in the American court.
The credibility of Freidzon’s claim is confirmed by a number of other records. The Sovex company mentioned in a Spanish criminal case #321/2006 against Gennady Petrov’s gang (covered in detail by The Insider). Thus, according to the case materials, on June 22, 2004, QUICK AIR JET CHARTER GMBH invoiced Sovex for a charter flight from St. Petersburg to Palma de Mallorca for 22,500 euros. At the time, the company was co-owned by Lukoil and Gazprom in equal shares. However, the invoice was settled by a different company, Vesper Finance Corporation. The corporation wired 5 million euros to yet another defendant of the criminal case, lawyer Juan Untoria Agustín, who invested the amount in Spain on behalf of Gennady Petrov. In addition, Vesper Finance Corporation served as an intermediary for the transfer of 600,000 euros, wired from Switzerland by Pavel Kudryashov of the Tambovsko-Malyshevskaya gang. In other words, for some reason, a charter flight invoice to Sovex was settled by a different company with connections to the Tambovsko-Malyshevskaya gang, which was reflected in the criminal case.
Ilya Traber, who was mentioned in the Monegasque police files and Freidzon’s claim, resided in Switzerland for a long time, litigating against the Bilan magazine, which had tried to include him in the list of the wealthiest local residents of Russian origin. In Russia, Traber owns an entire business empire, which has been covered in detail in a recent documentary by the Dozhd independent channel. He co-owns some of the assets with Putin’s friends. It seems unlikely that such an influential businessman should have any criminal connections, all the more so because he consistently sues any media that make insinuations to that effect.
However, Ilya Traber is also a defendant in Spanish case #321/2006, which landed his name on an international wanted list. The recordings of Petrov’s phone calls obtained by The Insider have been divided into several categories, and conversations with Traber are classified as “related to illegal activities.” On September 21, 2007, Petrov called his Greek lawyer (he had obtained a Greek passport, like Traber) to discuss the necessity of erasing certain data from the country’s digital database because the individual he had commissioned for the task had cheated on both Petrov and Traber. At 10:57 a.m. on September 23, 2007, Petrov makes a personal call to Traber and informs him of “the lawyers and the consul’s” visit scheduled for September 25. Petrov refers to a certain Aguis who needs to be punished through his “system,” and then, if the problem is not resolved, so much the worse for him. Ilya undertakes to go to Greece and speak to this man to get him to meet Petrov, asking whether he should “take a hard line” in his persuasion.
There are some other notable calls too. In July 2007, Traber mentioned to Petrov that he wanted to get in touch with Vladislav Reznik (State Duma Deputy Vladislav Reznik is also a defendant in the Spanish case against Petrov’s gang, as we have previously revealed). On October 1, 2007, Petrov called his accomplice Leonid Khristoforov and said he was going to meet Traber that day. In the same conversation, he mentioned “the evidence they have against Vasilyev.” On April 18, 2008, Petrov complained to Traber that he had not been able to get through to Ilya for as long as two days, to which Traber replied that he had been in Paris, and the French “wiretap everyone,” looking for enemies.
PETROV EXPLAINS THAT “THE VASILYEV BROTHERS ARE VERY POWERFUL AND HAVE A LOT OF CONNECTIONS; WE HAVE TO BE CAREFUL AROUND THEM BECAUSE, AS SOON AS THEY TAKE INTEREST IN A CERTAIN BUSINESS, THERE IS NO GETTING AWAY FROM THEM”
The recording made on August 16, 2007, is a conversation with a certain Eduard Averbakh, who calls to complain about “the problems Igor has at his shop because of the Vasilyev brothers,” to which Petrov explains that “the Vasiliyev brothers [The Insider’s note: Sergei, Boris, and Alexander] are very powerful and have a lot of connections; we have to be careful around them because, as soon as they take interest in a certain business, there is no getting away from them.” Petrov offers to speak to them, also revealing that the eldest (Sergei) is a crime boss who even participated in a shoot-out with “a neighbor.” Apparently, the neighbor in question is Petrov’s former neighbor in the apartment block at 35 Tavricheskaya Street (St. Petersburg), who was accused of Sergei Vasilyev’s attempted murder in the fall of 2005. The crime boss survived but was badly wounded.
At 3:25 p.m. on August 26, 2007, Petrov notifies Leonid Khristoforov, referring to an Igor [The Insider’s note: most likely, Igor Sobolevsky, future deputy of Alexander Bastrykin, head of the Investigative Committee, and part of Petrov’s contact network, according to the investigation], that Kumarin has been apprehended “at the czar’s order.” The investigation believes that “the czar” in these conversations is a codified reference to Vladimir Putin. What is more, in an exchange from December 11, 2007, Petrov and an Andrei “Behemoth” Nikonov refer to Vladimir Putin as “our guy.”
The international order for Traber’s arrest signed by Spanish judge Jose de la Mata states that Traber “is integrated in an organized crime group which has been actively operating in Spain since 1996.” Furthermore, as The Insider learned, a pre-investigation check was carried out a few years ago in Switzerland, at Traber’s place of permanent residence (the man had already acquired Greek citizenship by then). However, the case was not initiated. As the Swiss prosecutor general stated to The Insider, Ilya Traber is not currently being prosecuted in the country.
St. Petersburg gangsters take over Sakhalin: Allegations of illegal port takeover
Not long ago, a group of investors from St. Petersburg, headed by Skigin Jr., made their way to Sakhalin to take over the Poronaysk Port – which did not go smoothly.
In June 2015, Alexei Fert, who introduced himself as the new director, was denied access to his office by the port security guards. Presenting himself to the media as the chairman of the board of directors of the port, Roman Belousov declared that the former top management had to be replaced with Alexei Fert due to their “low efficiency, a lack of financial results, permanent losses, ongoing conflicts with all contractors, and a lack of development prospects for the port.”
Effectively, a network of companies based in Cyprus and the British Isles gained control over the port because of an outstanding debt, which had been “in fact created by these companies,” according to its former owners. The person behind the scheme is none other than Mikhail Skigin. This information was disclosed to RBC by Mikhail Belov, head of the legal team of Petersburg Oil Terminal and one of the new Poronaysk Port investors. “Mikhail Skigin makes a lot of investments in Russia, and the port is one of his projects. I wouldn’t call it the most successful one,” Mikhail Belov said to RBC. Alexander Radomsky, the Mayor of Poronaysk, was happy that the takeover of the port by the new investors in 2015 “did not involve any shooting.”
Sergei Vasilyev, head of Tambovskaya gang: How to manage a port with a primary school education
As Maxim Freidzon revealed in his interview to The Insider, in March 2015, “Mikhail Skigin acted as a legal representative of his ‘big brothers’ – Ilya Traber and Sergei Vasilyev.” Here is what another acquaintance of Vasilyev’s mentioned to The Insider in confidence:
“Vasilyev would sometimes say in a very heartfelt manner: ‘The head of the department in the port (The Sea Port of St. Petersburg) has a doctor’s degree in Economics. He comes up to me with a paper, saying, ‘Sergei Vasilievich, this subparagraph needs amendment.’ I look at this paper with my three classes of primary school – and I can’t understand s***. So I look at him, knit my brow, make a clever face and say, ‘You know, this matter requires careful consideration.’ I met Freidzon with Skigin because they spent all their time with Vasilyev. Whenever Skigin came to St. Petersburg from Monaco, he did not leave Sergei’s side (at a luxury suite in Belmond Grand Hotel Europe), and Freidzon sometimes trailed along. When Vasilyev was shot [The Insider’s note: former leader of the Tambovskaya gang, Vladimir Kumarin, was later convicted for his assassination attempt], Traber and I visited him at the hospital.
Besides, according to Vasilyev’s acquaintance, the crime boss has lately called Freidzon “a fool who would not last long.” Maxim Freidzon has reported being threatened on Facebook; his claim in the American court also contains information about anonymous calls with threats.
According to two of our sources, de-facto co-owners of Petersburg Oil Terminal, Ilya Traber, and Sergei Vasilyev, have attended Putin’s birthday parties. They visited at least two such parties, in 2004 and 2016, and received a warm welcome there. No other crime bosses have been honored this way: thus, Petrov was not even there, according to a source who witnessed the entire celebration.
Today, Ilya Traber is on an international wanted list, where Spain put him in 2016, states investigative prosecutor José Grinda of the Special Public Prosecutor’s Office against Corruption and Organized Crime. In the meantime, Russian prosecutors have tried making direct reports about “the violation of Traber’s rights,” taking on the role of Traber’s defense attorneys, whereupon the Spanish side lodged a formal protest.
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