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"Troubles with the Investigative Committee"

The shares of the Czech J&T Banka are arrested. What relation does it have to the dynasty of Grigory Romanov, member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU)

10:59, 10 июня 2021Алексей Полухин, шеф-редактор

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10:59, 10 июня 2021Алексей Полухин, шеф-редактор

5

Valentina Romanova

Financial and administrative ancestral aristocracy has been formed in our country. Children of the late Soviet bureaucrats enjoyed additional advantages, and the principle of monetizing personal liaisons was effectively used.

For example, about two years ago (see “Novaya” No. 51 of 17 May 2019) we told about one family business — the Bankhouse Erbe financial boutique, which for some time was called the International Bank of the Christ the Savior Cathedral. It was owned by Valentina Romanova, a daughter of Grigory Romanov, the influential secretary of the Leningrad Regional Committee and member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the CPSU, and the wife of Oleg Gaidanov, ex-Deputy Prosecutor General of Russia (he even held office of the Prosecutor General for a short time). Andrey Kulakov, her son, helped in building the business.

Some time ago he moved to Canada. And Valentina Romanova sold Bankhouse Erbe to J&T Bank, an affiliate of the Czech-and-Slovak J&T Banka, which, by the way, for a long time was managed by Vasil Shevts, another descendant of the prominent Communist Party leader (his father-in-law was the head of the Slovak Communist Party).

However, prior to this transaction, Romanova signed an agreement for sale of a majority shareholding in Bankhouse Erbe with a group of Russian investors headed by Pavel Komissarov who paid her $13.7 million. However, she never filed to register the transaction with the Central Bank, and did not return the money.

When our editorial office asked her to comment, Romanova called Novaya Gazeta to remind what position her husband held and implied that we will have “troubles with the Investigative Committee”.

However, it was Ms. Romanova against whom the criminal proceedings were initiated.

The Central Investigation Department (CID) of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of Russia opened a large-scale fraud investigation back in October 2019. Pavel Komissarov, recognized as a victim, confirmed this fact to us. The businessman declined further comments.

Soon after this event, Romanova stopped visiting Moscow and, as far as we know, left abroad. This was prudent and even legal, because at that time the investigation was initiated against unidentified persons.

But last summer, when some pandemic restrictions were lifted, Romanova returned to Moscow. She probably used a Canadian passport, which did not help her to pass unnoticed by the law enforcement bodies. The Romanova's house was searched, and she was brought for the interrogation.

First thing, she reminded the policemen that interrogating her without due regard to her clout is a bad mistake. Then Romanova felt unwell. The ambulance, by the way, took her not to an ordinary city hospital, but to a special clinic under protection of the Federal Guards Service (FGS).

It took Romanova a week not only to improve her health, but also to prepare for the second visit to the investigative body.

This time she arrived with a lawyer and a printout of the testimony on the matter prepared in advance. The hope, probably, was that the investigation would be satisfied with smooth, polished and leaving no doubt wording about the innocence of Ms. Romanova. However, this did not put an end to unpleasant questions. Ms. Romanova asked for a break and during it she left the country. Via the Belarus border, we assume.

This large-scale fraud case was soon transferred to the Central Investigation Department of the Investigative Committee of Russia in Moscow. On 30 December, the last working day of 2020, it was decided to involve Valentina Grigorievna Romanova as a defendant in the criminal case.

Now she does not have a chance to return home without a risk of arrest. Probably, she has no such plans.

We would be willing to listen to the Valentina Romanova's version, but her Russian phone number was not available during the entire time of our work on this material.

The Central Investigation Department of the Investigative Committee of Russia in Moscow did not respond to an official request from the editorial office, as well. As far as we know, Valentina Romanova sends written evidence from abroad to the investigators. However, it contains no answer to the question why the deal with Komissarov was not completed and where is the money paid by him.

The editorial office requested J&T Banka for comments as well but the request remains unanswered. Bankhouse Erbe ceased its existence as a legal entity. The business was liquidated through a merger with the buyer. Nevertheless, there are obvious risks for investors from Eastern Europe. Both reputational and legal.

J&T Banka’s focus is not on ordinary clients. Its market niche is private banking, which is the reason for its ardent desire to acquire Bankhouse Erbe, as it was built using the same model and had relevant clients. But would successful and often non-public persons (among them there should be many officials) be happy to find out that there was an attempt to sell them twice? Who wants, anyway, to keep money in an institution surrounded by scandals?

Moreover, there was a compromising story with J&T Banka in Europe. According to the Czech media, the British police investigate the role of Markus Hasler, a Liechtenstein businessman, and J&T in the alleged bribery of the Prime Minister of the Turks and Caicos Islands. Michael Misik, the Prime Minister of that sovereign state, resigned after a major corruption scandal. According to the investigation, the money from international investors for the purchase of yachts, villas and airplanes were transferred allegedly from accounts in J&T Banka.

J&T Banka HQ. Фото: Zuma / TASS

The investigation has already got curious whether the representatives of J&T Banka were aware that there is another claimer for the asset, who paid $ 13.7 million. If there will be a trial and conviction, the particulars of the deal will seep into the public domain.

In mid-April, on request of the Central Investigation Department to the Investigative Committee of Russia in Moscow, the Basmanny Court froze the shares of the J&T Banka.

The court found that “all negotiations on behalf of J&T Banka with V.G. Romanova and persons on her side regarding the purchase of the bank were made by Andrei Kuznetsov, the chairman of the board, who, prior to the conclusion of the agreement for sale and purchase of Bankhouse Erbe, was reliably aware that 59% of the bank was sold to third party, namely P.N. Komissarov.”

The freeze is until 23 July 2021, as the investigators need to establish the entire circle of persons of interest under the case and their role in the scheme. Judging by the commitment of the law enforcement officers, serving charges on Romanova alone will not put an end of this story.

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