MOSCOW, July 31 - RAPSI. A Moscow court ordered Alexander Popov, the chairman of the board of Togliattikhimbank, to be held in pre-trial detention until November 1, Mikhail Tumanov, a senior investigator of major cases under the chairman of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, told RAPSI.

Popov was arrested on May 31 at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport as he was about to board a flight to Tbilisi. 

He is suspected of being involved in the creation of an organized criminal group, fraud and non-payment of 320 million rubles (about $5 million) in taxes. 

Other defendants included co-owners of the Togliattiazot chemical plant Vladimir and Sergey Makhlai, former CEO of Togliattiazot Evgeny Korolev, owner of Ameropa AG Andreas Zivy, Nitrochem Distribution AG director Beat Ruprecht. 

US citizen Sergey Makhlai is the sole owner of 100% of the shares of Togliattikhimbank.

The resolution of Russia’s Investigative Committee reads that members of the criminal group led by Vladimir Makhlai in 2005-2013 committed serious crimes in the sphere of economic activity against the state, the property of Togliattiazot, and a number of other legal entities and individuals. 

Investigators claim that members of the group actively engaged employees of the companies under their control in criminal activity, as well as used shell companies established in offshore jurisdictions in order to commit and conceal the crimes. 

in the meantime, the Komsomolsky District Court of Togliatti on July 5 sentenced Vladimir and Sergey Makhlai, Korolev, Zivy and Ruprecht to in absentia to jail in a criminal case that had been brought in late 2012. 

They were found guilty of committing a large-scale fraud (part 4 of article 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation), which caused damage to Togliattiazot and its shareholders exceeding 85 billion rubles. 

The prosecutors asserted during the proceedings that in 2008-2011 a scheme was put in place at the Togliattiazot that allowed to sell ammonia and urea at a discounted price to Nitrochem Distribution and Ameropa owned by Andreas Zivy and affiliated with majority shareholders of the plant.   

Materials brought to light by prosecutors during the proceedings at the Komsomolsky District Court will have a significant meaning in the case against the alleged members of the criminal group.

Notably, it was revealed that it was Popov who was in charge of the implementation of the illegal financial schemes, which allowed to transfer funds of Togliattiazot to foreign accounts of offshore companies. 

According to prosecutors, Popov run a “slush fund”, and the money from this fund after being laundered was used for various purposes, including corruption. 

Popov helped members of the organized group to commit crimes and conceal them, prosecutors allege.

Moreover, it was also revealed that it was Popov who was in charge of the illegal assets withdrawal scheme at Togliattiazot. 

Several hundred transactions authorized by Popov were carried out in 2005-2010. As a result, the plant lost its N7 ammonia unit, which was transferred to Tomet LLC controlled by Andreas Zivy. 

The actual market value of the unit was 10 billion rubles while Tomet got it for just 100 million rubles. 

In 2010, methanol production unit with a capacity of 450 thousand tons per year owned by Togliattiazot was illegally sold with a land plot to Tomet for 132 million rubles. The damage to the Togliattiazot from this transaction exceeded 200 million rubles.

Finally, prosecutors claim that Popov participated in 2008 in a financial scheme that allowed the organized criminal group to underpay 320 million rubles in taxes. Two companies controlled by the defendants sold their stakes in Togliattiazot to their accomplices at a price that had been artificially lowered hundred times.

When Popov appeared in a Moscow court the prosecutor said that he had obtained a passport of the Dominican Republic, possessed considerable financial resources, enjoyed financial support from the wanted members of the criminal group and intended to flee.

While in custody, Popov actively cooperated with the investigation and provided evidence concerning the structure of the criminal group and activities of its members.