Who brought the basket? Meduza tracks down the impressive Rosneft figure who apparently packed Alexey Ulyukayev's 2-million-dollar bribe
In a transcript of a conversation between Rosneft head Igor Sechin and then Economic Development Minister Alexey Ulyukayev, read out this week at the latter’s trial, there are several mentions of a Rosneft employee named Shokina. This was the woman tasked with bringing Ulyukayev a “basket” that he says he thought contained sausages. In fact, the bags he accepted from Rosneft concealed a $2-million bribe. The employee in question appears to be Olga Shokina, who’s worked at Rosneft since 2014. Meduza special correspondent Ivan Golunov learned more about her history, discovering that she spent years managing a holding company owned by “the Kremlin’s favorite chef,” Evgeny Prigozhin, and even received a medal “for merit to the Fatherland” directly from Vladimir Putin.
“Tell Shokina to bring the basket to [office] 206, and to prepare some tea. Yes everything is great. Listen, you don’t have a jacket?”
This is what Igor Sechin says to Alexey Ulyukayev at the start of a transcript read out in the latter’s criminal trial this week. Immediately after this friendly chat, federal agents detained Ulyukayev on charges of soliciting a massive bribe from Rosneft in exchange for facilitating its purchase of shares in Bashneft. (The transcripts were presented in court on September 6 and published by the website Mediazona.) Shokina’s name comes up again later in the transcripts, identifying her as the person responsible for preparing the sausage basket “From Ivanych” for Ulyukayev.
Thirty-five years old, Olga Shokina is a deputy managing director at Rosneft. In March 2017, a few months after Ulyukayev’s arrest, Shokina’s name appeared on a list of Rosneft employees whom Vladimir Putin awarded state medals “for merit to the Fatherland” for their work “developing the country’s economy,” “strengthening Russia’s position in the global oil and gas industry,” and for “successful measures to improve Russia’s investment climate.” (The mass awards to Rosneft staff could be connected to the sale of 20 percent of the company to a foreign consortium.)
Shokina has worked at Rosneft since 2014. A source familiar with the company’s organizational structure told Meduza that Shokina oversees service work for Rosneft’s top officials, as well as issues related to air travel, real estate, and corporate catering. Since 2015, she’s managed “RN-Vlakra” and “Vector Development” — two subsidiaries that own Rosneft property in Moscow.
Before coming to Rosneft, Shokina was the general director of the “Concord” holding company, owned by St. Petersburg restaurateur Evgeny Prigozhin. Concord manages cafeterias at Russia’s House of the Government in Moscow, which contains the primary offices of the Russian government and the prime minister. The same company provides food services to several federal ministries and supplies catering services at Kremlin banquets and other important state events, such as the presidential inauguration and the 2012 APEC summit in Vladivostok. Prigozhin has personally waited on Vladimir Putin and other world leaders at his restaurants in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Shokina joined the Concord empire in 2004, immediately after graduating from the St. Petersburg Academy of Services and Economics, working her way up from ordinary manager to head of the holding company. In 2012, she ranked 10th on a list of Russia’s top inventors and creators compiled by the magazine Profil. On job websites, however, former colleagues have posted not altogether flattering reviews of working on her team, accusing her of “inconsistent” decision making and creating a “disgusting atmosphere” at the company.
In 2009, Shokina managed Concord’s Moscow office, where she was responsible for signing catering and cleaning contracts with major government agencies. According to a former Concord employee, it was Shokina who led the negotiations with Moscow officials that resulted in the company winning a contract to supply the city’s schools with lunch. According to the news agency RBC, Prigozhin’s companies supplied 90 percent of the school lunches in Moscow in 2016 — business worth more than 19 billion rubles ($331.5 million) in government funding. This year, companies tied to Prigozhin will receive an estimated 50 billion rubles ($872 million) from the state to supply school lunches around the country.
In 2015 and 2016, Rosneft employees working on the company’s oil fields wrote that base camps were catered by none other than Concord. According to the news site Fontanka, Prigozhin has also taken an interest in another side of the oil business: earlier this summer, a company called “Evro Polis,” allegedly connected to Prigozhin, reportedly signed an agreement with the Syrian government to provide security at oil facilities reclaimed from terrorists and rebels. For its services, Evro Polis will receive 25 percent of all oil and gas extracted from the recaptured fields.