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From sea to shining sea New investigation ties Putin’s yacht Graceful to the $1.12-billion profit from the resale of Yamal SPG Arctic gas company stock
Independent investigators at the Dossier Center have uncovered a new connection between the construction of “Graceful,” a yacht investigative journalists say belongs to Vladimir Putin, and a Panama-based offshore corporation that made $1.12 billion on the resale of stock from the Yamal SPG gas extraction company a decade ago. The new report sheds light on an important source of Putin’s wealth and the way it’s managed by a complex network of holding companies and offshore corporations. Meduza summarizes the Dossier Center’s key findings.
Yamal SPG is a gas-extraction company whose facilities are based in the South Tambey gas field on the Yamal Peninsula. In the 1990s, the site was developed by a company whose majority owner was the former KGB officer Nikolay Bogachev. Another, minority owner was the gas extraction company Novatek.
In 2005, Gazprombank purchased a 25 percent share in Novatek. A year later, in the wake of a criminal case against the company due to licensing problems, Bogachev sold his own share to an entity owned by the billionaire Alisher Usmanov. By then, Usmanov already had a reputation as someone who frequently assisted in the transfer of assets to Gazprom.
As of 2009, Yamal SPG was jointly owned by Novatek, Gazprombank, and Gennady Timchenko — a personal friend of Putin’s and a co-owner of an oil trading company Gunvor. (Timchenko has known Putin since the 1990s, and is widely considered to be one of Putin’s “wallets.”) The same year, Gazprombank moved to sell its 25 percent share to Peter Kolbin, Putin’s childhood friend.
Kolbin’s father recalled that, when both friends were very young, Putin stood up for Peter in a street fight. Years later, Kolbin would become the nominal owner of numerous assets belonging to Putin. It was Kolbin, for example, who “gave” two apartments to the grandmother of Putin’s apparent romantic partner, Alina Kabaeva. After Kolbin’s death, his son would fill his shoes, acting as a “lender” to Kabaeva’s National Media Group.
In 2011, Novatek and several foreign investors jointly acquired Timchenko’s and Kolbin’s stock in Yamal SPG. The 2009–2011 resale of Yamal stock involved four different Cyprus offshore corporations, all tied to Timchenko and probably to Kolbin as well, based on those companies’ corporate filings. Besides, three out of the four Cyprus offshores involved in the transactions were owned by Panama Mischositos Investment S.A., whose nominal beneficiary was, once again, Peter Kolbin. (Dossier drew these conclusions from documents provided by one of Kolbin’s former employees.)
The final beneficiary of Mischositos appears to have been Putin himself. This conclusion seems reasonable, given that it had been Mischositos that financed the construction of the luxury yacht Graceful, via the Olneil Assets Corp., another offshore entity based in the British Virgin Islands and owned by Mischositos. Olneil acted as the commissioning client when Graceful was being constructed, first at the docks of Sevmash, a state-owned Russian ship builder, and later in Hamburg, where the yacht was towed in 2006, to be finished at the Blohm + Voss dock. When completed, the yacht was valued at $100 million.
Graceful’s current official owner is a company called Argument. Its founders are Alexander Kolpakov (a former officer of Russia’s Secret Service — the Federal Protective Service or FSO — and now head of the Russian President’s Affairs Office) and Oleg Kuznetsov, who was involved, together with Kolpakov, in the construction of “Putin’s palace” outside of Gelendzhik. Argument is presently co-owned by a company called Bereg; and Bereg, in turn, belongs to the Navolution Ventures Ltd., an offshore company involved in transactions with Yamal SPG stock.
There’s good reason to believe that Putin sails on Graceful, since his travel itineraries have often coincided with the movements of the yacht. Shortly before the start of the February invasion of Ukraine, Graceful left the Blohm + Voss dock in Hamburg, and sailed to Kaliningrad. In June 2022, the U.S. added Graceful to its list of sanctioned Russian assets. No later than September, the yacht was officially renamed “Kosatka.”
Yamal SPG is currently co-owned by Novatek (50.1 percent), the French concern Total (20 percent), the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC, 20 percent), and the Chinese state-owned Silk Road Fund (9.9 percent).
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