Police reportedly raid the home and offices of Russia's richest family (though they deny it)
Russian police have reportedly raided the home and several businesses of Ingush billionaire Mikhail Gutseriyev. The Telegram channel Mash was the first news outlet to report the searches, though Gutseriyev later denied the information in an interview with the television station REN-TV, calling the news a defamation attempt.
A source told the newspaper Vedomosti that the searches are part of a criminal case involving oil smuggled into Europe by a company that belongs to Gutseriyev’s son. The same source says the raids involved police officers and agents from Russia’s Federal Security Service and Federal Customs Service, which filed the initial claim that launched the criminal investigation. A source in the Moscow police department has confirmed this information to the news website RBC.
Another source told the newspaper Kommersant, meanwhile, that the searches are part of an investigation into oil shipments to Turkey worth 2 billion rubles ($32 million) that bypassed customs duties. The authorities allegedly opened the criminal case after learning that the oil sent to Turkey could find its way to Ukraine.
According to the Telegram channel Baza, officials also searched the offices of a firm called “ForteInvent,” which belongs to Mikhail Gutseriyev’s son, Said. An employee at the company told the website Open Media, however, that he arrived at work around 10 a.m. and saw no police activity. A Meduza correspondent visited the business center that houses ForteInvent and saw nothing unusual, though he didn’t actually enter its office.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday that he was unaware of any police searches at Mikhail Gutseriyev’s businesses.
Both Mikhail Gutseriyev and spokespeople for his multisectoral conglomerate “SAFMAR” deny the reports about police raids, maintaining that Russian law-enforcement agencies have made no claims against them.
Mikhail Gutseriyev is the main shareholder of the Industrial and Financial Group “SAFMAR.” This August, for the fifth year in a row, the magazine Forbes named the Gutseriyevs the richest family in Russia with a combined wealth $5.65 billion. Mikhail Gutseriyev is reportedly worth $3.7 billion all by himself.
In October, Gutseriyev filed defamation charges against Forbes after the magazine claimed in a report that the Gutseriev family’s businesses owed nearly 3 trillion rubles ($48 billion) in debts. Two weeks after the article was published, anonymous Telegram channels claimed that police had raided Forbes’s office, which the magazine denied. On December 17 (a day before the apparent police raids on Gutseriev and his son’s business), Gutseriyev settled out of court with Forbes.