Law enforcement agencies of Great Britain, in cooperation with their colleagues from Spain and France, have initiated the investigation into the activity of the British company Lehram Capital Investments Ltd.
This structure allegedly controlled by notorious Russian “businessmen” Ruslan Rostovtsev and Rustem Magdeev, is suspected of involvement and connection with Russian criminal world, specifically, with the leaders of “Izmaylovo” and “Sevastopol” organised criminal groups. In the context of frayed diplomatic relations, such allegations invariably lead to increased scrutiny. In the case of Lehram it even involves the British registrar — The Companies House of England and Wales — that will conduct its own independent investigation. If the allegations of impropriety are confirmed that would lead to Lehram Capital Investments Ltd being struck off and its directors criminally charged.
Legal costs without support
Yesterday, the “Prime” agency reported that the aforementioned Companies House found that Lehram has violated The Companies Act 2006 in relation to the preparation and reporting of its annual accounts. This is a criminal offense leading to up to two years imprisonment and heavy fines. So at best, Lehram will be fined, at worst — the company will be struck off the register with an initiation of a criminal case against the directors of the company.
Lehram Capital Investments Ltd. has gained notoriety in connection with the Gramoteinskaya coal mine located in the Kemerovo region of the Russian Federation.
It is worth reminding, that on the 15th of October 2013 the public company Evraz, owned by the structures of Roman Abramovich and Alexander Abramov, and traded on the London Stock Exchange under the ticker “EVR”, published a press release. It reported the sale of Gramoteinskaya mine (a part of “OUK Yuzhkuzbassugol”) to the company Lehram Capital Investments Ltd for the price of 10 000 Russian roubles. Or about $160. At the time of the transaction there was no debt on the balance sheet of the mine, while as of June 30, 2013 the total value of the assets of the Gramoteinskaya mine was $13 million. In 2012, the enterprise’s loss before taxation was $19 million. Losses were largely related to the serious accident in the mine and cessation of the production. Later, KPMG estimated the assets at more sobering $8.5 million.
However, in December 2013 it emerged that the new owners, together with the new management under the leadership of one Mr. Igor Rudyuk — a Kazakh citizen — had stopped paying wages. In order to avoid civil unrest administration of the Kemerovo region had to intervene in the situation.
Mr. Aman Tuleyev, who was the head of the region at the time, in his address on the “Russia 1” TV channel openly called the new owners “crooks” who “abandoned the mine with the team”. Igor Rudyuk was subsequently detained by law enforcement agencies for violating immigration laws.
The standoff led to the sale of the “Gramoteinskaya” mine. The new acquirer was a well-known Russian industrialist Alexander Shchukin, who had to immediately invest more than 200 million roubles ($3 million) to cover salary arrears and for immediate safety improvements given widespread theft of the mine’s property during the preceding 3 months. Further investment to the tune of $50 million dollars has enabled an accident-stricken mine to restart the production and ensure continued employment for over 800 employees and their families. Given that Gramoteinskaya mine is the sole employer of note in the small town of Gramoteino (14 thousand people) the continued operation of the mine has wide-reaching political and socio-economic connotations.
Experienced leader Aman Tuleev was not entirely wrong to call Lehram Capital Investments Ltd “crooks”. Two years after the sale, specifically on 13th December 2015, the British newspaper The Guardian published an article which stated that the self-proclaimed “dormant” (a company that is not involved in any business activity) Lehram Capital Investments Ltd estimated the cost of the mine “Gramoteinskaya” at staggering 250 million pounds sterling! The article further proclaimed the intention of Lehram to file a claim in court seeking such compensation from the new owners and their families living in London.
Yet a law suit was only filed in Russia — 12 months after a statute of limitations for such claims has passed. And there was an explanation: Lehram “awakening” conveniently coincided with the aggravation in the relationship between Alexander Shchukin and his former partner Ruslan Rostovtsev, who defrauded Alexander Shchukin of assets worth billions of roubles. Facing multiple law suits and criminal charges in many jurisdictions, Rostovtsev saw an opportunity to use Lehram to his advantage.
Indeed, for the British-Colombian company Lehram Capital Investments (it is controlled by the Colombian “agricultural businessmen”, though it is registered in the UK), the sale of coal assets was not crucial — the Colombian “barons” paid only 10,000 roubles which are $160 at today’s rate, and they made no investments. Moreover, it has recently been discovered that Gramoteinskaya mine held 23 million roubles in its salary fund, which Lehram withdrew, so not only a lawsuit would be futile, it would be frankly dangerous to directors of Lehram who broke the laws of multiple countries. But Rostovtsev saw the situation differently.
It is known that the meeting between representatives of Lehram and Rostovtsev took place in Madrid — Colombian “businessmen” especially those involved in “agriculture” prefer to present themselves in Europe as Spaniards. Rostovtsev took responsibility for Lehram’s legal expenses. Once the agreement was reached, the lawsuit was filed. The interests of Lehram were represented by the law firm Baker McKenzie — Ruslan Rostovtsev paid its bills of more than $0.5 million. To finance expenses like these, Rostovtsev, who found himself in significant financial difficulties, engaged in smuggling of coal from the People’s Republic of Donetsk, as was reported in the West by Forbes magazine and by their Russian colleagues. Despite the effort and the risk Baker McKenzie has failed to make the progress Rostovtsev required.
It is at this point in the case of Lehram a name of the Russian businessman Rustem Magdeev hits the spotlight. He became the hero of the series of investigations in the online newspaper “Vek”.
Rustem Magdeyev has a dual Russian-Cypriot citizenship, he is associated with prominent representatives of the “Sevastopol” organized criminal organisation from the Republic of Tatarstan and the members of the Izmaylovo organised criminal group, who provide him with support. It turns out that at some point last year Lehram Capital Investments had changed its prominent lawyers Baker McKenzie to somewhat less illustrious Stephenson Harwood. Interestingly, at about the same time Stephenson Harwood began to represent the interests of Rostovtsev and Magdeyev in their numerous legal battles. And this is not a coincidence. Thу change of lawyers was almost immediately followed the news, which astonished the foreign and the Russian press.
On 18th of December 2017 The Financial Times and several other leading media published articles and news stories, which reported that Lehram Capital Investments Ltd. demanded $500 million in compensation, and this time from the Russian Federation. Such an outrageous claim and the supporting media campaign was supported by Magdeyev numerous payment orders in favour of Stephenson Harwood. It didn’t come cheap. According to several experts such campaign would cost in excess $1 million, but it still failed spectacularly. On the 16th of April 2018, the Arbitration Court of the Kemerovo Region rejected the claim of the British-Colombian-Russian syndicate.
It is interesting to note that in its media campaign in December Lehram not only gave the Russian Federation an ultimatum to pay $500 million but to do so in three months! Seven long months have passed, but no lawsuit had been filed outside the Russian Federation. Judging by the situation with Lehram in the UK, the ultimatum was a bluff. The British-Colombian company has too many dark parts in its history to seriously expect a “continuation”.
Lehram’s adventures in London
“Investment Fund” of Lehram Capital Investments Ltd. was registered on November 8, 2011 with a share capital of 100 pounds sterling in the Register of Companies of England and Wales (Company House of England and Wales) under the number 07839142.
The only founder and at the time the CEO of Lehram Capital Investments Ltd. was a Latvian citizen Julia Lopatina, resident in the UK who lived at the following address: 40C Orsett Terrace, London, W2 6AJ, United Kingdom, which at the time of registration was the location of the executive body.
It is suggested that the first steps of Instagram star turned entrepreneur Ms Julia Lopatina, including the money necessary to register the company and to fund its share capital, were financed by a well-known Russian oligarch from the Forbes list, who surely saw the future of British business in a striking 27-year-old woman.
Soon, on December 5, 2011, Ms Lopatina changed her post to the position of secretary, and on December 6, 2011, Igor Rudyk, was appointed company’s director, with registered address in Ust-Kamennogorsk, Kazkahstan.
On June 25, 2012, the board of directors of Lehram Capital Investments Ltd. got a serious boost in the form of Igor Gurov — a 25-year-old citizen of the Russian Federation was appointed as the company’s director. On September 12, 2013, Rudyuk abandoned the position of the director, and on November 6, 2013 Gurov did the same. The next day, November 7, 2013, Lopatina regained the director’s authority. She appointed Rudyuk as the second director of the company. Lopatina’s work didn’t last long — in a month, on December 7, 2013, she again divested herself of director’s authority.
2014 was also remarkable for the series of radical changes in the Lehram management and shareholder structure. For example, it can be seen from the reports that 100% of its shares were suddenly owned not by Lopatina, but by Rudyk, who had run the Gramoteinskaya mine for several months; and on January 21, 2014, the company changed the registered address of Lehram to a more prestigious address in the City of London: Kemp House, 152 City Road, London, EC1V 2NX, United Kingdom. On April 29, 2014 a citizen of the Russian Federation Evgeniy Ivannikov was appointed as a new director of the company. Rudyuk left the director’s post for a short time on May 13, 2014. On March 2, 2015, he came back, and on May 21, 2015, he fired Ivannikov.
On October 10, 2015, 100% of the shares of Lehram Capital Investments were returned to Lopatina, who, apparently, had realised the futility of Kazakh-Russian management, on February 26, 2016 “appointed” Colombian citizen Juan Saavedra as a director of the company. On September 19, 2016, he fired Lopatina from the position of secretary, appointing his brother Eduardo Saavedra to her post.
Later, on October 11, 2016, 100% shares of Lehram Capital Investments Ltd. were passed from Julia Lopatina to the offshore company Hasbrone Overseas Ltd. On November 21, 2016, the position of the secretary was passed from Eduardo Saavedra to another Colombian, Segundo Vargas, and the new company director became the company-shareholder.
This appointment game seems pretty strange taking into account the “dormant” status of the company. Up to 2016, Lehram reports included nominees from Russia, Kazakhstan and Latvia, while the real owners — the Colombian “barons” — did not announce themselves until 2016. Clearly, the lawsuit filed by Lehram and funded by the moneies of Rostovtsev and Magdeev necessitated the abandonment of nominee policy. Indeed, it is a multi-million dollar endeavour and while one may consider Julia Lopatina a million-dollar girl, no one is likely to consider her an expert in coal mining, as quick look at her Instagram would suggest.
Julia’s glamorous lifestyle, as well as the clothing company Artjam Ltd registered to her, do not suggest an investor in one of the Kemerovo’s most challenging mines, which is what Lopatina was apparently involved in in the beginning of our story.
Perhaps that was one of the reasons for the law enforcement agencies of three countries, including Great Britain, to have placed all the figurants — “crooks” — under the investigation, and, perhaps, in the nearest future the story will be continued.
Meanwhile, Lehram Capital Investments Ltd is already involved in the investigation initiated by The Companies House of England and Wales, and upon its conclusion Lehram will leave the registrar in the “English” way.
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