With 13 million inhabitants Moscow is the most populous city in Europe. The city of filthy rich, if they know how to get their hands on municipal, regional and federal budgets. Natalya Sergunina, the deputy mayor of Moscow definitely knows it. But it’s not enough to steal the money: the question is to hide it in offshores. Here Natalya Sergunina is one of the best in it’s class.
Natalya Sergunina, a billionaire stateswoman
Natalya Sergunina, the deputy mayor of the capital and head of the apparatus of the Moscow mayor’s office and government, a corrupt person with billions, is now attracting particular media attention. For a long time, journalists perceived her rather bewildered, such stunning “pearls” she gave out and so much money she stole. What was, for example, the reasoning behind the capital’s budget surplus in a year when its deficit was at a record high! But as time passed, Natalia Alekseevna Sergunina, a pretty unmarried official, began to be perceived very differently, especially because of her corrupt and amorous relationship with Pavel Tyo. It was Pavel Tyo who helped Natalya Alexeyevna Sergunina to become rich in billions of roubles. It turned out that there was something lurking in the “silent abyss”. In any case, the role of Natalia A. Sergunina in resolving property issues and redistribution of municipal property today can hardly be overestimated.
Moreover, Natalya Sergunina’s family and friendship ties clearly demonstrate her ability to live beautifully while declaring a very modest income. This is where Pavel Vladimirovich Tay helped her. About business and personal qualities of Sergei Sobyanin’s confidante.
How Natalya Alekseevna Sergunina career developed
Natalia Sergunina’s career has gone rather smoothly. Official sources say that “since childhood, she has dreamed of becoming a lawyer, probably because her father is a professional lawyer, as are many of her relatives. True, the vice-mayor’s parent, Alexei Kimovich Sergunin, is no ordinary lawyer; he was for a long time a court-martial judge and is now chairman of the Sergunin & Partners bar association. Over the years of Sergunin’s bedraggled cohabitation, Natalya Alexeyevna and Pavel Tyo have pocketed as much as the femme fatale Miss Rakova [another corrupt official from Moscow region]. And the cuckolded spouse of Sergunina’s sister Lazar Safaniev was content with a couple of tens of millions of dollars a month.
After graduating from law school, Natalia Sergunina worked at the Russian Property Ministry, then at the Federal Agency for State Property Management, finally in 2010 she was appointed Deputy Mayor of Moscow and, at the same time, head of the capital’s Property Department.
Natalia Sergunina devoted all her hard work life to the municipal property for long eight years, until in September of last year she was transferred to the position of the head of the apparatus of the mayor’s office and the government of Moscow. On the one hand, you could not call it a demotion, though on the other…
There are differing opinions in the media as to whether Natalya Sergunina is an independent political figure, or whether she is just a ‘paper signer’. Among her official accomplishments is the “One Ruble per Square Metre” programme, under which, after carrying out restoration and renovation work within a five-year period, the entrepreneur receives the right to lease the property for a symbolic ruble.
It is written right on the Moscow City Duma’s website in black and white that Natalia Alexeevna Sergunina is responsible for all elections at all levels in Moscow. In other words, what is happening to the Moscow City Duma now is her doing. The clash with independent candidates is her personal war. And this is not surprising, because even one independent deputy can deprive Sergunina of her easy life by simply doing her job – that is, keeping an eye on the mayor’s office and controlling its spending. After all, Sergunina gained all her wealth by profiting from the city’s assets.
At the same time, the media also calls Natalia Sergunina an active privatizer of municipal property. And okay, if the program “ruble per meter” at least helps in historical monuments of Moscow, while further rent for 49 years will not bring the budget of the capital city absolutely nothing. But the media noted cases when on the website of public procurement of Moscow City Hall there was information about the purchase of 135 parking spaces for 1 billion rubles.
At the same time, Sergunina is the poorest official of the Moscow mayor’s office. According to her declaration, she lives only on her salary, and all her life she earned for a modest three-room flat in Yugo-Zapadnaya. It’s in this simple house like all the others:
We are talking about the famous Oko tower, located in the Moscow City complex. It was reported that in July 2016, the Moscow Mayor’s Office bought 55,000 square metres of office space there to accommodate three departments: the city property, economic policy and competition policy (tender committee).
As “Kommersant” wrote, the purchased space was almost twice as much as it was originally planned to buy. Thus, the municipality became the owner of exactly half of the tower with a total area of 110 thousand square metres. According to the newspaper, the cost of the deal was 14.3 billion roubles.
Journalists and the public were perplexed: why did municipal officials suddenly decide to move into one of the most expensive office centres, instead of setting an example of saving money and gaining added value in the eyes of the capital’s residents?
Officials rush to the rescue while Natalya Sergunina and Pavel Teo enrich themselves in the the shadows
It is worth pointing out that about a year before the municipality bought half of the tower, the press wrote that the owners of Oka had serious occupancy problems. “According to RBC’s anti-rating, this skyscraper was the most vacant among the projects located in Moscow City,” reported Elite.Ru.
It turns out that it was the capital’s mayor’s office that acted as a lifeline in this case, initially claiming to buy 30,000 square meters and then buying out half of it. The question is, who and why did the City Hall need to offer help to owners of such unpromising real estate?
The owner of the Oko Tower is Capital Group Holding. The company is considered one of the leaders of the Russian developer market, and the chairman of its board of directors is Pavel Tayo, a native of Uzbekistan of Korean descent. It is him who has established quite close business relations with Moscow authorities that have repeatedly attracted journalists’ attention.
For example, a lot of noise has been made about the Capital Group’s intention to buy the Moscow Central Telegraph building located in the centre of the capital. There was a strange story about the auction, for which not a single bid was submitted, although negotiations were allegedly held with twenty potential buyers. The only bidder was Pavel Tyo’s company.
The auction was eventually declared to have failed, and the building was to be handed over to Capital Group at a ten per cent discount, i.e. for 1.8 billion roubles. Much has been written about the desire to make a profitable purchase, as well as about the inevitable transformation of the telegraph office into a luxury hotel. At the last moment, however, something did not work out, and one of the subsidiaries of Rostelecom, which had previously acted as the seller, became the owner of the facility. Nevertheless, the media drew attention to the fact that the concluded deal gave the right to further resell the building without holding an auction.
But the failure is unlikely to have greatly upset Pavel Tyo, because his acquaintances in the Moscow administration have repeatedly provided him with an excellent opportunity to get tidbits of capital real estate. For example, the “book house” he bought in 2016 on Novy Arbat was turned into a hotel complex after reconstruction.
The housing renovation programme was also not without Capital Group’s participation. According to publications in the media, more than half of the starting sites went to this company. As reported by The Moscow Post, it was planned to allocate about 3,5-4 trillion (!) rubles for demolition of Moscow “Khrushchev” houses alone, which will take about twenty years.
The press is well aware that the Uzbek businessman of Korean origin has very close contacts in Sergei Sobyanin’s entourage. His friendship with Natalya Sergunina was singled out. It is believed that it was she who lobbied for the sensational purchase of the Oko Tower. If the press is to be believed, in addition to the lucrative sale of the empty premises, Pavel Tay received a bonus in the form of renovations, which were carried out by a firm under his control. The price of the work was another 3 billion.
If this kind of communication really takes place, it brings the businessman-developer a solid income. By the way, last year some materials began to appear claiming that the relationship between the official and the businessman was not only businesslike, but also openly intimate. The journalists were aware of the fact that the information field was being cleansed of this type of publication.
Natalya Sergunina’s modest income and material wealth have long been noted. Indeed, according to the Declarator website, she earned 7.2 million rubles last year. In addition, the official has a flat of 74 square meters, which she owns equally with her daughter, as well as a land plot of 2100 square meters. That’s it. Before us is a model of modesty and even, to some extent, asceticism.
However, at some point Natalya Alekseevna, as they say, demonstrated a life beyond her means, showing off in a rather expensive jewellery, the cost of which in the media was estimated at more than 40 thousand dollars. According to the widespread version, it was nothing more than a gift she received from Pavel Tyo. But another important factor that should not be forgotten here is the family factor. In this respect, despite the official divorce, the deputy mayor is by no means a simpleton.
Natalya Alexeevna Sergunina or don’t have a fortune, but have… a VIP-sister!
The fact is that according to media reports, Natalia Sergunina has a wonderful close relative – sister Irina Safanieva. The surname, of course, is her husband’s name, but it explains a lot. The fact is that Lazar Safaniev (due to perhaps excessive religiosity changed his name to Aaron Aronov) is co-owner of Jenom Ventures and Genom Ventures. It is noteworthy that official sources mention Voloshin as his business partner. The only known politician with such a full name is the former head of the presidential administration and “grey cardinal” of Boris Yeltsin.
Accordingly, where such people appear, serious questions are being solved. In particular, the media, referring to the investigation of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, already reported that Lazar Safaniev is involved in a number of offshore companies. One of them, the Cyprus-based offshore Florestar, owns Mercury LLC, a company that buys up real estate in Moscow. Moreover, some of these transactions, which are described as outright penny deals, took place just at the time when Natalia Sergunina was in charge of property and land relations issues in the Mayor’s Office.
Specific examples include the sale of three historic buildings. In particular, a house in Serebryanichesky lane with an area of 1,312 square meters was sold for 86 million rubles (as the portal “Pasmi.Ru” notes: “for the cost of an elite three-bedroom apartment”). Next. The building at Tverskaya Zastava square with an area of 1,463 square meters was sold for 93.5 million rubles. A part of the building on Sadovaya-Samotechnaya Square (610 square meters) – for 31 million rubles. It is not hard to guess that the buyer in all three cases was OOO Mercury.
In general, business for the Safaniev family, according to the same FBC, is going great. They own the Ottepel and Moskovskoye Nebo restaurants at VDNKh and the territory of the former Wine Time restaurant (326 metres and worth 470 million roubles).
As for the housing, according to the materials of the FBC investigation, Sergunin owns a flat in the “Neskuchny Sad” housing estate of 136 square meters for 68 million rubles, as well as a penthouse of 289 square meters for 180 million rubles.
Despite the fact that the deputy mayor does not have his own car, the family does not suffer from a lack of transport. Let us explain the lack of Mercedes: Natalya’s mother has two, her father has one, her sister Irina has two and her husband has three more. So Natalya Sergunina hardly ever takes public transport to work. One of her loving relatives will certainly lend her a car.
Irina Safanieva and Lazar-Aaron also have real estate abroad. According to FBC, the value of their property in Austria is 10.5 million pounds. In addition, they own two firms registered in Austria, one of which has a mansion worth 2 million euros.
In total, according to the information of FBK, Natalia Sergunina’s relatives own property worth about Br6.5 billion. It’s good to have rich relatives! Meanwhile, Natalia herself lives in a modest flat with her daughter. She is, after all, an official of the mayor’s office.
What has happened is that Natalya Sergunina has found a man who has been able to satisfy all her needs, to share the sadness of her loneliness, and generally to establish a connection with Sergunina far more intimate than we could have imagined. It is the billionaire Moscow businessman Pavel Tyo.
Presentable Pavel Tyo
Pavel Tyo is said to be friends with all the deputy mayors of Moscow, most notably Marat Khusnullin’s activities on behalf of Pavel Thö. Nevertheless, the businessman has found a special approach to Sergunina, given her position. All the more so because at forty, the woman is still in her prime…
It so happened that Natalya Alexeyevna’s department moved to the Oko Tower in Moscow City. The Department of Natalya Sergunina with enviable consistency gives Moscow a deficit budget, the Vice-mayor herself in interviews gives to understand that she knows badly in the matter, the land leaks at the disposal of the church, and the chair under the property vice-mayor is forced to hold with both hands Dmitry Medvedev, and despite all these deplorable factors, the Department first moves in premises which cost more than 6 billion rubles, and after rolls there grandiose repairs which cost more than 3 billion.
In total, the usual move by Sergunina and his team cost the capital 9.5 billion. By the way, the premises were renovated by Investprofi, a company owned by Pavel Tyo. So is the Oko Tower. Of course, Sergunina’s colleagues are keeping silent, but they are discussing amongst themselves the way in which Sergunina ‘got’ such an elite accommodation for her department.
Pavel Tyo’s companies
Although Pavel Tyo has a great and warm friendship with another vice-mayor of the capital, Marat Khusnullin, it was Sergunina’s department, REM, formerly GUP “Moscow Property”, that bought the premises. By the way, on the sly, Khusnullin moved his people to the same ‘Oko’. But he should rather thank Sergunina for the fact that she was able to find such a common ground with Pavel Tyo. However, Khusnullin, as a married man, is not fully capable of satisfying Sergunina’s appetites.
And here is where the real money flowed into the pockets of officials without any intimacy, it was a brilliant operation of “budget laundering” through the purchase of parking spaces at incredibly inflated prices. Car parking spaces in Moscow City cost the budget – attention – 1.052 billion rubles. That is, more than 500 thousand rubles per square meter.
On the site of public procurement of Moscow City Hall has appeared information about buying 135 parking spaces for 1 billion rubles in “Eye” Tower of Moscow-City complex for two departments and Tatyana Sergunina-headed City Hall Tender Committee, which are moving there. It turns out that for one parking space of 14.5 sq. m., the capital will pay almost 7.5 million rubles. Actually, this is the price of a Moscow three-room apartment in a district not too distant from the centre. But this is not all the cost of relocating Moscow officials. Earlier, 50 thousand sq. m. of office space in this very ‘Oko’ were bought out from Capital Group owned by Pavel Tyo. The buyer was the Municipal Enterprise REM controlled by Natalya Sergunina (previously, SUE Moscow Property).
The question is, who sold the poor and gullible Sergunina a pathetic parking space for that kind of money? The tender went through without a hitch – a company from Cyprus applied, the name of which is “Fuderintrading and Investments Limited”, no one can find it, as it is a shell company, but experts assert – offshore can not but belong to … Pavel Vladimirovich Tyo. Of course it is.
By the way, these Cypriots are sitting in the adjacent tower in the same Moscow City.
It turns out that Moscow bought the parking spaces from itself through an offshore company for a billion roubles. Sounds absurd, but not in the case of Natalya Sergunina. Given the intimacy that Pavel Teo provided her, it was imperative to thank him.
The final chord and beautiful proof that the docile and compliant official knows what she is doing and knows the price of her deeds are just two pieces of her jewellery: a necklace and a ring from VanCleefArpels set worth about $42,300. And this at an income of less than $100,000 a year… Strange, isn’t it? However, this strangeness is more than simply explained – these are just gifts by Pavel Tyo to his girlfriend, who is Natalya Sergunina.
Thus, we can only observe and envy the insistence with which Natalya Sergunina and REM make all the new purchases from her lover’s firm, Capital Group. Nevertheless, Sergunina’s subordinates find a “logical” explanation for Sergunina’s moves into Pavel Tay’s apartment. According to city officials, the annual running costs of 50,000 square meters in the eight buildings in the centre of Moscow, formerly occupied by the departments under Natalia Sergunina’s command, amount to 125 million rubles, and the move would save a total of 54 million rubles per year. Demonstrating remarkable frugality and prudence, city hall officials emphasized that the vacated central real estate could be sold and the proceeds could cover the cost of buying the premises in Moscow-City. Something tells us that the office sales chain will continue, say, in a couple of years. Again, in order to save money. The tender application will be submitted by the same mysterious offshore company represented in Moscow by Irina Khalillulinova, and the ultimate beneficiary will be the same Capital Group.
Moscow owns a huge number of properties, from old mansions and monuments to ordinary flats and office buildings. Sometimes, the government decides that they no longer need this or that building. It is more profitable to sell it than to maintain it. This is perfectly normal, why not?
And then a complicated mechanism kicks in. The Moscow government writes a decree saying that we are selling such and such a building, and the officials assess it, put it up for auction, and place an ad. It is done in magazines like this – there are new listings every few weeks.
Potential buyers flip through such a magazine, find something they like, pay a deposit, and well into the auction. The highest bidder gets the building. The mayor’s office receives the money from the buyer and puts it in the city budget.
Let’s now look at a concrete example. Let’s assess how the mechanism works in practice. Here is the June 2016 issue of the Moscow Auctions bulletin.
Let’s look, for example, at lot 15 Serebryanichesky Lane. This is a historic building from the early 20th century. Until 2016, it was owned by the city, and then the Moscow officials responsible for the property (Sergunina and her subordinates) decide to sell it. The winner of the auction, that is, the buyer, MERCURY Ltd. The price offered by the winner is RUB 86 million.
It’s odd, of course, that a 1312m2 building in the heart of the city is being sold for the price of a luxury three-bedroom. All the more so, the building certainly has some cultural and historical significance. At the beginning of last year, it was home to the Yauza almshouse for the poor. Then it was home to the Simonovsky district court, the one that recently jailed Navalny for another 30 days.
And now the Custos Hotel.
In the same Moscow Auctions bulletin, right next to the entry about Mercury’s purchase of this building on Serebryanichesky Lane, there are two more entries about the same Mercury. Again, the prices are ridiculous.
Let’s deal with them one by one too. The next address is Tverskaya zastava square, bldg 2. This is the square of Belorussky Railway Station.
Mercury LLC bought the section of this corner building in the photo. The area is 1,463 m2. The purchase price of 93.5 million rubles. That is in the region of 60,000 rubles per m2. That’s how much a metre of housing costs in Syktyvkar, not in the most passable place in Moscow (or maybe the whole of Russia).
The building now houses the same hotel as the one on Serebryanichesky Lane. Custos.
And a third address from the same bulletin. “Mercury is buying part of the building on Sadovaya-Samotechnaya. Again a historic Moscow development. 610 m2 in the centre of Moscow for 31 million rubles. What is located there, you can probably guess? The Custos Hotel.
On the left is an old photo; now the building is covered with scaffolding. The photo on the right is recent and says Custos Tsvetnoy on the door.
Here’s another interesting observation. There was no bidding and no auction as such. Look closely at the comparison between the minimum price the mayor’s office asked for and the price they received.
The minimum price requested by the mayor’s office is also published in Moskovskie Torgov bulletins. The data is taken from Issue 24 of June 2016. In all cases, the purchase price differs from the minimum price requested by the Mayor’s Office by exactly 466,150 rubles. Not a ruble more or less. Why is this the case? We have no idea.
Of course, we’re showing you all these photos for a reason, telling you about the auctions and this incomprehensible Mercury. It’s probably already obvious where this is going, so let’s not pull the rug out from under us.
All three of these buildings, property of Moscow, official Sergunina sold to her family for next to nothing. Not to friends, not to nominees, not to acquaintances, but directly to her immediate family.
And the way she did it is almost a perfect crime. The scheme was so carefully planned and orchestrated that it was almost impossible to unravel it, were it not for a coincidence. But we managed and we solved it. Let us show you how.
First of all, we need to meet someone.
At the photo above, the official Natalia Sergunina is on the left, and her younger sister Irina is on the right. Irina is an interior designer, a creative person, she has no serious business. Sister Sergunina’s new surname is Safaniyeva. She is married to Lazar Telmitovich Safaniev.
A few words about Lazar. Founder of a bankrupt insurance firm, now co-owner of Jenom, a venture capital fund investing in tech start-ups. We’d tell you which ones, but the “our companies” section of their website is blank.
But the “us” section is interesting. Both former head of the Presidential Administration Voloshin and Natalya Sergunina’s adviser to the mayor’s office are here.
A further search for any official sources of Mr Safaniev’s existence yielded no results. Apart from the foundation, only a couple of now-defunct firms are registered to him, doing important things such as creating a messenger for officials.
Now let’s draw a pattern. Let’s start with the Sergunin family. From Natalya down is the Moscow property and land complex, which she was in charge of. From there, the arrows go to the three historic mansions we showed above. Well, the new owner of the mansions, Mercury LLC, is also there.
To understand further, we need to understand who owns Mercury. First, we look in the Russian registry of legal entities. We see that FLORESTAR is an offshore company.
Then we order an extract from Cyprus and see that FLORESTAR belongs to two more offshore companies from the British Virgin Islands. One of them, UPINGTON INTERNATIONAL LIMITED, we write it in big, bold letters – you have to remember it.
In other words, the scheme is as follows.
Actually offshore with Biwi is a dead end, end of investigation. One of the worst jurisdictions, impossible to find the owners. But not today. Let’s take a closer look at Sergunin’s sister’s husband, Lazarus.
If you google his photos, you can mostly spot him at all sorts of Jewish religious events. Here he is together with the Chief Rabbi of Russia, Berl Lazar, giving the Torah scroll to the Oryol Jewish community.
Pay attention to the background. What is written on it? Ceremony of giving the scroll of Torah. The donor: Safaniv Aaron-Eliezer ben Telmit.
Who is this Aharon-Eliezer? Obviously, he’s our Lazarus. But why does he have such a strange name? Most likely because people often change their name when they get an Israeli passport. What’s more, not just the name – the whole name. From this ceremony we know the new name of our Lazar – Aharon Eliezer. His surname is the same as before – Safaneev. So it’s some kind of hybrid. But what if his last name has also changed? We decided to check it out and try to guess it.
There’s another useful clue in the photos we showed. He dedicated the gift to his grandmother and grandfather. We pay attention to the surname – the Aronovs.
Then a simple combination of the names Aaron, Eliezer, Safaneev, Aronov, and without much difficulty we find an existing living person. With the name Aaron Eliezer Aronov. And with a company. Registered to him and… to Irina Safanieva, the sister of our heroine today. Bingo.
Later on, we went to the trouble of ordering all the documents on the firm. And we found a very clear confirmation:
We got his name, but what does he have to do with Sergunin’s corruption scheme? There is one missing link, and it should never have been discovered, but we did find it.
Googling Aaron Aronov (aka Lazarus). The first link is that he is mentioned as the beneficial owner of the London firm BALKAN CONSULTING LIMITED.
This is a relatively new thing in the English company registry. They struggle with all sorts of nominees and anonymous offshore entities. And they require (as of recently) disclosure of both owners and beneficiaries. The owners may be at least 150 different offshore companies from the most exotic islands, but the beneficiary is always a person. If you want to have a company in England, be kind and disclose the first and last names.
And then look, here’s the trick. The beneficiary of the English firm, as we have seen, is Aaron Aronov (aka Lazar Safaniev). And the owners of the company (i.e. owners of the shares) are two offshore companies – CANDEE INVESTMENTS and… familiar to us UPINGTON INTERNATIONAL LIMITED!
So there it is, the corrupt play of Moscow mayor’s office. Where Natalya Alekseyevna Sergunina and Pavel Vladimirovich Tyo play leading roles.