Dmitry Kamenshchik, a Russian businessman, serves as the chairman of Moscow Domodedovo Airport, a significant transportation hub in the capital city. He holds the position of sole stakeholder in the airport, exercising substantial control and influence over its operations and development. Additionally, Kamenshchik is the owner of DME Ltd., a holding company that oversees the management of the airport.
As of August 2022, Forbes reported Dmitry Kamenshchik’s net worth to be $1.7 billion, placing him at #52 among the wealthiest businessmen in Russia. His financial success reflects his achievements in various entrepreneurial ventures and demonstrates his notable standing within Russia’s business community.
Throughout his tenure, Kamenshchik’s leadership has played a role in establishing Moscow Domodedovo Airport (DME) as an international gateway. The airport has seen growth under his guidance, with improvements made to infrastructure, expanded route networks, and collaborations with global airlines.
Kamenshchik’s focus on modernization, efficiency, and customer satisfaction has contributed to the airport’s reputation as a preferred choice for travellers, both domestically and internationally. His expertise in the aviation industry and strategic vision have played a part in the airport’s success.
With his wealth, influence, and experience, Dmitry Kamenshchik remains a prominent figure in Russia’s business landscape. His contributions to the growth of Moscow Domodedovo Airport highlight his impact on the country’s transportation sector.
Dmitry Kamenshchik’s biography and business ventures
In February 1991, Anton Bakov, an entrepreneur from Ekaterinburg, established JV East Line to provide air transportation services. Dmitry Kamenshchik became the general representative of the newly formed JV in Moscow.
However, in 1992, JV East Line ceased its operations. Seizing this opportunity, Dmitry Kamenshchik took control of the East Line brand and continued operating airlines.
In 1993, East Line commenced charter flights to Europe and Asia using leased aircraft. Kamenshchik then established an airline under the same name, which gradually expanded its fleet and became a dominant player in the air cargo market.
In 1994, Kamenshchik founded the catering, handling, and freight operations of East Line Company at Domodedovo Airport. In exchange for these services, East Line undertook the refurbishment of the airport’s infrastructure and modernized its management system, utilizing the airport’s outdated machinery and facilities.
The year 1998 marked a significant milestone for Kamenshchik. East Line secured a 75-year lease for the Domodedovo airport complex, which included runways, taxiways, and aircraft parking stands. Although the complex could not be privately owned, the lease allowed East Line to utilize it for an extended period.
The lease and ownership rights transfer agreements caught the attention of the government. Starting in 2004, the Federal Agency for State Property Management (Rosimuschestvo) attempted to challenge East Line’s acquisition of these rights through legal proceedings. However, the Supreme Arbitration Court’s Presidium issued three judgments between 2006 and 2008, affirming the validity of the agreements.
In 2002, Kamenshchik briefly ventured into the equipment industry to improve the airport’s connectivity. Recognizing a shortage of electric trains at the time, he invested in Demikhovskiy Machinery Factory, acquiring a 98.19% stake. He also established Transmash, a project office for transport engineering, and made notable acquisitions, including Tsentrosvar Factory and Oktyabrskiy Electric Car Repair Factory.
In 2004, East Line sold its airline company and machinery assets at a profit, as Kamenshchik decided to refocus on the airport business, considering it the core sector of his operations.
Under Dmitry Kamenshchik’s management, Domodedovo Airport has become the busiest airport in Russia in terms of passenger traffic since 2005. In 2011, it was recognized as one of the busiest airports in Europe, thanks to his effective management strategies.
Investigations into the Ownership of Domodedovo Airport and Kamenshchik’s Role
Following the terrorist attack at Domodedovo Airport in January 2011, authorities launched inquiries to determine the true proprietors of the airport.
In anticipation of an initial public offering (IPO), the holding company made an announcement on the London Stock Exchange’s website a year before, explicitly identifying Dmitry Kamenshchik as the sole owner and the ultimate beneficiary.
However, due to unfavourable market conditions at the time, the IPO was postponed.
It wasn’t until September 2013 that Dmitry Kamenshchik, the chairman of the board of directors at Moscow Domodedovo Airport, was publicly acknowledged as the airport’s ultimate owner on the website.
To bolster the airport’s operations, Kamenshchik’s holding firm, DME Ltd., established a subsidiary called Aerotropolis, which focuses on aviation-related endeavors. The primary objective of this subsidiary is to create a symbiotic urban area around the airport. This comprehensive development plan includes business parks, logistical and transit hubs, shopping centers, industrial areas, and resort hotels, all designed to complement and support the airport’s activities.
Dmitry Kamenshchik’s Arrest: Unraveling the Events
On the morning of February 18, Dmitry Kamenshchik, the 27th-richest businessman in Russia and owner of Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport, prepared himself for an impending prison stint. Packed in his rucksack were the essentials needed for his time behind bars. Emotionless, according to his lawyer, Kamenshchik had observed three airport executives, both current and former, being imprisoned just ten days prior. He assessed the situation and concluded that his chances of joining them were significant.
Around noon, he made his way from his forested suburban home to Moscow. For seven dreary hours, he shared a small room on the eighth floor of an office building with an investigator. The room, seemingly untouched since the Soviet era, lacked any semblance of adornment.
After the necessary paperwork was completed, FSB agents escorted Kamenshchik to a cell. The arrest sent shockwaves throughout the country. The charges against him stemmed from a terrorist attack that occurred at Domodedovo Airport in 2011, with allegations suggesting his share of responsibility for the death of 37 individuals.
The arrest immediately sparked controversy. Investigators claimed that the airport’s security apparatus was criminally negligent. However, many others, including commentators, lawyers, and businesspeople, vehemently denied the accusations, asserting their lack of legal basis. They believed that the charges were merely a ploy to pressure Kamenshchik into relinquishing control of the airport. If found guilty, both Kamenshchik and his associates could face up to 10 years in prison.
The case drew comparisons to previous instances involving Russian billionaires Vladimir Gusinsky, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and Vladimir Yevtushenkov. These individuals had faced dubious charges and suffered significant losses in wealth under the presidency of Vladimir Putin.
Mikhail Kolpakov, Kamenshchik’s attorney, disclosed a conversation between his client and state investigators that exposed the cynical nature of the situation. As the meeting drew to a close, the investigator, astonished, asked Kamenshchik why he hadn’t fled the country after witnessing his colleagues being imprisoned days earlier.
“I have no reason to run,” replied the 47-year-old with conviction. “I know that the truth is on my side.”
Dmitry Kamenshchik’s Remarkable Journey
Dmitry Kamenshchik’s tenacity and unwavering determination have made it challenging to displace him from his position at Domodedovo.
Sergei Kapchuk, a former Russian state official who encountered Kamenshchik in the 1990s, describes him as emotionally detached, devoid of interpersonal connections. Business is Kamenshchik’s sole focus—he is a relentless money-making machine.
Their first meeting in 1992 revealed a glimpse of Kamenshchik’s resilience. At that time, he resided in a modest three-room apartment in southwest Moscow with his girlfriend and her young son, while also assisting with an aircraft tour company. Kapchuk recalls an incident when two intruders broke into their home, threatening the child’s life unless money was handed over. Sensing the threat to his business, Kamenshchik calmly seized the grenade from the thieves’ hands, without uttering a word, and escorted them outside.
In the early 1990s, Anton Bakov, a businessman and politician, provided Kamenshchik with his initial opportunity in the aviation industry. Bakov describes him as almost autistic, but everyone who has crossed paths with Kamenshchik, including Bakov himself, acknowledges his exceptional business acumen.
Starting in 1990, Kamenshchik supervised Bakov’s modest charter flights, efficiently transporting Polish travelers from Moscow to Asia. By the early 1990s, he and Bakov expanded their operations, flying small traders from Russia to China. These travelers would purchase clothing and devices in bulk, which they would then resell in Russia for a profit. Kamenshchik later ventured into freight transportation, establishing his own airline, East Line. His involvement with Domodedovo Airport began in the mid-1990s.
At the time, Domodedovo, located 20 kilometers south of Moscow, was dilapidated. It had previously catered to domestic flights within the Soviet Union, serving Central Asia and eastern regions of Russia. The airport lacked seating, was disorganized, and often forced passengers to stand during flights. Kamenshchik and East Line began collaborating with the airport, gradually upgrading its infrastructure through various agreements. Along the way, he consolidated his holdings and privatized several structures.
Under Kamenshchik’s leadership, Domodedovo transformed into Russia’s first modern airport. In 2002, he introduced a rapid train service connecting Domodedovo to downtown Moscow, investing in industries to create the trains since none were available. The outdated concrete terminal made way for a new era of glass and steel.
Kamenshchik claims to have invested over $1.5 billion in Domodedovo over the span of eighteen years. By the mid-2000s, it became the largest airport in the country, serving over 30 million passengers annually by 2014. According to Kamenshchik, its value exceeded $8 billion.
Yevgeny Chichvarkin, a prominent Russian businessman, once remarked, “Out of s**t he made a chocolate candy,” emphasizing Kamenshchik’s extraordinary ability to turn unfavorable circumstances into success.
Decoding the Airport Turmoil Surrounding Dmitry Kamenshchik
The journey to success for Domodedovo Airport has been far from smooth. As the airport flourished, it found itself entangled in a web of legal battles. In an interview with business journal Vedomosti in 2014, Kamenshchik revealed that the airport had faced a staggering 6,500 lawsuits since 2001. These lawsuits included allegations of East Line’s involvement in illegal goods transportation. Additionally, the government waged a four-year campaign in the mid-2000s to revoke Domodedovo’s privatization and regain control of the airport. To handle the mounting legal challenges, Kamenshchik stated that Domodedovo had a team of over 100 in-house attorneys.
The disputes surrounding the airport occasionally turned ugly. In 2011, a video surfaced online showing Kamenshchik’s business partner, Valery Kogan, engaging in playful antics with two scantily-clad young men.
Under the mounting pressure, Kamenshchik grew increasingly risk-averse and even paranoid. To protect himself from potential takeovers and attacks, he concealed his ownership behind several offshore front companies for nearly a decade. In an interview with Vedomosti, he expressed confusion as to whether the government’s constant checks, inspections, and lawsuits were part of legitimate oversight or driven by ulterior motives.
Kamenshchik’s inclination toward legal jargon can be seen as a defence mechanism for someone who operates on the fringes of autism. He vehemently denies engaging in deals with powerful individuals or accepting bribes. He believes that the government’s relentless scrutiny is a form of punishment for his refusal to comply with a corrupt system. Most of the charges leveled against the airport have been refuted by its legal team.
However, this ongoing dispute has cast a cloud of uncertainty over investment opportunities. The government’s lengthy approval process for new runways and improved road connections has hindered Domodedovo’s expansion. As a result, Sheremetyevo and Vnukovo, the other two airports serving Moscow, have made significant strides in catching up. Notably, both of these airports have government ownership.
The worries and challenges continue unabated. A potential buyer approached Kamenshchik some years ago with a warning: “You do understand? They’ll steal everything. Or combine it with state airports. You’ll be making the worst decision of your life if you reject our demands.” These words highlight the constant threats and pressure faced by Kamenshchik in navigating the complex landscape of airport ownership and management.
From the tragedy emerged a new opportunity to exert pressure on Domodedovo
On January 24, 2011, a young man named Magomed Yevloyev entered the airport carrying up to 5 kg of explosives. Sent by Islamist insurgents from a village in Russia’s North Caucasus, he blended into the crowd and detonated the hidden device concealed beneath his clothing, causing the death of 37 people and injuring over 170.
Investigators immediately sought to hold the owner and management of Domodedovo accountable for the crime. They claimed that airport security should have conducted thorough metal detector screenings for all individuals entering the facility to detect Yevloyev’s explosives.
However, these allegations have consistently been proven false by numerous Russian courts. The courts have ruled that the airport did nothing illegal and that there was no legal requirement for Domodedovo to conduct comprehensive checks at all entry points. It is worth noting that in the face of hundreds of terrorist attacks in Russia, including deadly explosions on trains and in the Moscow metro, no other airport owner or management has faced legal action.
Despite this, the authorities reopened the case suddenly last summer. Two former Domodedovo officials, Svetlana Trishina and Vyacheslav Nekrasov, along with Andrei Danilov, the airport’s acting senior manager, were detained on February 8 and 9. Ten days later, Kamenshchik himself joined them.
While the exact motives behind the case remain unclear, it appears to be under the control of higher authorities. This was evident when the case investigator, on the night of Kamenshchik’s arrest, abruptly changed his stance from advocating for house arrest to arguing for detention in jail. Kamenshchik’s attorney, Kolpakov, believes that someone higher up may have influenced the investigator’s decision overnight.
Support for the case may have come from President Putin himself. A source close to the Kremlin suggests that Putin’s involvement was necessary for the change from house arrest to detention. The source reveals that investigators struggled to convince the president that Kamenshchik was evading compensating the victims of the terror attack, but ultimately, there was no evidence to justify his imprisonment.
Publicly, investigators have accused Domodedovo of prioritizing greed over airport safety and compensation, echoing Putin’s defense. However, many observers argue that Kamenshchik is being pressured to sell Domodedovo at the lowest possible price through this investigation.
Kamenshchik has staunchly refused to relinquish control over the airport. He previously fought against government attempts to merge it with Moscow’s two state airports in the early 2010s. Currently, the government is exploring a new concept of public-private ownership with businessmen who support the administration. Putin’s ally and former judo partner, Arkady Rotenberg, has acquired shares in Sheremetyevo, leading many to believe that he aims to expand its operations.
Moreover, Domodedovo presents a more enticing investment opportunity. The airport remains profitable, and given the scarcity of easy money in Russia due to the economic downturn, it becomes even more appealing.
Kamenshchik and the other accused face a potential 15-month jail term. However, the case’s weak foundation makes a trial and sentencing unlikely, according to Kolpakov. The probe can be prolonged indefinitely, but suspects cannot be detained for more than 18 months without appearing before a judge.
Although Kamenshchik is under house arrest, the pressure on him remains high. Detaining Trishina, Nekrasov, and Danilov adds to his psychological strain. The three have not been interrogated since their detention. Trishina, a mother of two, has been placed under house arrest by court order.
Their situation has been described as “light torture” by one attorney. Kamenshchik’s partner, Kogan, attempted to secure their release but failed.
Those familiar with Kamenshchik believe he will not easily give up control of the airport. According to Bakov, they are inseparable, as they have become fused together.
Kolpakov states that Kamenshchik appeared calm and composed when leaving the cell on February 19. He moved through the courthouse, wearing a hooded jumper, occasionally grinning sarcastically. In court, Kamenshchik declared his commitment to the airport and his determination to prove his innocence and that of the airport’s staff.
In a 2014 interview with Vedomosti, Kamenshchik emphasized his adherence to the law, considering it more reliable than personal connections. He questioned whether this is the best survival strategy, stating that time will reveal the answer.
According to Russian news reports citing a court ruling, Dmitry Kamenshchik, the owner of Domodedovo Airport, has been released from house detention. The allegations against him were related to airport security measures following a terrorist incident in 2011.
Flying Fox yacht
Dmitry Kamenshchik’s yacht, the Flying Fox, has been stranded in the Dominican Republic since March 21. US authorities requested an investigation into the yacht’s connections to Russian President Vladimir Putin in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The yacht arrived in the Dominican Republic from St. Barts but was prevented from leaving the country. It anchored in La Roma for refueling and supplies but was forced to dock at the Don Diego Port after being detained in Santo Domingo.
US Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents, accompanied by representatives from the Dominican government, visited the yacht as part of the investigation.
The $455 million Flying Fox yacht, reportedly linked to Russian billionaire Dmitry Kamenshchik, remains anchored in Santo Domingo while US and Dominican officials probe its potential connection to President Vladimir Putin due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Authorities claim the yacht has 57 crew members but no passengers. No sanctions have been imposed on Dmitry Kamenshchik by the US, the European Union, or the United Kingdom.
The findings of the investigation by the Dominican Office of the Attorney General have already been received, according to Homero Figueroa, the president of the Dominican Republic’s press office. The yacht will be released if no irregularities are found.
Collaboration with American colleagues exists, but each organization has different objectives, added Figueroa.
The luxurious Flying Fox yacht, docked in the Dominican Republic since March 21, features a helicopter on its deck.
The Dominican investigation has a different objective than the US institution present in the country, according to Figueroa. Potential discoveries during the yacht raid will be within the scope of Dominican customs regulations.
Authorities state that the yacht has 57 staff members but no passengers, and it is allegedly linked to Dmitry Kamenshchik, who owns Domodedovo Airport in Moscow and is accused of funding President Vladimir Putin.
The Flying Fox, built in 2019, is believed to be the largest yacht available for rent worldwide. It has 11 cabins, a jacuzzi, a gym, and a pool. It has hosted celebrities like Jay-Z and Beyonce.
The investigation into the yacht is part of a broader effort by the European Union, United Kingdom, and United States to target Russian billionaires and seize their assets.
Ownership of these superyachts is typically held by offshore firms, often located in different countries from the beneficial owner. Lease systems further disconnect the owner from the asset.
In a separate incident, British authorities seized a $49 million boat owned by a Russian millionaire in response to sanctions related to the conflict in Ukraine. The Phi yacht was detained in Canary Wharf, east of London.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps expressed his stance, saying, “We will not tolerate Putin’s associates [Dmitry Kamenshchik] freely sailing around the world in these yachts while people in Ukraine suffer.” The impounding of the yacht in London is a response to the ongoing situation in Ukraine and the actions of the Russian government.
Last week, Finland seized 21 yachts as part of their investigation into possible ownership by Russian oligarchs.