As it became known to Kommersant, a case was opened in St. Petersburg on the fact of fraudulent embezzlement of funds from the International Bank of St. Petersburg (IBSP), which belonged to former Senator Sergei Bazhanov. This happened two years after the Central Bank discovered the withdrawal of its assets through the transfer of claims to counterparties and the acquisition of illiquid assets. In a criminal case, we can talk about several billion rubles. Mr. Bazhanov has already been put on the wanted list in another criminal case – on the falsification of financial documents-and is now abroad.
GSU of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of St. Petersburg opened a criminal case under Part 4 of Article 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (fraud on a particularly large scale) on the fact of embezzlement of funds of the International Bank of St. Petersburg. This happened two years after the Central Bank made a statement about the withdrawal of assets from it. During the audit of the financial condition of the IBSP in early 2019, the interim administration identified in the actions of the bank's officials signs of operations aimed at withdrawing assets through the transfer of rights of claims to a number of counterparties to its shareholder, as well as the acquisition of illiquid assets. The information was sent to the Prosecutor General's Office, the TFR and the Ministry of Internal Affairs for making a procedural decision.
In October 2019, the Central Bank revoked the IBSP license to conduct banking operations. The Central Bank explained this decision as a "risky business model", which led to the formation of "a significant amount of distressed assets, including derivative financial instruments and unconfirmed (fake) claims against non-resident companies." This decision was preceded by the transfer to the Deposit Insurance Agency (DIA) of the functions of the interim administration for the management of the IBSP for six months. In 2019, the "hole" in the bank's capital was estimated at 13.1 billion rubles. Then the DIA reported on operations that have signs of asset withdrawal. Around the same time, the International Bank of St. Petersburg was declared bankrupt and opened bankruptcy proceedings against it. Sergey Bazhanov's JSC "Triumph", which owned about 7% of the IBSP, went to the Supreme Court, trying to challenge the loss of the license, but the court sided with the Central Bank.
Based on the statement of the DIA on bringing to subsidiary responsibility the persons controlling the IBSP (available to “Kommersant”), the analysis of the bank's activities in 2019 showed that the deterioration of its financial situation was affected by the formation of deliberately non-refundable loan debt of legal entities that do not carry out real economic activities.
In addition, the IBSP made a succession of claims against Simec Group Limited in favor of the Cyprus company Hervel Investments Limited, which is associated with the bank. It was a minority shareholder of IBSP and was owned by Alexander Zuev, the brother of Tatiana Bazhanova, the wife of Sergey Bazhanov. The amount of the claims was $30 million, which at the exchange rate at the time of the transaction in December 2017 was equivalent to 1.7 billion rubles. According to the agreement, Hervel Investments was supposed to make the payment until July 2025, but the company would most likely not be able to do this. According to the analysis, its activities were unprofitable, revenue was declining, and revenue was clearly not enough to fulfill its obligations. Hervel Investments Limited was able to repay only 66 million rubles, after which it notified IBSP of its inability to continue payments. The Interim Administration found the transaction contrary to the principles of reasonable and economically sound conduct.
This is not the only episode related to Hervel Investments Limited, which alerted the interim administration of the bank. After analyzing a number of transactions, it came to the conclusion that IBSP was secretly lending to a Cyprus company through the purchase of credit notes (a type of bond linked to a loan agreement.- "B"”) UBS AG London, the London branch of the largest Swiss financial holding company. This made it possible to reflect on the bank's balance sheet not a Cyprus company, but a stable financial institution. However, given the financial position of Hervel Investments Limited and the fact that the performance of the obligations under the credit notes directly depended on it, the right to claim them was obviously irrevocable, the DIA considered. The interim administration estimated the damage from such actions at 3.3 billion rubles.
Earlier, the investigation repeatedly tried to open a criminal case on this fact. It was also about Article 201 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (abuse of power), and Article 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (fraud), but the prosecutor's office of St. Petersburg was against it. According to unofficial data, the initiation of the current case could be facilitated by the pressure of creditors who repeatedly wrote complaints to law enforcement agencies.
Information about the initiation of a criminal case on the fact of a particularly large fraud "Kommersant" was confirmed by the representative of the bar association "Meyer, Yakovlev and partners" (one of the creditors of IBSP) Andrey Belonozhkin. According to him, the withdrawal of assets led to the collapse of the bank and the loss to creditors of their funds.
If the bank's management is brought to justice in a criminal case, creditors may have a chance to recover their funds as compensation for the damage caused by the crime, Mr. Belonozhkin expects.
Sergei Bazhanov told Kommersant that he was not aware of the initiation of a criminal case. "The bank worked until the last day and carried out all the calculations. It still has 6 billion rubles in its accounts, which indicates its stability. Revoking the license was a mistake, " he added.
Earlier, Sergey Bazhanov was charged in absentia with falsifying financial documents of accounting and reporting of a financial organization (Article 172.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). The case was initiated in the second investigative department of the GSU TFR with a deployment in St. Petersburg. A few weeks ago, Sergei Bazhanov was put on the federal wanted list. According to unofficial data, he is now abroad.