Valentin Vinogradov, a Russian property developer, has been found guilty of working with an organised crime gang to steal millions of dollars from his employer.
In an 86-page verdict, the Presnensky District Court ruled on 23 December 2020 that Vinogradov had committed fraud and he was sentenced to four years in prison.
The District Court also ordered the seizure of 271 million roubles of assets owned by Vinogradov in Russia. These assets include properties, land and a number of luxury cars including an Aston Martin and Porsche Panamera.
Vinogradov was not present at the hearing as he fled Russia in 2016 and is currently in Slovakia, where he is reportedly seeking political asylum. The court’s verdict stated that Vinogradov had “committed fraud by deception and abuse of trust” and was operating “as part of an organised group”.
The conviction relates to a project undertaken by Vinogradov’s employer, the Midland Group, to develop its property holdings. Vinogradov was responsible for developing these new commercial property projects for the company and he had identified a 26,000 square meter mall called Million Melochei as a possible acquisition target in 2007.
Vinogradov secretly set up a company in the British Virgin Islands called Rosinternet Consulting Limited and told his employer, the Midland Group, that this was the vendor of the Million Melochei mall. Vinogradov was found to have falsified documents to convince his employers that the Million Melochei mall was worth $89 million and was owned by Rosinternet.
Midland transferred the fraudulently inflated $89 million purchase price to Rosinternet, which was secretly owned by Vinogradov. Vinogradov was then able to use that money to acquire the mall and its holding company, Intertrade LLC, for 1.76 billion roubles ($74 million at the time). As a result of this and other deceptions, Vinogradov is estimated to have stolen at least $15 million from Midland Group.
According to the criminal complaint, Vinogradov provided “falsified information concerning the reliable value of the property located at 26 Prishvina Street, Moscow, overestimating it with the purpose of stealing the difference in money in an especially large amount and with the purpose of unlawful enrichment.”
Vinogradov’s crimes were uncovered when doubts began to arise over the extravagant lifestyle he was leading as he “possessed property hundreds of times in value greater that his income”, according to the verdict.
After Vinogradov fled Russia, an international arrest warrant was issued for the fugitive businessman in December 2017. This led to a European manhunt and Vinogradov was eventually arrested in Slovakia at a horse racing event in July 2018.
His extradition back to Moscow to face fraud charges was blocked by Slovakia’s Minister of Justice, prompting media reports that Vinogradov may have bribed local politicians to ensure he was not removed from the country.
Vinogradov faces more legal trouble as another criminal case has been brought against him by the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office.
This case alleges that the businessman fraudulently took ownership of a Midland property on Olympic Avenue in Moscow in 2013. This alleged crime was also committed with the assistance of an organised criminal gang, the Russian Ministry of Justice has claimed.
The Russian authorities are seeking to extradite Vinogradov for this offence as well as the earlier fraud case.