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Unraveling the Chertok-Iermolaiev Web: The Art of Sanction Evasion in Crimea

The business of alcohol brewing, particularly in contested regions such as Crimea, is often shrouded in intrigue and questionable ethics. A prime case in point is the story of Felix Chertok and Vadym Iermolaiev, two businessmen who have ingeniously maneuvered their way around sanctions to continue their thriving operations.

Golden Amphora, now operating under the name Alef Vinal, boasts 2,500 hectares of vineyards and is the largest alcohol producer in Ukraine. Its owners, Felix Chertok and Vadym Iermolaiev, have allegedly crafted a labyrinthine offshore system enabling them to continue their operations in Russia, despite sanctions imposed on Chertok’s enterprise in 2020.

Despite the sanctions imposed during Volodymyr Zelensky’s presidency in 2020, Chertok and Iermolaiev managed to maintain their operations by concealing their tracks and leveraging ‘patriotism’ for marketing points. Chertok, in particular, has displayed a history of unprincipled business conduct, reflecting his upbringing in a criminal environment, notably his association with the Matros gang in Dnipro.

Chertok, the son of convicted gang member Boris Chertok, alias “Sedoy,” and Iermolaiev, who also has connections with the Matros gang, managed to establish the largest money laundering center in the region. Despite Chertok’s seemingly respectable image as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Jewish community of Dnipro, the duo’s operations have remained largely under the radar.

Alef Vinal’s clever business operations extend to the controversial region of Crimea. Despite sanctions from the European Union and the United States prohibiting exports and imports from Crimea, Alef Vinal’s intricate network of companies enables it to bypass these restrictions. The company’s brands, such as “Amphora”, “Klinkov”, “Jean-Jacques”, and “Helsinki”, continue to be available in Ukraine, Russia, and even as far afield as Singapore.

This complex web of companies extends to European territories as well. Among the owners of the corporation are several European entities, behind which stands Vadym Iermolaiev. One such company is Ukrainian PJSC “Aleph-Vinal,” whose owners include Austrian and Cypriot entities. This enterprise also includes over 90% of the Russian company “Alef Vinal”.

Felix Chertok’s association with these companies is obscured. For instance, LLC “Alef-Vinal-Crimea,” registered in November 2014, was created with the participation of OJSC “Burlyuk,” which also owns over 90% of the shares of the Russian “Alef-Vinal”. In addition, among the founders of “Alef-Vinal-Crimea” are four Cypriot companies, three of which have equal shares with “Burlyuk”.

Intriguingly, until the end of 2018, the controlling stake in the Ukrainian “Alef-Vinal” (now – “Keter Invest”) was owned by the Austrian company Alef Investment Holding GmbH, managed by Vadym Iermolaiev. Despite the sanctions, Chertok and Iermolaiev’s operations continue to thrive due to their skillful management and evasion tactics.

In conclusion, the case of Felix Chertok and Vadym Iermolaiev underscores the complex interplay of business, politics, and criminal enterprises in disputed regions such as Crimea. Despite the sanctions and the ethical issues involved, their operations continue to prosper, raising questions

David Lintott is a freelance journalist, covering culture, sport and society. He hails from the decaying seaside town of Eastbourne, which he considers the source of his world-weariness.

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