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Ex-Rosneft boss Eduard Khudainatov reportedly tied to mafia

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder is controversially set to join the board of Russian oil and gas company Rosneft. Now a Russian broadcaster believes it has found dubious ties between Rosneft and the mafia.

The private Russian pay-TV channel Dozhd (Russian for "rain") is known for its Kremlin-critical attitude and explosive news revelations. Now the broadcaster, which is also a partner of DW in Russia, has put an ex-boss of the Russian oil company Rosneft, Eduard Khudainatov (pictured above), under its magnifying glass. Reporters from Dozhd believe they have discovered a connection between Khudainatov and organized crime circles, and the tracks lead to St. Petersburg.

Rosneft describes itself as the "leader of Russia’s petroleum industry and the world’s largest publicly traded petroleum company," however, it is currently the target of EU sanctions due to Russia's Ukraine policy. The state-controlled energy giant, whose motto is "for the benefit of Russia," founded a subsidiary in Berlin in May and announced investments in the hundreds of millions.

Soon, the former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder will take a seat on Rosneft's board. The move has made Schröder the target of increased scrutiny in Germany. Rosneft's CEO, Igor Sechin, is considered a close confidant of Vladimir Putin. He used to be, among other things, his deputy office manager. Khudainatov's ties the current Russian president go all the way back to 2000, when he worked for Putin's first election campaign.

Murky dealings near St Petersburg

Rosneft boss Igor Sechin (DW/N. Jolkver)

Igor Sechin has taken over the helm at Rosneft

According to Dozhd, the 56-year-old Khudainatov, who was Sechin’s predecessor at Rosneft from 2010 to 2012, has a majority stake (62.5 percent) in a largely unknown company named Fort, which is a barely-transparent network of Cypriot offshore companies. Fort is said to have purchased some 3,600 hectares of land in the port of Primorsk near St Petersburg several years ago, where a new oil refinery was to be established.

This valuable state-owned property had previously belonged to another company, which had bought it at an incredibly low price. Their bosses are believed to have connections with the so-called Tambov mafia from St Petersburg. The group was notorious in the 1990s and was also involved in the oil business.

Spain investigating

The explosive question here is, who owns the remaining shares of Fort? Dozhd claims it is another offshore company with connections to the Tambov mafia, citing a businessman named Ilja Traber. According to media reports, Traber, together with a dozen other Russian businessmen, has been wanted by the Spanish authorities since 2016 for connections to the Tambov mafia.

"On the basis of the available data, it can be said that the profit [of the company Fort] was divided between Khudainatov and Traber's associates," reported Dozhd.

Primorsk oil port in Russia (Imago)

Khudainatov's dubious ties to the mafia reportedly trace back to a piece of land at a port outside St. Petersburg

Another juicy detail: According to Dozhd, a businessman and banker called Nikolay Shamalov was involved with the Fort company. His son, Kirill Shamalov, according to Russian media reports, is married to one of Putin's daughters.

For years, Spain has been investigating the Russian mafia for money laundering. In 2008, about 20 alleged members of the Tambov mafia were arrested in Spain. When the Spanish courts issued arrest warrants in 2016 for another 12 Russians, including Traber, a deputy of the Russian parliament was also listed.

Nothing is yet known about Khudainatov's reaction to the recent Dozhd report. He was last known to own another oil and gas company, and was awarded a medal by Putin in March for "strengthening the Russian position" on the global energy market and improving its investment prospects.

The Moscow economic newspaper Vedomosti reported on Friday that Khudainatov and the Chinese company China Energy could well emerge as new shareholders at Rosneft.

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