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Conflict with Gazprom and the most expensive divorce. Why is Prigozhin’s interlocutor known – businessman Farkhad Akhmedov


In mid-March 2023, a recording of a phone conversation allegedly between music producer Iosif Prigogine and businessman Farkhad Akhmedov appeared on social media. The participants of the conversation sharply criticize the military operation in Ukraine, as well as the Russian authorities, in particular President Vladimir Putin. Prigogine initially called the recording fake, but later said he was talking to Akhmedov, admitted he said some of the phrases, and suggested they were changed. Akhmedov did not comment on the audio recording. RTVI tells what is known about the billionaire’s affairs, why he was included in the “Kremlin report” and how Akhmedov’s divorce became the most expensive in UK history.

Affairs and conflict with Gazprom

Farhad Ahmedov take 49th place in the ranking of Russian billionaires according to Forbes in the Russian language. The magazine estimates his fortune at $1.7 billion. The American edition of Forbes defined businessman at the 2337th place in the world, estimating his wealth at 1.1 billion dollars.

Akhmedov began his career in the late 1980s trading sables on the London Mercantile Exchange, but soon moved on to work in the gas industry. Created by a businessman, Tansley Trading supplied equipment to Russian gas companies, including Gazprom.

In the early 1990s, Akhmedov took a stake in the Northgas company, created by Gazprom and the American Bechtel Energy to develop the Severo-Urengoyskoye field in the Yamalo-Nenets administrative district.

The relationship between the businessman and Gazprom did not work out. The state-owned company accused Akhmedov of diluting his stake in Northgas from 51% to 0.5%. The businessman, in turn, argued that Gazprom does not invest “a penny” in Northgas, and therefore cannot manage the company.

After many years of litigation, the parties reached an out-of-court settlement, following which Gazprom regained control of Northgas. The agreement obliged Gazprom, in the event of violation of the agreements, to buy out Akhmedov’s stake (49%) at the market price.

In 2011, Akhmedov accused Gazprom in court of violating the terms of the shareholders’ agreement and presented the state-owned company with a share to buy back. Gazprom refused the deal. As a result, Ahmedov sold his share in 2012 to Novatek Gennady Timchenko and Leonid Mikhelson for 1.375 billion dollars. The businessman invested part of the funds in the shares of Novatek, Lukoil, Gazprom, Norilsk Nickel, Sberbank and Magnit.

Gennady Timchenko and Leonid Mikhelson (left to right) at the Boao Economic Forum, in 2015I.Shuvalova/TASS

Senator of Kuban and NAO

From 2004 to 2009, Akhmedov served as a senator in the Federation Council – first from the Krasnodar Territory, then from the Nenets Autonomous Okrug (NAO).

Kuban-era governor Alexander Tkachev explain Akhmedov, little known in the region, was chosen by the fact that the Krasnodar Territory needs investors more than politicians.

“It will be like the south of France here. It’s a matter of five to ten years. But we need an “engine”, we need investments, we need conditions for them”, reasoned Akhmedov himself after being approved for the job.

Having become the Kuban representative in the Federation Council, Akhmedov began the reconstruction of the Krasnaya Polyana resort, but already in 2006 he sold it to the former deputy of the Kuban Legislative Assembly, Akhmed Bilalov.

Controlled by Bilalov and his brother Magomed, the company later missed facility construction deadlines for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. This led to heavy criticism from Russian President Vladimir Putin and a criminal case. against the Bilalovs, after which the brothers left Russia.

After the Kuban term expired, Akhmedov became a NAO senator. Businessman said that the proposal to represent the NAO on the Federation Council came from “the region”, from Gazprom “and from the leadership of the Federation Council”.

Penalties and arrest of the yacht

In 2018, the US Treasury included Farkhad Akhmedov in the so-called “Kremlin report”, an invalid list of Russian officials and businessmen whom Washington considered close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The report was a US response to alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election. The list was prepared as part of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Bill (CAATSA).

The White House explained that entering the “Kremlin report” does not mean the automatic imposition of sanctions against its defendants, but “increases the risk” of their application.

Akhmedov was included in the list of 96 “oligarchs” with a fortune of over $1 billion, according to Forbes. The businessman himself called the goal of the ‘Kremlin report’ the split in the Russian elite, and also accused Washington of trying to treat Russian entrepreneurs as ‘stupid herd and cattle , scoring and slaughtering one for meat”.

“Why should all major Russian companies be declared enemies of the United States? Who advised this? Is it the promotion of economic freedom in a recently totalitarian country? Absurd!” – wanted some Akhmedov in a conversation with RBC.

In the end, entering the “Kremlin list” did not lead to sanctions against Akhmedov. The European Union, Great Britain and Canada introduced them against a businessman only in the spring of 2022 due to the start of a military operation in Ukraine.

On EU sanctions list Akhmedov is listed as “a leading businessman close to the Kremlin” who operates in sectors of the economy that “provide an important source of income to the government of the Russian Federation”.

The restrictions involve freezing a businessman’s foreign assets and banning entry. In this regard, in May 2022, Akhmedov’s 115-meter yacht Luna, worth $436 million, was detained in Hamburg. data Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany, a businessman owns a yacht through a trust in Liechtenstein.

Georg Wendt/Picture Alliance via Getty Images

Luna was built in 2010 for Russian businessman Roman Abramovich and at the time was considered the largest expedition yacht in the world. In 2014, Akhmedov, described by The Times as a friend of Abramovich, bought the ship for $300 million and rebuilt it, lengthening it by two meters.

In June, Akhmedov asked the EU to lift sanctions against him in order to return the yacht. Business lawyers claims that he no longer works in the energy sector in Russia, that he has not held any political office for more than a decade and that he “has not been close to the Kremlin and has never is part of the circle of President Vladimir Putin”. The defense also noted that Akhmedov had been in conflict with state-owned Gazprom for many years.

‘The most unhappy family’ and the most expensive divorce in British history

In the summer of 2021, foreign and Russian media closely followed the final of Akhmedov’s high-profile divorce proceedings. It was held in the UK and became, as journalists wrote, the most expensive in the history of the country.

Farhad and Tatyana Akhmedov married in 1993 and moved to London. In 2000, the couple divorced in Russia. The businessman claimed that the ex-wife had confessed to numerous infidelities.

In 2003 Tatyana filed for divorce in the UK. According to Akhmedov, she did this in secret three days after the businessman received the funds from the sale of his stake in Northgas in his account.

In 2016, the High Court in London ordered Akhmedov to pay his ex-wife 453 million pounds ($585 million at the time), or 41.5% of the family fortune. That sum included $450 million in cash, a nearly $150 million contemporary art collection, a £25 million mansion on the outskirts of London and an Aston Martin. As part of the process, Akhmedov’s $492 million yacht Luna was also arrested.

The businessman initially refused to pay his ex-wife compensation, saying after a divorce in Russia he gave her a house on the outskirts of London and spent ‘millions of pounds’ on it. his interview. Temur, the eldest son of the Akhmedovs, was also involved in the divorce proceedings: Tatyana accused him of helping his father to withdraw family property and thereby escape legal obligations. The court sided with the woman and ordered Temur to pay her mother more than $100 million.

In 2021, the ex-spouses were finally able to agree. Ahmadov agreed pay his ex-wife £150million in cash and art, and kept the yacht. Commenting on the outcome of the case, Akhmedov said that he was granted freedom and his opponent “had nothing left” and ruined his relationship with his sons. Judge Gwyneth Knowles, in her verdict, called the Akhmedov family “the most miserable to ever appear in her courtroom.”

Copyright © 2023 The Eastern Herald.

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