Kerimov’s Villas and Offshores: How to Buy a Mansion in Nice And Not Screw Up
On the afternoon of November 26, 2006, on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, Ferrari Enzo crashed into a tree. The car ($ 700 thousand in 2003) caught fire. The driver – at that time the State Duma deputy Suleyman Kerimov was taken to the hospital with burns. The passenger – at that time TV host of the STS channel Tina Kandelaki – disappeared from the scene of the accident. Later, it turned out that the car, made as a racing car of Formula-1, officially belonged to Alexander Studhalter, a Swiss citizen.
Nine years later, Nice will witness another drama, however, this time Suleyman Kerimov, the main character, will be in the status of a member of the Russian Federation Council. On November 20, 2017, the French police will detain the billionaire at the airport, and take him to the building of the Central Commissariat of the Nice Police in the street of Guillaume Apollinaire.
As it will transpire, he is suspected of tax evasion and money laundering. At the moment, Kerimov is under a recognizance not to leave and a € 40 million bail. French law enforcement agencies believe that the senator illegally brought from € 500 million to € 750 million into the country. Nice prosecutor Jean-Michel Pretre said that Kerimov was bringing the money in order to launder them when buying a villa. Some of the money was cashed from the accounts in Monaco and Switzerland.
In Suleyman Kerimov’s official declaration for 2016, the income of 12 million rubles is indicated; his spouse earned 3.8 million. The senator's property includes a 2/3 in an apartment of 53.5 sq. m.; another flat of 37.8 sq. m. is in his use. Kerimov owns a Mercedes-Benz S-klass 600 car, his wife has three more cars: two BMWs and his Mercedes-Benz S-klass 600.
Kerimov became a senator from Dagestan in 2008. The law that prohibits members of the Federation Council to manage business was adopted only five years later (it is possible to own real estate abroad – but it is supposed to be declared).
Kerimov did not hide that he did not give up his business assets – he simply legally transferred them to the blind trust of the Swiss fund Suleyman Kerimov Foundation. In 2015, the company was bought back by Kerimov’s son Said. Thus, the father was no longer the richest: the 22-year-old heir also received the airport in Makhachkala as a gift in February this year, and a little earlier – a stake in the largest gold deposit in Russia.
VILLAS IN NICE
The fact that the Russian senator purchased real estate in Nice, without paying taxes, transpired back in March. The French edition Nice Matin reported that it was Kerimov who could be one of the largest property owners in the south of Cape Antibes on the Cote d'Azur, also called the Bay of Billionaires. On February 15, one of the villas was searched within the case of the legality of the acquisition of this expensive real estate, the newspaper wrote.
In September 2017, it became known that the same summer court seized the villa Hier. At the same time, Nice Matin stated that the editorial board had some “confidential banking documents” according to which the real owner of the Swiru group holding, through which the transaction for the purchase of the Hier villa (“and other real estate items”) was registered, was not the Swiss Stuhlhatter, but the “nephew” of Suleyman Kerimov».
Stuldhather himself sent a response to this publication: he stated that he was the “sole owner and beneficiary” of the Swiss company Swiru Holding A.G., and therefore of the real estate that it owns through its branches. “As a consequence, Mr. Suleyman Kerimov, with whom I have maintained business and friendly relations for many years, is neither the owner nor the beneficiary of Villa Hier.” Stuldhater said that the villa was bought in 2008 for 35 million euros, and “a few weeks before the purchase” “an independent legal examination estimated it at 31.05 million.”
SWIRU HOLDING A.G.
Senator Suleyman Kerimov fell into a “Paradise” leak from the offshore law firm Appleby. According to the database, he is listed as a shareholder in the company Altitude 41 Ltd. in Bermuda.
The offshore companies details includes an address in Moscow. From 1999 to 2004, the apartment in the Tekstilshchiki area belonged to Suleyman Abusaidovich Kerimov – that is, to the full namesake of the senator.
The President and the shareholder of the company until 2010 was Nariman Hajiyev, full namesake of the Minister for Information Policy and Mass Communications of the Republic of Dagestan. However, the indicated address was in Switzerland, in an inconspicuous mansion on the shores of the Lake Geneva in the Lucerne area.
This is where the intricacies begin. This address is used by several people and companies. At Matthofstrand, 8, the offices of the offshore Altitude 15 Ltd. and Altitude 45 Ltd. are registered. This address is indicated by Nazim Mehdiyev and Jan K Luckmann (listed as the director of A45) as the address for correspondence. Also, Alexander Walter Studhalter uses it for receiving letters.
The same address is used by Swiru Holding AG, a Swiss company that actually consists of seven offshore companies in Bermuda. Two of them are connected with another shareholder Altitude 41 Ltd. – through LT Trading Ltd.
The company can be tracked through LinkedIn. It was founded by Alexander Studhalter, it says in the company profile. There is also a link to the profile of the Studhalter himself.
“Having made a number of speculative investments in the stock market, SWIRU invested in aeronautics during the collapse of the USSR. In particular, it acquired shares in the companies Vnukovo Airlines (airline), Transport Clearing House (distribution center), resold a few years later,” the company's profile says.
Later, SWIRU invested in the oil sector. In particular, it acquired shares of Gazprom, Nafta-Moskva and Slavneft (the Russian state oil company). In 2005, SWIRU also became a shareholder of Sberbank, the third largest European bank by capitalization.
Just to be clear: the company Nafta-Moskva owned the Makhachkala Commercial Sea Port and the airport of the capital of Dagestan. Nafta itself belonged to Suleyman Kerimov. The company actually controlled large stakes in Sberbank and Gazprom.
The fact that Suleyman Kerimov is associated with Alexander Studhalter is known for a long time. And the address in Lucerne is not accidental: there is a family group of the Swiss international advisory group of companies. Family – because it belongs to the Studhalters. The company provides legal and tax consulting, audit and can help with property management.
At the same address in Lucerne, Suleyman Kerimov Foundation, to which the senator handed over the management of all of his wealth abroad, was registered in 2013. The Foundation allocated 44 million Swiss francs for charity in 2011, local media reported. He built mosques and made films about Khodorkovsky disappear from film festivals.
On the website of the Swiss international advisory group, there is a small note about Villa Monteux. It also mentions Medy Roc: the villas, because of which Kerimov-gate took place.
SENATOR’S VILLAS IN NICE
According to Nice Matin, Suleyman Kerimov owns four villas – Hier, Medy Roc, Florella and Lexa. All four villas officially belong to the Swiss businessman Alexander Studhalter. French law enforcers believe that the owner can be fictitious. Suspicion was caused by the price of the villas, which is listed in the tax documents.
RainTV Channel found that in 2009 some client ordered the London design bureau MMM architects asked to design a project for the villa Medy Roc. The project is published on the company's website: it shows the handwritten notes, including “Gula's bedroom”, “Emina's bedroom” and “Entry to Said's”. Kerimov, we recall, has three children: daughters Gulnara and Amina and son Said.
According to the purchase-sale documents, the price of the transaction was 35 million Euros. Another 61 million Euros could be transferred directly to the seller’s Swiss account, which allowed avoiding tax on this part of the purchase price. The total amount of funds that the French treasury has not received is “tens of millions of Euros,” notes Le Temps.
As Nice Martin wrote, this story began to unfold in 2015. The policemen kept track of one of the kingpins within a smuggling case. At a restaurant in Nice, they spotted a woman who brought cash to pay off employees. It turned out that she was the secretary of Stefan Chiaverini’s law firm. This lawyer, whose office is located in Antibes, is a specialist in tax law. More precisely, according to Nice Matin, a specialist “on creation of offshore schemes that have a single goal - avoiding French taxes.”
It was Chiaverini, according to investigators, who could be the intermediary in the purchase of Kerimov’s villas. From the wiretapping of his conversations it followed that the real cost of the villa could be as much as 127 million euros.
The Swiss side continues to insist that Kerimov has nothing to do with this property. Studhalter also stated that he had already appealed the court decision on the arrest of the villa, and now his request is pending before the Court of Appeal in Aix-en-Provence.