Two executives of billionaire Viktor Vekselberg’s companies were detained by Russia’s Investigative Committee in a bribery probe involving the former governor of the Komi Republic and T PLus, an electricity generator operating in the region.
Renova Group Managing Director Evgeny Olkhovik and T Plus head Boris Vainzikher, who were executives of the utility’s predecessor KES Holding, were detained in connection with suspicious payments of over 800 million rubles ($12.3 million), according to a statement Monday on the Investigative Committee’s website. Mikhail Slobodin, a former manager at KES who is now the chief executive of Vimpelcom Russia, is also wanted in connection with the case, the committee said.
All three managers are suspected of bribing the Komi regional administration from 2007 through 2014, while Governor Vyacheslav Gaizer was in the office. Gaizer has been under arrest since September last year.
Vekselberg, who is not accused by investigators of involvement, is the third billionaire whose companies have faced investigation by Russian authorities in the past two years. AFK Sistema Chairman Vladimir Evtushenkov was put under house arrest for three months in 2014 in an investigation that resulted in the re-nationalization of his company’s stake in oil producer Bashneft PJSC. Evtushenkov was later cleared of wrongdoing. Earlier this year, the Federal Tax Service searched the offices of billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov’s Onexim Group in regard to his Tavrichesky Bank. After the raid, Prokhorov sold his stake in Uralkali PJSC and is seeking a buyer for his shares in United Co. Rusal.
Slobodin told Bloomberg News that he’s on a business trip outside of Russia and isn’t yet aware of the accusations.
Renova’s Moscow office was raided Monday and the company is cooperating with the authorities even though the investigation isn’t linked to T Plus’s current performance, according to its spokesman Andrey Shtorkh.
Vekselberg is chairman of Renova, through which he controls stakes in companies including T Plus, Rusal, OC Oerlikon Corp. AG and Sulzer AG. He is the fourth-richest Russian with assets worth $14.3 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.