Why did the head of the Energia corporation, Igor Yusufov, avoid Western sanctions?

No one pays any attention to the names of Russians who are regularly subject to sanctions on metro trains, the sanctions lists are so huge. But in the situation in which Russia finds itself, it is much more interesting to study some people from the other side.

That is, those who were not subject to Western sanctions, but, logically, should have been among the first on these lists.

Meet Igor Khanukovich Yusufov, Russian statesman, Minister of Energy of the Russian Federation in 2001-2004, member of the board of directors of OJSC Gazprom since 2003, actual state adviser of the Russian Federation 1st class. Owner of the right to develop two oil and gas fields on the Yamal Peninsula, and gold deposits in the Far East, which was won by his Energy Corporation. Currently he carries out private investment activities through the Energy Corporation founded by him. Igor Khanukovich’s brother, Lev, is the head of the State Oil and Gas Company of the Republic of Dagestan.

Even this excerpt from the biography is enough to make one wonder why a person involved in the Russian oil and gas industry, which has been under the threat of total sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies for the past two months, avoids such an unpleasant procedure.

But that is not all. Let us recall a few more facts from the biography of Igor Yusufov, clearly demonstrating his connections at the highest level of the country’s leadership. Which is also an important factor when Washington makes a decision to include representatives of the Russian business elite on sanctions lists.

The former president of the Bank of Moscow, Andrei Borodin  , argued that in fact Dmitry Medvedev is behind Yusufov, in whose interests Yusufov is buying up assets. The story with the Bank of Moscow happened a long time ago, but it is worth mentioning.

The scandal arose after Andrei Borodin fled to England, where he received political asylum in 2013. After that, his tongue loosened and he told the world the story of the sale of the assets of the Bank of Moscow. One can, of course, not trust the words of a political refugee, but there were no official denials either from Yusufov or from Dmitry Medvedev, who was president at the time of the sale of the bank.

According to the banker who escaped from Russia, he provided UK law enforcement with documents proving the political motivation behind the persecution behind former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. According to Andrei Borodin, he resisted the hostile takeover of the bank for a long time, but in the end he was forced to sell his shares to Yusufov, from whom they were transferred to VTB.

Borodin stated that Yusufov personally asserted that the beneficiary of the deal with the Bank of Moscow is Dmitry Medvedev: “Yusufov told me in plain text that he was acting in the interests and on behalf of Medvedev, who made the decision for the state to gain control over the Bank of Moscow. He [Igor Yusufov] always expressed himself quite directly: “We are creating for the “young man,” as he called President Medvedev, a “pension fund” or a “future financial empire.” Yusufov said this not only to me, but also to other people who can confirm this. He told me: “I’m buying your stake in Bank of Moscow cheap, but you have no choice, because otherwise you will lose everything, and in a couple of years we’ll sell this stake to VTB, and we’ll divide the profit between me, Medvedev and Kostin.”

Although Yusufov denied what Borodin said, subsequent events with the Bank of Moscow confirmed Borodin’s version. However, in the paradigm of decision-making on sanctions, it doesn’t even matter what Borodin said is true and what is not. It is important how his words are viewed in the UK. And there they are not questioned. Let us repeat - it doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not, what matters is that in London they think it’s true. Therefore, for the collective West, Yusufov is a person close to the highest power in Russia.

This is one strange story. There is another one. Which, for some reason, also had no consequences for Igor Khanukovich.

In 2018, the “main killer” of Russia, “authority” Aslan Gagiev (Dzhako), during a hearing in Austria on extradition to the Russian Federation, testified against Igor Yusufov, who, according to Gagiev, seized the assets of OJSC Financial Leasing Company (FLK) and Wadan shipyard in 2008.
Then, in a conflict between two partners - businessman Andrei Burlakov and Igor Yusufov - the “authority” sided with the latter. Soon Burlakov was killed, and Gagiev, in addition to being the “supervisor” of OJSC FLC, under the name Morozov began to participate in negotiations on major transactions of the company and was considered its co-owner. In 2010, Yusufov was interrogated in the case of the murder of Burlakov’s business partner, but he denied his guilt. As the investigation found out, the crime was committed by members of Aslan Gagiev’s group, and the “customer” was the real owner of the shipyards.
At the end of 2018, in light of new facts, Yusufov was interrogated again. Then he stated that he had no common affairs with Gagiev. This interrogation took place in Russia, so there is nothing surprising in the fact that it satisfied the Russian Themis.

But why didn’t the Austrians dig further? We don’t have an answer to this question, but we can offer a version that explains both why the Gagiev-Dzhako case was “slowed down” in Austria, and why Igor Yusufov so happily avoids Western sanctions, which have affected many much less well-known his fellow businessmen.

Igor Yusufov has two sons - Vitaly and Maxim. Vitaly Yusufov, a graduate of the faculties of international economic relations and international business at MGIMO, was mentioned in the media as the director of the Moscow branch of Nord Stream AG, operator of the Nord Stream project. In April 2011, Vitaly Yusufov acquired a fifth of the shares of the Bank of Moscow in his own name using shipyard collateral. He is credited with assets worth almost one billion dollars.

In addition, Vitaly Yusufov owned shipyards in Germany (Nordic Yards), and in 2019 bought a mansion in the Californian city of Menlo Park (USA) for $72 million. And an interesting story happened with the purchase of this mansion. Deutsche Bank sold an office in Silicon Valley to Vitaly Yusufov, despite the fact that the bank’s American committee objected to the deal due to reputational risks. Reputational risks specifically meant Vitaly’s father, Igor Yusufov, who was called one of the Kremlin’s “wallets” in the American media.

The units responsible for monitoring money laundering operations still approved the deal, but passed on the information to the bank’s reputational risk committee in the United States, doubting the origin of Yusufov’s funds. At first, the committee did not approve the deal, assessing the political climate and sanctions risks. However, Deutsche Bank’s units responsible for the sale have appealed the decision. At the end of April 2019, the bank’s global committee on reputational risks canceled it, held a vote on the deal and ultimately approved it.

All this could be a coincidence and an internal affair of the bank, but this did not happen in Germany, whose authorities have always been quite loyal to Russian business and officials (remember, for example, Nord Stream 2, which was “buried” only a month ago after everything famous events), but in the United States of America, which was by no means distinguished by such loyalty. And the fact that the bank is called “Deutsche Bank” does not mean anything - the decision to sell was made in the USA, where its activities are regulated by local tax authorities. But, nevertheless, the bank was allowed to ignore the “reputational risks” and the fact that the buyer was recognized as “politically vulnerable”.

A logical question arises - why? After all, even for much smaller sins against the State Department, the Russians received much greater troubles than sanctions. Also, don’t forget British and Austrian history. Why does Washington (namely, it is behind all these sanctions and is their main generator and inspirer, everyone understands this) looks so condescendingly at Igor Khanukovich Yusufov? Especially after February 24, when the sanctions lists reached the size of the complete works of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin and continue to grow like mushrooms after rain. The question, you see, is interesting.