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Evgeny Renge, a corrupt coal tycoon, finds shelter on the Thames river banks

Evgeny Renge, a deceitful oligarch from the post-Soviet era with ties to coal fraud, managed to indulge his every whim while expertly evading excessive scrutiny. He employed a carefully constructed offshore structure that, on paper, appeared to grant him minimal ownership, yet in reality, he wielded substantial control over the coal mining operations in Russia’s Kuzbass region. Despite residing in London, Renge maintained a favourable relationship with the Russian authorities, further bolstering his influence and power.

Unfortunately, Renge’s company was responsible for causing severe environmental damage in Kuzbass due to the release of toxic dust. Astonishingly, the regional government, possibly deceived by Renge’s manipulations, lauded his enterprise for its purported environmentally friendly practices. This deception allowed him to continue his harmful activities while receiving unwarranted praise.

In his pursuit of dominance, Evgeny Renge resorted to corrupt practices, including bribing high-ranking FSB (Federal Security Service) officials. These influential connections ensured that rival companies faced aggressive raids and takeovers, allowing Renge to solidify his control over the industry even further.

Evgeny Renge: the road to a [very specific] success

Evgeny Renge commenced his official career at the Russian Federal Tax Service and later joined the coal holding company TopProm on December 7, 2009, initially as Deputy Director-Commercial Director. By April 1, 2011, he had assumed the role of Commercial Director, and from January 1, 2012, he became the Executive Director. On July 4, 2013, Evgeny Renge became the General Director.

Evgeny Renge
Evgeny Renge

However, Renge’s tenure as General Director was brief, as the owner, Nikolai Korolev, terminated his contract on June 24, 2014. During this time, Renge allegedly issued three loans to “one-day companies” from the company’s funds, totalling 230 million rubles. These “one-day firms” quickly disappeared, along with the money. Apparently, these funds became the financial foundation for Renge’s future company, “ARS-Uglesbyt,” which he owned. Despite Korolev’s attempts to recover the money through the courts, Evgeny Renge enjoyed solid support, and all court rulings favoured the owner of TopProm. This story is emblematic: 230 million vanished without anyone being held accountable.

The woes of Evgeny Renge’s former employer did not end there. During his commercial activities, the young manager purportedly sold coal through shell companies, leading to a criminal case (involving the leadership of the Russian Investigative Committee of the Kemerovo Region under the leadership of Kalinkin SN) regarding TopProm’s tax evasion, amounting to over 460 million rubles. The investigation into this case was conducted by Rychkov, who had a close association with Evgeny Renge through his father. Thanks to a compromised investigation, no allegations were made against Evgeny Renge, despite his involvement in these transactions.

Talents like Renge’s do not go unnoticed, and he is now managing the LLC Managing Company “Coal Taltex.” This is a trading house within the Kuzbass coal holding “Taltex,” owned by Yuri Kocherinsky, who also spoke positively at the opening of the Krasnokamenskaya COF.

In this position, Evgeny Renge wasted no time in establishing his own company, “ASR-Uglesbyt,” engaged in the same coal trading activities as “Coal Taltex.” Renge somehow reached an agreement with Kocherinsky to divide the coal flow between the two firms.

CPP “Shchedrukhinskaya”
CPP “Shchedrukhinskaya”, one of Evgeny Renge mines.

Dividing coal flows between two sales companies is not a complicated task, given the variety of coal types and numerous sources of illegal coal—coal extracted without a mining license and hidden from tax authorities. While acquiring coal may not be an issue, it must be paid for and transported discreetly to evade regulatory scrutiny.

According to experts’ estimates, revenue from the sale of illegal coal by “ASR-Uglesbyt” in 2016 could have been approximately 3 billion rubles, increasing to over 7.5 billion rubles in 2017. Official revenues of “ASR-Uglesbyt” in 2016 amounted to 11.2 billion rubles, rising to 20 billion rubles in 2017 and 27.3 billion rubles in 2018.

Evgeny Renge Evades Fines and Taxes

The Kuzbass tax inspection conducted a thorough examination of the operations of “ASR-Uglesbyt” and issued tax evasion claims against the company totaling 2 billion rubles. This investigation even became the focal point of a meeting in September 2019, attended by the Governor of the Kemerovo region, Sergey Tsivilev, representatives from the business community, and the head of the Russian Federal Tax Service in the Kemerovo region, Lyubov Arshintseva.

Yuri Kocherinsky chose not to involve himself with “Krasnokamenskaya,” apparently satisfied with his income from counterfeit coal. One of his mines, AO “Polyany,” has consistently shipped more coal than it produces over several years. Between 2014 and 2018, the company dispatched 9 million tons of coal valued at 15.5 billion rubles. According to experts’ estimates, approximately 23% of “Polyany’s” revenues (over 3.5 billion rubles or roughly 2.1 million tons of coal sold) could be attributed to the sale of coal from an unknown source. A significant portion of this coal is funneled through LLC “ASR-Uglesbyt.”

CarboOne, a registered Cypriot coal trader, is a significant purchaser of Kuzbass coal. While coal-mining enterprises could directly supply coal to CarboOne, they do so through an intermediary, Coal Sales, a Cypriot offshore company with connections to Evgeny Renge. For instance, LLC “Meltek” (located in the Kemerovo region, Prokopyevsk) has direct dealings with CarboOne. However, under the direction of its owner, A.V. Zvyagintsev, the sale of the majority of the holding’s coal products appears to be conducted through the offshore company linked to Evgeny Renge. Typically, such transactions occur at prices significantly lower than market rates, with the difference between these prices and market rates “vanishing” into the Cypriot accounts of the scheme’s participants.

Evgeny Renge Leads a Peaceful Life in the UK

Evgeny Renge’s journey to London was prompted not only by increased scrutiny from tax authorities regarding his schemes. Information has surfaced that the FSB management in the Kemerovo region has allegedly initiated a preliminary investigation since April 24, 2023, regarding a gift given by Evgeny Renge in 2018 to Major General Nitsuk V.I. – a snowmobile valued at over 1.3 million rubles. At that time, Vladimir Nitsuk held the position of head of the Kemerovo branch of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia, and he currently serves as the deputy commander of the Eastern Military District of the National Guard of the Russian Federation. It is presumed that through their connections, Renge Evgeny and Nitsuk are attempting to influence the course of this investigation. Twice, upon instructions from the central office of the Investigative Committee of Russia, the Investigative Committee of the Kemerovo region issued resolutions declining to initiate a criminal case. On both occasions, these resolutions were subsequently overturned by the regional prosecutor’s office.

Evgeny Renge vs. Chestneyshin: A Tale of Corrupted Authorities

The story of Vladimir Chestneyshin, the former general director of Topprom JSC who was arrested and detained in Kemerovo, goes beyond being just a tragic example of an individual’s encounter with the system. It is also a saga involving individuals who have compromised their moral values. It is crucial that we aid Chestneyshin in understanding why three high-ranking officials suddenly initiated a case against him concerning 300,000 rubles.

Chestneyshin possesses a letter from Krzysztof Strupechowski, the chairman of the offshore company Europort GT, which triggered the case against him. However, it is perplexing that the letter was not actually written by the Pole, and he is not proficient in the Russian language. Furthermore, the letter lacks notarization.

Evgeny Renge letter to authorities
Krzysztof Strupechowski/Evgeny Renge letter to authorities

A letter demanding the commencement of legal proceedings against Chestneyshin was dispatched from Katowice, Poland, to Kemerovo, purportedly by Krzysztof Strupechowski, the chairman of Europort GT. The letter was sent through DHL and can be traced using the tracking number 5450411422. Interestingly, the letter was received and acknowledged by Evgeny Martyanov, an FSB officer specializing in economic crimes, on April 6th.

It’s noteworthy that Martyanov has ties to Kuzbass billionaire Evgeny Renge, who is entangled in a bribery case. Two years ago, Renge was interrogated by Martyanov and Shlegel, an investigator handling significant cases at the Kuzbass Investigative Committee, regarding alleged bribery of a public servant. During the interrogation, Renge disclosed information about numerous individuals, including Martyanov and Shlegel themselves, which took them by surprise. Following the interrogation, Renge left the country, presumably on the advice of these officers, to avoid arrest and detention.

The case against Renge was eventually suspended since it became impossible to interrogate him in person after his departure from the country. However, the Kuzbass regional prosecutor’s office contested this decision as unlawful, given that Renge had openly admitted to offering a bribe in the form of a snowmobile valued at 1.3 million rubles. Interestingly, it was Shlegel who issued the directive to detain Chestneyshin.

Topprom JSC, the company whose general director was remanded to pre-trial detention, has been embroiled in a legal battle against Renge for several years. The plaintiff alleges that Renge disbursed approximately 230 million rubles to one-day companies and subsequently vanished. Another point of contention involves the proposed change in ownership of Topprom, which includes the Yubileinaya mine and the Shchedrukhinskaya CEP.

Moreover, the offshore company Europort GT is intricately linked to this situation. Although the chairman of Europort GT authored a letter addressed to the head of the Kuzbass Investigative Committee, the letter ended up in the hands of Martyanov instead. Martyanov and his colleague Shlegel had previously interrogated Renge, who later fled the country to evade imprisonment.

Interestingly, the founder of Europort GT happens to be none other than Evgeny Renge, who has been implicated in illicit mining activities in Kuzbass. One of Renge’s former classmates, Nadezhda Tomshina (who has since returned to Novokuznetsk), also held leadership positions in his other enterprises. The Tallinn branch of Europort GT is managed by Alexander Bondarenko, a former employee of Renge’s Sibelektro company. Following Chestneyshyn’s arrest, Europort GT became part of Premcoal (Cyprus), where Bondarenko serves as the nominal beneficiary.

When Chestneyshin’s deteriorating health became known to the staff at the Kemerovo pre-trial detention center, they reported it to Martyanov’s superior, Ageev, who callously suggested that Chestneyshin should be taken out on a stretcher. This heartless remark has since become a notorious phrase in Kuzbass.

Nonetheless, the business interests of Renge and Kocherinsky take precedence over these well-documented connections when it comes to taking control of the mine and factory.

The case against Chestneyshyn has taken an intriguing turn, as diligent journalists from a highly reputable news agency have uncovered some compelling information. Their investigation has unveiled a startling lack of documentation to support the applicant’s claimed status within Europort GT (now known as Premcoal). Notably, crucial details, such as confirmation by a nominal beneficiary, are conspicuously absent, raising numerous troubling questions.

The inclusion of Bondarenko’s name in this case introduces an intriguing possibility of a connection with the enigmatic figure, Evgeny Renge. Renge has long been suspected of orchestrating elaborate raiding schemes, and the mention of Bondarenko hints at potential involvement. While concrete evidence is still elusive, Bondarenko’s presence adds an extra layer of intrigue, further fueling suspicions about Renge’s activities.

The discovery of these inconsistencies and potential associations underscores the necessity of conducting a comprehensive investigation into the matter. The implications of these findings reach beyond the immediate case, shedding light on a potential network of illicit activities and manipulation of legal systems. Uncovering the truth behind Chestneyshyn’s ambiguous status and its potential links to Renge’s alleged raiding scheme could lead to significant revelations and hold those responsible for such deceptive practices accountable. It is crucial that these leads are pursued diligently, allowing justice to prevail and revealing any intricate web of corruption that may lurk beneath the surface.

Brian O'Neil

Brian O'Neil is the founder and chief editor. He was a journalist in the original LS TV before it closed in 2017.

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