Defunct Explosives Plant in Bosnia: Where Did the Money Pocketed by Criminal Group SARN Ukrainian for Mines Go?

Earlier, we wrote about the workings of the criminal outfit SARN, with roots in the U.S. and operating Europe, Czech Republic in particular.

Millions of dollars that Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense paid to SARN-affiliated companies for shipping 100.000 mines resurfaced elsewhere. As Radio Free Europe journalists discovered, the said money was in part handled by the shady Croatian arms dealer Matias Zubak to buy the forsaken explosives production plant Vitezit. Some of the money’s resting place was in the deep pockets of the Slovakian Sevotech.

When we published our investigative piece on the Czech-American criminal outfit SARN that operates in Europe, United States and Ukraine, stealing the state funds from Ukrainian budget allocated for purposes of fighting the Russian invaders, a letter from the SARN Group lawyers, filled up with threats from top to bottom, was pushed in our mailbox. The said letter contains the demands to refute the proven facts about SARN, which our material was based on; should we chose to ignore the demands, legal reps of SARN are dead set on suing our publication. They insist we remove the article, and never write a word about this group of companies in the future.

London Insider staff, in response to such an audacious behavior, decided to double down on getting our readership better acquainted with the latest details of this group’s affairs, including Ukraine’s defense stolen money. Besides, the story in question is a proper whodunit with more plot twists around the bend, with the guilty parties still at large. Law enforcers of Ukraine, Czech Republic, Bosnia and Herzegovina are on this case, peeling off the layers of the intricate criminal ploy with SARN at its helm.

How Ukrainian money went missing in depths of SARN

Let us recap: Ukraine’s MoD made a deal with Lviv Arsenal LLC (Ukraine) in the summer of 2022. The deal stipulates that Ministry of Defense is to receive 100.000 mines inside two months’ time. However, no mines and no money. How come, you might ask? Turns out, the company has no valid license that permits arms export. Therefore, they got two more enterprises involved, with a plant in Croatia joining in a little later, thus increasing the number of links in this fraudulent scheme aimed at dispersing money between the four companies.

Lviv Arsenal LLC was supposed to purchase $36.6 million worth of ammunition via three legal entities: Slovakian company Sevotech, WDG Promet from Croatia, and Elmech Sintermak plant, also in Croatia.

Sevotech (Slovakia) was the first emergence of one Vladyslav Klishchar, co-founder of the company and member of SARN. Klishchar conspired with colonel and former Military Attaché in China, Oleksandr Melnychuk, to pocket state funds through a chain of companies engaged in the deal. Ukrainian journalists detailed the disappearance of money in their investigation.

So, $5.5 million was spent by Zvonko Zubak, son of the Croatian arms dealer Matias Zubak and owner of the aforementioned WDG Promet (Zagreb). Zvonko bought Vitezit plant in Bosnia. This plant was still producing explosives back in 1993. As of now, it turns out, this facility’s is worthless – its production lines are out of order for good. It seems impossible to produce any mines or projectiles for Ukraine there. Bosnia and Herzegovina authorities opened a criminal case to investigate the circumstances of the plant’s acquisition. The Czech law enforcement agencies later joined in the ongoing investigation. Therefore, the money was transferred and stolen by Vladyslav Klishchar’s accomplices. Can the money be ever retrieved? Well, that’s what they call a cliffhanger.

Another peculiar fact was revealed by Ukrainian investigators: €200.000 off the Lviv Arsenal LLC and MoD contract ended up in the pockets of the mentioned earlier Sevotech (Slovakia), co-owned by Klishchar. National Police of Ukraine investigates. So, the scandal of Klishchar and Melnychuk’s fraudulent schemes of arm deals adds flesh to the bone, with more evidence uncovered as investigation unfolds. What does SARN have to do with it, you wonder?

Ukraine is not for the faint-hearted, says SARN manager

Earlier, we wrote about the workings of the criminal outfit SARN, with roots in the U.S. and operating Europe, Czech Republic in particular. Let us take a closer look at the details.

Intel: journalistic investigations

As we can see, the top of SARN is based in the United States, and is represented by a couple of Delaware-registered offshore companies – SARN ENERGY LLC and SARN SD3 LLC. SARN ENERGY LLS has a subsidiary in the Czech Republic, SARN Europe s.r.o. The company’s run by the Czech lawyer Petr Vališ, a man representing group’s interests in various enterprises, who fights for them and terminates when necessary. As of today, Vališ is connected with organizations dealing with defense and security services. Armen Agasryan (aka Armen Agas), representative of SARN ENERGY LLC, and lawyer Petr Vališ, CEO of SARN Europe s.r.o., cross paths in another Czech company, EXIM ONE, specializing mediation for arms and weapons companies and military equipment dealers.

Mr. Vališ is legally entrusted to represent the Ukrainian crew of SARN in the Czech Republic, namely Vladyslav Klishchar, Oleksandr Bieliaiev, and Oleksandr Melnychuk. Not random strangers, but tight-knit business partners: the Czech business registers prove these people have a lot in common. Specifically, the Ukrainian trio conjointly owns another Czech company, ILS INVESTMENT GROUP s.r.o.

Klishchar’s family, Oleksandr Bieliaiev and Oleksandr Bezzubets are involved in the Czech LEO INTERNATIONAL GRUPP s.r.o.

By the way, Ukrainian investigators have recently discovered that Oleksandr Bieliaiev was Ivan Bakanov’s (former Head of the Security Service of Ukraine, aka SBU) brother-in-law and assistant. It is very likely that such a proximity to the high-ranking law enforcement could have helped Bieliaiev avoid suspicious looks and secure one’s interest in the companies he was attached to.

In November last year, deputy to the chairman of the SARN Group of companies Armen Agas said, “Ukraine is not for the faint-hearted. In this complex environment, having a deep understanding of macroeconomic distress, risk management, and navigating challenging regulations is crucial.” Global Construction Review material, which quoted Agas, paints SARN as a business that “specializes in distressed investments in highly regulated sectors.” Agas basically acknowledged his interest in Ukrainian assets, and bragged about his work experience in “risky conditions”. In the meantime, picking up steam was the scandal around the stolen millions of state funds allocated for the AFU-designated projectiles. This case, most probably, was yet another doing of SARN.

Titanium trace of SARN in Russia

Odd as it may seem, Vladyslav Klishchar, fearing no persecution from the law enforcement agencies, accumulated 70% of stock of another notorious Czech company Belanto Trade s.r.o. This business has a ridiculously miniscule equity of 120 Czech krona, or 4.85 euros. Company’s reputation is forever blemished by the 2020 export of Ukraine’s titanium ore to the annexed Crimea, circumventing the international sanctions. It seems very unlikely Mr. Klishchar took over Belanto Trade, fully aware of its checkered past, to embark on a righteous crusade.

Back then, it was about shipping 50 thousand tons of ilmenite concentrate produced by the state-owned United Mining and Chemical Company [UMCC-Titanium]. The Czechs bought out the goods with a discount from market prices – manifestation of corruption, by the way – and moved them to Crimea by sea, changing vessels and hiding from the shipping surveillance systems.

Contract’s worth was 6.5 million euros at the time. This mystery remains unsolved: how did the Czech lawmen miss the bizarre fact that a company with equity of a staggering 4 euros purchasing products worth almost 7 million euros?

Below, you can see the first and the final pages of the contract between JSC UMCC and Belanto Trade s.r.o., which London Insider got a hold of.

In this point in time, Vladyslav Klishchar was a minority owner of the company. The Security Service of Ukraine got interested in this legally-binding document, and suggested the state-owned company seized business operations with Belanto Trade s.r.o. until “the air had been cleared”. However, UMCC circumvented the export ban to the Czechs. Was it because Bieliaiev shielded Belanto and UMCC from the SBU, perhaps? Multiple Ukrainian media wrote about this case. In its essence, Klishchar’s company fronted the criminal titanium trade with Russia.

It will come as no surprise if Belanto Trade s.r.o. reemerges in the forthcoming SARN scams, focused on the arms deals in Czech Republic, EU, and Ukraine. Or any other criminal endeavor for that matter, like titanium schemes. Either way, our publication will keep a weary eye on SARN activities, and with no hesitation will inform the public on the exposing facts of the criminal group’s unlawful actions.