Sanctions vs Russian Oligarchs: How Billionaires Can Walk Away Scot-Free? Case of Tamaz Somkhishvili

The most publicly known Russian billionaires are just the tip of the iceberg

“UK is no safe haven for dirty money or those that enable the Putin regime”. This is the exact phrase of the former Minister of State for Home Affairs, Lady Susan Williams, which Financial Times used in their article. The politician’s statement clarifies the country’s official stance on the sanctions against the Russian billionaires; however, being on the sanctions list does not stop the Russians from influencing the war in Ukraine via their proxies. Like Tamaz Somkhishvili, for example.

UK adopted new legislation that keeps the existing sanctions against Russia in place until moscow pays off the reparations in favor of Ukraine. That being said, Russian citizens on the sanctions list, who openly speak against the hostilities in Ukraine, are endorsed and allowed to donate their seized assets to Ukraine’s recovery. Among those under British sanctions are billionaires Roman Abramovich, Mikhail Fridman, Vagit Alekperov, Petr Aven, Alexey Mordashov, German Khan, and many others.

The most publicly known Russian billionaires are just the tip of the iceberg, though. Number of these Russian moguls’ associates, residing in the UK, can be sponsoring the war in Ukraine directly. These people successfully evade the attention from the law enforcement agencies of the United Kingdom, and keep their names off the sanctions list.

For example, Tamaz Somkhishvili, Russian billionaire with UK passport, is connected with Alexander Zhukov, father-in-law of Roman Abramovich; he’s also very much familiar with Vagit Alekperov through the Russian oil company Lukoil, previously headed by Somkhishvili, and Mikhail Fridman through a law firm, which handles the Ukrainian interests of both Fridman and Somkhishvili.

As the second year of war in Ukraine comes to its end, one peculiar trial is in full swing. Former boss of Lukoil, Tamaz Somkhishvili, is desperately trying to sue Kyiv for $100 million for the Kharkiv Square reconstruction, which never happened. The sheer audacity of the event is hard to underestimate: compared to Mikhail Fridman’s $1 billion case against Ukraine for nationalization of Fridman’s real assets of Sense Bank (former Alfa Bank) through one Luxembourg enterprise, Somkhishvili quite literally wants $100 million out of thin air.

Tamaz Somkhishvili appeared in Ukraine back in 2007 out of nowhere. His company Kyiv Terminal, with no experience in construction works and no business credibility whatsoever, somehow swooped the contract for the Kharkiv Square reconstruction in Kyiv. At the time, a reputable corruptor Leonid Chernovetskyi was the mayor, and is now hiding abroad.

It’s safe to say Somkhishvili was never after repairing the said square in Kyiv. There were troubles with the land allotment, required permits from the communal services, and no decision to carry out the reconstruction from the city officials was ever issued. Rather than doing what they signed up to do, Kyiv Terminal started a war in court.

Journalistic investigative efforts revealed that, in order to support false claims of financial damages that Somkhishvili allegedly suffered, a mockery of a trial was staged – one company of Somkhishvili’s demanded its debt to be paid by another Somkhishvili’s business entity. After the so-called experts basically confirmed the existence of the said debt between the companies, Somkhishvili, armed with this dubious paperwork, sued the city. Surprisingly, his actions were treated with understanding among the close circle of Vitaliy Klitschko, mayor of Kyiv. Instead of calling the investment contract what it is – a farse – and suing Somkhishvili for fraud, city hall dwellers voluntarily sabotaged their defense in the courtroom. As a result, the first-instance court upheld the claim of Kyiv Terminal, dismissed the appeal, with the Supreme Court remanding the case for further consideration. Today, no matter how ridiculous it may sound, Russian billionaire Somkhishvili can succeed in suing Kyiv for $100 million thanks to his fraudulent scheme.

One could see the future of the land lot in Kyiv with prior knowledge of another scam Somkhishvili carried out in Odesa. Aided by the city mayor Gennadiy Trukhanov-controlled structures and Abramovich’s father-in-law Alexander Zhukov, city council allotted 8 hectares of state owned-land to a private enterprise, which re-sold the land to Skhid-XXI company, with Somkhishvili being the final beneficiary. The land was sold once again to the local contractor that built a residential housing complex there. In the end, the local community was robbed of a chunk of land by billionaire entrepreneurs, Somkhishvili among them, who made a pretty penny.

Back in 2007, when not much was known about Tamaz Somkhishvili in Ukraine, he had a notorious ring to his name in Russia. According to his Wikipedia page, Tamaz Somkhishvili is a crime boss, also known as “Tamaz Tobolskiy”, former CEO of Russian companies Lukoil, Lukoil Markets, and Rosneftexport; he’s close with Russia’a chief mafioso Zakhar Kalashov (“Shakro Molodoy”). Investigators confirmed the fact Somkhishvili and Shakro Molodoy, Russia’s biggest crime boss, are acquainted. Kalashov, aka Shakro, blessed the involvement of the Russian prisoners inside the PWC Wagner in the war effort against Ukraine.

Somkhishvili is directly responsible for hostilities, according to evidence in the media. Tbilisi Aircraft Manufacturing (TAM), at least in part controlled by Somkhishvili through TAM MANAGEMENT and his blood relative in the company’s high chair, co-founded the russian military concern, Scientific and Production Concern “Shturmoviki Sukhogo”, that does repair works and maintenance on the russian combat aircraft. Oddly enough, Somkhishvili’s company obtained the location at the state factory thanks to direct involvement of Bidzina Ivanishvili, who is often said to be “ruling Georgia behind the curtains”. Somkhishvili is also said to be a middle man between Shakro Molodoy and Ivanishvili.

As a persona with such a pro-russian background, Somkhishvili never publicly revealed his side in the war of russia against Ukraine in almost two years. Media spotlighted the statements of Taras Dumych, Somkhishvili’s attorney and partner in the international law firm Wolf Theiss, who said he “never discussed the matter” with his client because “what difference does it make?” When questioned by the media, the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine and the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine said the russian national, former co-owner of several russian energy sector companies Tamaz Somkhishvili used 8 different passports to cross the Ukrainian state border; State Migration Service of Ukraine annulled the residence permit for Somkhishvili. His lawyer, the aforementioned Taras Dumych, is tied in legal action against the nationalization of Mikhail Fridman’s Sense Bank (former Alfa Bank), which supports the assumption Somkhishvili is connected with Fridman as well.

With that in mind, question begs the answer: how did Tamaz Somkhishvili become a British citizen, when he still has his russian passport issued in the Siberian town of Kogalym? Judging by the investigation carried out by Ukrainian journalists, who got a hold of official paperwork, Somkhishvili married a British citizen, and got divorced shortly afterwards. He remained in a relationship with his russian ex-wife, who openly spoke in favor of reinstating the USSR, and blatantly denies the borders between Ukraine, russia, and Georgia exist. Considering the information at hand, the law enforcement agencies of the United Kingdom have good enough reason to inquire how exactly Tamaz Somkhishvili acquired his British passport.

As the war rages on, many russian oligarchs off the sanctions list keep up their busy public lives. In the meantime, hundreds of people – close with the russian moguls and very much responsible for the war in Ukraine – are still free to spend blood-soaked money and roam the world. Just like Tamaz Somkhishvili, for instance. It makes sense to have businessmen like him thoroughly examined, and perhaps put on the sanctions list. After all, some hypothetical Abramovich or Alekperov can finance the russian military, repair combat aircraft, and directly influence the war via someone like Somkhishvili.