The discovery of the magnificent estate of a Belarusian oligarch in Austria

The discovery of the magnificent estate of a Belarusian oligarch in Austria

Belarusian oligarch Mikalai Varabei (Nikolay Vorobey) remains linked to numerous properties in Austria, according to a new investigation published on Tuesday (September 27). The oligarch was sanctioned by the EU in December 2020 because of his close relationship with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

The Austrian newspaper Dossier and the Belarusian Center for Investigation, an award-winning organization based in Vilnius and a member of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), published detailed information about his immediate family’s possessions and their connections with local elites.

The family’s most luxurious property is a chalet in the Carinthia region of southern Austria: a 300-square-meter palace surrounded by a 19,000-square-meter estate officially owned by the Power Chemical Trading company, owned by Katsiaryna Smuschkovich, daughter of Mikalai Varabei .

Ms. Smuschkovich acquired her controlling interest in the company through her father, who bought it from Maximilian Christoph von Habsburg-Lothringen, a paternal descendant of the Austro-Hungarian Habsburg-Lothringen dynasty.

The registration documents show that Mrs. Smuschkovich received the estate from her father through his shares in the company Power Chemical Trading.

The company’s bank statements show that it has only had one employee at a time and that the financial results for 2020 showed a deficit of 1.5 million euros, which the survey authors interpret as an indication that it is a purely purpose-built front company deals with the possession and maintenance of the Carinthian estate.

Mr Varabei’s wife and daughter were co-owners of the property, which came in handy when the EU announced sanctions against the oligarch in 2020. Since he did not directly own the properties, they were not affected.

According to the dossier, apart from the chalet, apartments in Vienna also belong to the Varabei family. These include an apartment that Tamara Varabei, the oligarch’s wife, bought in 2013 and another of 202 square meters that Katsiaryna bought in 2017 for 3 million euros.

At the time of purchase, Tamara Varabei was officially earning about $35,000 a year, working for Belarusian companies car import etc intermediary servicethe latter being shared with her husband.

In the past year, intermediary service managed to make huge profits from re-exporting petroleum products.

Fuels derived from Russian oil, intentionally classified as “solvents” and “diluents” thanks to a loophole in the law, were exported to the EU, bypassing the export duties of the Russia-Belarus Customs Union. The case prompted Russia to seek $1.5 billion in compensation from Belarus, but the latter eventually managed to defuse tensions.

Just like her mother, Katsiaryna Smuschkovich bought her Austrian real estate with means other than her savings. In fact, she was employed at between 2015 and 2017 Devana Servicesa tour operator whose main clientele were Europeans who wanted to hunt in the forests surrounding the Krasny Bor hunting and recreation area in Viciebsk Region, owned by Mr Varabei.

The website of the Belarusian Investigative Center published photos from Katsiaryna’s Instagram page, showing members of the Varabei family Hermès bags valued at €30,000 and €112,484, respectively, as well as branded clothing and jewelry.

The authors of the research hope that the good vein that the Varabei family runs in Austria will be exhausted after the publication of the study.

The investigative body has already had success investigating a friend of Mr Lukashenko, Mikhail Gutseriev, who managed to protect his London properties through his son’s front companies.

A month after their joint investigation with The Guardian, the EU sanctioned his son Said and his London properties worth millions of dollars.

Reference: www.euractiv.fr

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