Saturday, 25 May 2024 15:19

Smuggling, sports betting and business in Russia: What is VBet co-owner Arthur Granz known for? Featured

Million dollar business in Duty free, which may be a cover for smuggling: what is known?

An Armenian with a Belarusian passport, Arthur Granz, made a million-dollar fortune from his Duty Free business, which may be a cover for smuggling. During the war, he is a co-owner of VBet, which investigative journalists suspected of connections with the aggressor country. His family (father and three sons) lives in Russia and does business there.

So who is Arthur Grantz, what does he own and who is his friend?

Armenian Arthur Grantz, having a Belarusian passport, successfully conducts business in Ukraine, and often remains in the shadows. In 2021, he acquired the Betconstruct franchise, a group of companies that owns the Vbet brand of the brothers Vahe and Vigen Badalyan, as reported by investigators of the Insider Ukraine project in their  Telegram channel .

Messages from the ‘’Insider Ukraine’’ project in the Telegram channel tidttiqzqiqkddrm uqidrxiridtqatf

So, the VBET Ukraine company itself arose in 2020, its founder was Soft Construct Limited, registered on the Isle of Man, and the final beneficiaries were the Badalyan brothers. restaurants and online casinos. Through the Essie IP Limited company, registered in the Channel Islands, the brothers controlled casinos in Ukraine. But in 2022, the owner of VBET becomes the company UCR HOLDING LTD, registered in Cyprus, and the Armenian Rudolf Poghosyan.

In 2022, the owner of VBET will be the company UCR HOLDING LTD.

According to information from open sources, two versions of VBet are available in Ukraine. And one of them, vbetua.com, is managed by Radon VB, registered in Curacao. So, journalists  discovered  that  Radon VB  has been operating a network of online casinos in the world since 2003, one of which is Vbet. The network infrastructure is developed by two companies – Soft Construct Limited and BetConstruct. And already on the BetConstruct website you can see the head of partners, where the famous Russian bookmaker Fonbet is mentioned. Also on the BetConstruct page it is indicated about cooperation with one of the oldest Russian offices, BetCity. On other sites owned by BetConstruct clients, you can find a list of companies that accept bets from Russian players. In addition, through the Fastex company, BetConstruct is a sponsor of the Russian Poker Tour in Armenia.

On April 18, 2024, journalist  Evgeny Plinsky  said that  financial monitoring blocked the accounts  of the VBet bookmaker for 30 days. There are 570 million VBet left on them.

Official and “shadow” business of Arthur Granz in Ukraine

According to  open sources , Granz allegedly built his business empire, mainly inheriting it from the famous smuggler Alexander Potemkin, who led smuggling schemes in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia since the 90s. These schemes, according to  reports from Mind.ua , involved the import of goods, mainly through the territory of Belarus. However, Lukashenko intervened in 2006, which led to business problems for Granz. Then  local media  also wrote about this situation. As a result, the dictator closed all Duty Free stores through which Granz carried out smuggling operations. Grantz himself was forced to flee to Ukraine, where he already had a similar business, including about half of all Duty Free stores at Boryspil airport, which are now closed due to the war. However, he left his passport and citizenship in Belarus, as he himself spoke about  in an interview with Economic Pravda.

Since the beginning of 2006, Grantz has been living in Ukraine. Here he founded the company "BF Capital", which manages all the assets of the entrepreneur. This company owns real estate and a chain of Duty Free stores in countries such as Ukraine, Georgia and Armenia. In this business, the company has a partnership with the world-famous Gebr. Heinemann, which is one of the leading European Duty Free network operators, including Boryspil airport. However, as we have already noted, they do not work at Ukrainian airports.

Read more:Forbes named the richest heirs of Russian billionaires for 2024

Back in 2016, it was  announced that the Antimonopoly Committee of Ukraine granted permission to BF Capital Limited to acquire shares of Ninori Co Limited. So, both companies are registered in Larnaca in Cyprus. In particular, Ninori Co Limited is a co-owner of the Joint Ukrainian-German-Swiss Enterprise Duty Free Trading LLC, in which Arthur Granz is also a co-owner. Granz is the official owner of the Duty Free Trading LLC store at the Porubno-Siret checkpoint (Chernivtsi region). So, in 2022 alone, 4,252,700 packs of cigarettes were sold in this store.

Among other businesses, until 2021, in official registers, he was also the owner of the Swiss company Mimier Trade SA and its branch in Ukraine -  Mimier Trade Ukraine LLC.

Official register

The activity of this company is the supply of petroleum products, as well as sunflower and soybean oils. The online publication reports that this type of export has several features. Firstly, the products are sold in markets that are exotic for Ukraine, for example, Lebanon and Nicaragua. In addition, deliveries are made to companies in the hotel and restaurant sector. For example, in 2018, the company received revenue of $140 million, but operating profit was only $3.2 million. And in Ukraine, Mimier Trade SA is the founder of Mimier Trade Ukraine LLC and Uyavi! LLC.

Millionth scheme with terminal D of Boryspil airport

In 2013, Arthur Grantz won a competition for the long-term lease of premises in Terminal D of Boryspil Airport, which he did not previously own. He actually became a monopolist at the airport, which he himself talked about  during an interview with Liga.  net. The rent was only 2,372 hryvnia, which was three times less than the market price. This led to three investigations. But they all ended in nothing.

It seems that impunity allowed the businessman to implement another no less interesting scheme: for each airport passenger, a check was drawn up for the purchase of 23 cartons of cigarettes, which were then sent to Ukraine. It is likely that none of the passengers actually purchased these cigarettes. The financial benefit of such a scheme was that taxes and fees were not paid for cigarettes, which brought millions of hryvnias of net profit for Granz. According to  media reports,  businessmen under the leadership of Granz sold the most cigarette mountains without paying excise duty to smugglers and sent them to the countries of the European Union.

However, it didn’t stop there. And already in 2022, another scheme for smuggling cigarettes from Belarus was discovered. Georgiy Mazurashu, people’s deputy from the Servant of the People,  spoke about this on his Facebook page . He stated that the person who owns the largest chain of Duty-Free stores, which are not operating today, in Ukraine, is also a business partner, a citizen of Belarus.

Post by Georgiy Mazurash - People’s Deputy from Servant of the People on Facebook

Purchase of a Forbes publication

In Ukraine, Granz was also interested in the sphere of mass media. And any outstanding ordinary online publication, but the  Forbes brand.  So, in 2020, after a three-year break, the American magazine again sold a license to publish the magazine in Ukraine. There were two bidders for the purchase -  Imagine  ! and the Slovak company "Barecz & Conrad" Media, which publishes Forbes in Austria, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Hungary.

However, despite the experience in the publishing house "Barecz & Conrad", for some reason, preference at the last moment was given to the company  "  Imaginations!" with an authorized capital of UAH 3,000, which was registered only at the end of 2019. The owners of Imagination are the publication’s editor-in-chief Vladimir Fedorin and Arthur Grantz.

However, details of the Forbes acquisition subsequently became known  .  From Barecz&Conrad Media, Ekaterina Gorshchinskaya planned to become the chief editor of the project. After all, it was she who, for more than a year, conducted research on the Ukrainian market for this company, registered a company in Ukraine, found key employees, opened a bank account and was already on the verge of signing a lease agreement. However, the Slovak publishers with whom she planned to collaborate began to be threatened, which she later wrote about on her  Facebook page.

Slovak publishers began to receive threats

Granz’s connections with influential politicians

Probably, the illegal activities of Arthur Granz are associated with famous Ukrainian politicians. But most often it is the figure of Andrei Ivanchuk. In particular, we are talking about the alcohol smuggling scheme, which  the Observer wrote about . The scheme is quite simple. Granz took 30 liters of alcohol from everyone who crossed the border. But real alcohol went to the shelves of regular stores and was already sold there without paying taxes or excise duties.

By the way, both investigations mention business partner Andrei Ivanchuk, also a people’s deputy and member of the Committee on Financial, Tax and Customs Policy. So this committee was supposed to expose smuggling schemes.  The photo  shows a smiling Ivanchuk in a Duty Free store in Boryspil, which is currently closed.

Ivanchuk in the Duty Free store in Boryspil

It was at this time that Ivanchuk divorced his wife, but for some reason he moved her to Monaco and they purchased real estate worth 500 million euros.

What’s also interesting is that Andrei Ivanchuk has connections with the Popular Front, because he has been friends with Arseniy Yatsenyuk for more than 30 years.

By the way, according to information from Stra@na, at Granz’s Cyprus birthday party, Petro Poroshenko, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Andrei Ivanchuk, Khomutynnik and other famous political figures were noticed among the guests. The party was also attended by Ukrainian pop singer Svetlana Loboda, who, according to journalists, citing the cordon of Grantz, is his common-law wife.

However, after this celebration a scandal arose. Yatsenyuk’s press service denied Yatsenyuk’s presence at this celebration. Press secretary  Olga Lapko wrote about this on her Facebook page .

Olga Lapko’s post on Facebook

Selected fake in the style of "Str@ny". Not a word of truth. Lies about Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s trip to Cyprus, lies about participating in a birthday celebration, lies about partnership. If "Str@na" does not publish a refutation, we will go to court. And we will win. Just as they won lawsuits against those who spread fake news about 24 villas, mythical billions, Yatsenyuk’s international passports and other mediocre lies,” wrote speaker Arsenia Yatsenyuk.

Also,  online  media report that Andrei Pyshny, the current head of the National Bank, while still in the position of head of Sberbank, seemed to have helped Grantz to squeeze out the Creative agricultural holding. By the way, Andrei Pyshny is also a party comrade and university friend of Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

Family connections with Russia

Not only that, Arthur Grantz, having a Belarusian passport, is probably free to engage in business that has roots in Russia. He is also connected with the aggressor country by family ties. According to information  from Fakty , the sons of Arthur Granz, David and Arman, live in the Moscow region and own several trading companies, such as Avangard LLC and Mika Holding LLC. Also living next to them and doing business in the trade sector is their brother, Maren Granz, who is the owner of Mag-Inter LLC. As for Arthur’s father, Gurgen Granz, he was even a candidate for the local council, but could not get through the elections.

And here a situation arises. Having close ties with Russia in Ukraine, during the third year of the war a man with a Belarusian passport is doing business. That is, he will not defend Ukraine at the front, because he is not a citizen of Ukraine, but he can easily make money here.