The Russian monopoly on the grain market

The “Trans-Oil” group of companies controlled by Russian citizens holds the absolute monopoly of cereal exports in the Republic of Moldova from storage, domestic transport by rail and then export by sea via Giurgiuleşti Port. The port and infrastructure, the access ways, including the railway section, were built on public money. The company specializes in producing flour, vegetable oil and storing wheat and owns the well-known Moldovan brand “Floarea-Soarelui” SA (“Sunflower”), the leading producer of the “Floris” oil. Vazha Dzashi and Vlad Plahotniuc Trans-Oil is composed of offshore companies registered in Switzerland or Cyprus and joint stock companies or LLCs in the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine and Romania. The holding is led by Vazha Dzashi, born in Georgia (USSR), who has the citizenship of three countries, Russian, American, and Moldovan. He is a member of the Board of Association of Businessmen, of Vlad Plahotniuc, a man very close to the Government in Chișinău. He provides council to the Prime Minister, Paul Filip, in economic problems related to the region of Arab countries. He studied in New York (USA), then in Moscow (Russia) and Cairo (Egypt). He has a Master in Business and Administration at Indiana University. The press has written that outside the Republic of Moldova, the group has prosperous business in Russia and Kazakhstan. In the past, Vaja Jhashi was First Deputy Chairman of the Board of Directors of Victoriabank, while Chairman of the Board was Vlad Plahotniuc, and also a shareholder of OTIV Prime Holding, a company that belongs to Plahotniuc. Another episode linking Jhashi and Plahotniuc, according to jurnal.md, is that in the beginning of 2015, on February 28th, they flew together in Kyrgyzstan with Nobil Air, the company of the businessman Ilan Shor. They arrived in the middle of the night in Bishkek, where they stayed for a few hours, and returned together to Chișinău. After two weeks, the President of Kyrgyzstan, Almazbek Atambayev, made a lightning visit to Moldova, having a secret meeting with Plahotniuc. The purpose of the two visits and the interests that lie behind have remained shrouded in mystery. Journalists from Kyrgyzstan say Plahotniuc and his people are helping the Kyrgyz President to take his gold out of the country and to transfer his businesses in offshore zones. Just in early 2018, on January 30th, Vaja Jhashi (PHOTO: the second left) accompanied Prime Minister Pavel Filip on an official visit to the United Arab Emirates. There, the Moldovan delegation had a meeting with the heir-prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed. Asked later what motivates the presence of the Moldovan millionaire in the delegation to UAE, Pavel Filip said Vaja Jhashi is the only person that he knows to speak fluent Arabic and to be well informed in the economic activities of the Gulf countries. Vaja Jhashi’s deputy, Trans Oil Group vice-president, Mihail Caraseni, is President Dodon’s adviser on economic issues, being a member of the Economic Council before the President of the Republic of Moldova. He is also the brother of the Democrat Party Deputy, Demian Caraseni. Trans-Oil business in Moldova The Trans-Oil Holding has 16 silos on the territory of the Republic of Moldova with a capacity of about 500,000 tonnes (out of the 44 existing silos), and another one in the Port of Reni, Ukraine, as well as those purchased in Romania from the former Racova group, previously held by Adrian Porumboiu. Center for Journalistic Investigations investigated this subject. Trans Oil Group In its board we find a former US Ambassador to Moldova, Asif Chaudhry. Asif Chaudhry was the US ambassador to the Republic of Moldova during the period 2008-2011. In July 2011, Marian Lupu decorated him with the honor order for “developing and strengthening the Moldovan-American friendship and cooperation relations”. According to experts, PD leader Vlad Plahotniuc influenced the decision to appoint Chaudhry as a sign of gratitude for “certain services”. In March 2018, Chaudhry participated with speaker Adrian Candu at the interparliamentary “Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine: Eastern Partnership and Current Security Challenges” conference, which took place in Chișinău. The TRANS OIL Group also announced that it has increased transhipping capacity at the Giurgiuleşti International Free Port and brought it to 1,600,000 tons of agricultural products per season. More photos and info here. In the Republic of Moldova, according to the State Registry of Legal Entities, Trains Oil LLC was incorporated in Moldova in 1997 as a subsidiary of the American company Trans Oil LTD. The company was registered in Moldova by Vazha Dzashi from Russia, which was the sole owner until 2006. In 2006, Dzhashi ceded the ownership of the holding over to an anonymous company, Visions Holding SA, registered on October 18th, 2004, in Geneva. The director of the company is Evghenia Ursu, a citizen of the Russian Federation, a person close to Dzhashi, and the chairman of the board of directors is Gregorio Fazzone. Their names appear as founders and managers of several offshore companies associated with Trans-Oil. Currently, SRL Trans Oil from Moldova is run by Maria Korobanenco, which is known to be managing yet another company from the group Trains-Oil Commodities. Trains-Oil commodites was registered in 2017, having the same address, mun. Chişinău, Center Sector, Tolstoi Lev str., 27. It is founded by “Aragvi Holding International LTD” Company. Visions Holding SA is the founder and owner of a number of enterprises in Moldova. It is mainly about companies that owns silos: IM Moldogranum, ÎCS Kelley Grains, SA Elevator Kelley Grains, SA Elegaratorul Iargara. Another major offshore associated with Trans-Oil is Trezeme Limited, founder and co-founder of a number of other companies owning silos: ÎCS AnenGrain-Group SRL, ÎCS Flograin SRL, SRL Agrofloris-Nord, ÎCS UleiNord SRL, ÎCS Unco-Cereale SRL and ÎCS Transbulk Logistics SRL. The Chechen lineage ICS Trans Bulk Logistics is the owner of the grain terminal in Giurgiulești, and is managed by the chechen Azamat Misirbiev, with Russian nationality. The company is owned by two other companies registered in Cyprus: Limited Liability Company “Nelway Limited” and Limited Liability Company “Limited Trezeme”. Azamat Misirbiev is a founder of another company registered in Moldova, “Agrounion Com” SRL, founded in 2017 and specialized in the cultivation of rice. His brother, Arbi Misirbiev, is the founder of Trans-Oil Investments LLC. This is a family of Chechens from Grozny. Together with another brother, Misirbiev Shaid, these two, Misirbiev Azamat and Misirbiev Arbi, are founders at yet another economic enterprise with foreign capital, namely Soyola Exim SRL, registered in 2014, but liquidated in the meantime. Expansion in Romania In order to expand its business in Romania, Dzhashi used another anonymous company, Delta Commodity & Financial Services SA, led by the same Gregorio Fazzone and Olivia Ludwika Chenaud. In 2015, Trans-Oil also entered Romania, buying the Racova group from businessman Adrian Porumboiu with all its silos, oil factories and land lease rights. The official price of the deal was not disclosed, but the Romanian press estimated it around 150-180 million USD. As soon as they entered the EU market, Trans-Oil did not pay the land owners. “I am unpleasantly surprised to find out that many landowners under the new conditions are not receiving their rights, for which they are entitled to through contract, and because of the inertia, it is a reproach brought to me. This is enough reason for me to come out and tell them that I am no longer dealing with this business and remind them that for 18 years we have had excellent collaboration with everyone”, said Romanian businessman Adrian Porumboiu, quoted by economica.net. Adrian Porumboiu Adrian Porumboiu, amid 2014 debts sold most of his shares in the Racova group to a Swiss company controlled by Vazha Dzhashi. The transaction ended in 2015. APIA gave in March 2015 a sanction to Porumboiu’s companies for a series of irregularities detected by the European Court of Auditors on its livestock farms. In August 2015, Porumboiu signed a memorandum by which he sold the majority shareholding of Racova Group companies to Delta Commodity and Financial Services (DCFS) SA, an anonymous company based in Geneva. Delta Commodity and Financial Services (DCFS) is an anonymous company opened in Geneva in 2008 to manage the Trans-Oil Group, which controls the Moldovan cereal business. According to the document, Delta Commodity becomes the majority shareholder of the oil and silos factories, but also leased lands of about 40,000 hectares, and Porumboiu – farms, mills, bread factories and a winery. Delta Commodity has undertaken to pay in about four months at least 75% of Porumboiu’s companies debts, but primarily those of the firms which remained in the possession of the Romanian businessman after the trade. The sale-purchase document does not indicate the amount of the debt. Porumboiu says something else, “It was a clear contract. The first essential thing stipulated that all debts were to be paid, after which a transfer of business was to take place”. Adrian Porumboiu said that the Delta Commodity representatives did not comply with their obligations and sued in 2016: “I strictly respected all of the contract, they did not do anything, not even 5%”, he says. Delta Commodity had Vazha Dzhashi (51 years old) as guarantor in the transaction, holder of three citizenships, Russian, American, and Moldovan, who also appears in documents as Vaja Jhashi. Babylon Overseas One year later, Delta Commodity sold almost all to a company registered in the United Arab Emirates – “Babylon Overseas”. The company was founded nearly four months before the transaction in the Sharjah region (United Arab Emirates) – an opaque fiscal paradise. The founder of the company is Moldovan Ghenadie Ostrovecchi, who is linked to the Trans-Oil group in Moldova. He was associated in the “Sunflower” oil factory in Bălţi, and his wife, Stela Ostroveţchi, is the director of this company belonging to the Trans-Oil group. In 2013, President Timofti decorated Stela Ostrovetchi with the Civic Merit Award. In March 2017, Ghenadie Ostrovecchi was replaced by a certain Muahammad Imran Abbasi. According to Valeriu Cojocaru, Director Comcereal SA, Abbasi would be a business partner of Vazha Dzhashi. He would have become Ostrovetsky’s majority shareholder at Babylon Overseas, after he had loaned money to Vazha Dzhashi, money which were later transformed into shares. In April 2018, Porumboiu declared about the Moldovans that took over his business, that the “rule” of the Trans Oil Moldovans over Comcereal was over. () He said that Babylon Overseas, which bought the shares of SC Racova SA in 2015 and implicitly Comcereal’s assets, does not exist, which is why he canceled the contracts with Delta Comodity. Porumboiu says he obtained the evidence from the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates, where the company is registered. In a statement made public in the past, Poruboiu stated that “the criminal group led from Bucharest and Chișinău intends to get the APIA 2017 Comcereal grant”. Financial engineerings After the transaction in Romania, Dzhashi made another financial engineering. Through a company registered in Luxembourg – Trans-Oil Enterprise Holding – he bought part of the debts of Porumboiu’s companies. In order to do that, the Luxembourg company has made several loans of millions of euros. The money came from companies registered in tax havens. For example, in October 2015, Trans-Oil Enterprise Holding received, as a loan, 30 million USD from Palanca Limited – an offshore registered in the British Virgin Islands. From these money he has bought from the Romanian Commercial Bank (BCR) a claim of about 45 million dollars with the sum of 25,000,000 dollars. Millions in credits to silos As a result of the successive mortgages on the silos from Ceadâr-Lunga, the Trans-Oil group obtained, between 2007 and now, credits of 60 million dollars, 26 million euros and 40 million Moldovan Lei. Following the mortgage on the Iargara silo, Trans-Oil received 50.5 million USD in loans over the period 2007-2012. Part of this amount, 20 million USD, was contracted and returned on the same day to the investment fund – Deutsche Investitions (DEG) on December 3rd, 2012. These loans appear exactly when the Stock Exchange of the Republic of Moldova recorded sales of shares of Iargara Silos to Ceba Grup LLC, an exponent of the Trans-Oil Holding. In the case of silo from Căușeni, Trans-Oil contracted in 2014 a 25 million USD loan from the BERD. What is interesting, however, is that the Trans-Oil holding has also earned a 155 million USD credit from a group of international lenders guaranteed by the Aragvi Holding International offshore, an anonymous company that belongs to the Trans-Oil group, qualified by specialized websites as “very small”. Romania’s market and EU’s market blocked for Moldovan cereal producers It is impossible to go over Trans-Oil in the Giurgiuleşti Port, which is why the access to the Romanian market can be done only by land, by truck, which implies extremely high costs and the quantities of cereals are small and the procedures troublesome. One of the cereal exporters, Vasile Gajiu, says that the EU market is blocked for most Moldovan cereal exporters. “Power has favored Trans-Oil for years. Firstly, this support was manifested by the granting of wagons for the transport of cereals. To avoid these hindrances in the future, we bought cars with which we transport cereals to Reni and Galați, because the Giurgiulești Port is controlled by Trans-Oil. We are forced to go to Reni and Galați by car, which is expensive. The best way to export grain is maritime, the state must create equal conditions for all exporters. If there was no monopoly, the wheat price would be higher, so this [Trans-Oil] company strives to control the Moldovan market in order to keep the prices low”, Gajiu said in an investigation conducted by the Center for Journalistic Investigations. Manufacturer and exporter Alexandru Vitan, owner of Vitanimpex-Agro SRL, had a series of lawsuits with the ÎCS “FFA Trans Oil LTD” because he failed to pay his debts to this company. Alexandru Vitan settled in Galaţi because he could not continue his business in Moldova, having been left in deep debt “due to Trans-Oil”.