Aleksandr Lukashenko created an artificial scarcity of EU products in the Belarusian market with his “countersanction” decree Lukashenko's friend, Sergei Teterin (Siarhei Tsiatseryn), is taking advantage of the situation. He imports banned products in circumvention of sanctions and, for the lack of competition, sells them at a higher price.
The company that imports banned chocolate brand is registered by the brother of Teterin's business partner. She regularly accompanied him and Aleksandr Lukashenko on holiday trips
A source from the food industry in Belarus claims that it is Teterin’s company BelGlobalGarant that is actually involved in chocolate smuggling. Business circles are aware that it received the exclusive right to import the banned sweets, but public officials are not informed about it.
This material was prepared with the support of CyberPartisans.
German chocolate brand Ritter Sport has returned to Belarusian stores. It was not on sale for almost all last year because of the so-called "countersanctions" on EU products. They were introduced by Lukashenko’s personal decree and then approved by the Council of Ministers. In December 2022, the Ministry of Antimonopoly Regulation and Trade (MART) extended the ban for another six months. Nevertheless, Realt.by journalists noticed Ritter Sport chocolate on the shelves of the Korona retail chain at higher prices.
This could happen due to the loopholes in the "countersanction" legislation. It is still possible to import banned European products into Belarus. To do this, one needs to get special quotas from MART. Under the guise of potential importers, journalists of the Belarusian Investigative Centre called the Ministry to find out how to obtain such permission. We were told that the quotas have not been allocated yet.
"Quotas will only be set if there is a shortage of goods on the market. And only then will there be a distribution. It will be announced on the website, you will see it and apply for a share of the quotas," MART representatives told the Belarusian Investigative Centre.
It turns out that Ritter Sport chocolate, according to Belarusian law, is smuggled. So who imports it from Germany, violating Lukashenko's decree? Let's take a closer look at the packaging of the German chocolate. Each has a sticker saying "supplied by Logisticheskaya Kompaniya Vostok".
This company is owned by Aliaksei Matveyeu.
We found him in the list of BelGlobalStart employees for 2020.
His sister, Tatsiana Matveyeva, owns and runs a company with a similar name, BelGlobalTon.
Both companies were founded by Sergei Teterin, a businessman affiliated with Lukashenko.
It was Teterin who chopped wood with Lukashenko, promising to warm Europe, and toasted with him after Aryna Sabalenka's victory at the Australian Open. In 2021, as Lukashenko's "moneybag," he fell under EU sanctions.
We decided to check if Teterin had a closer connection to Logisticheskaya Kompaniya Vostok and examined his email leak received from the CyberPartisans hacker collective. We came across an email dated January 15, 2021 addressed to the head of the State Customs Committee. In it, Teterin asks "to take appropriate measures" in relation to Logisticheskaya Kompaniya Vostok and introduces himself as its founder.
Logisticheskaya Kompaniya Vostok also violates the antitrust laws. We called Alfa Distribution company, which used to import Ritter Sport to Belarus. They told us that they stopped importing the German brand as soon as the ban by the Belarusian authorities came into force.
“What is happening in Belarus is contrary to the interests, as it seems to me, of all Belarusians, except for the owners of this monopoly and it’s beneficiaries. Because people get less goods. At the same time, these goods are of lower quality and at higher prices,” Mikhail Kirylyuk, a lawyer and adviser of the National Anti-Crisis Management, told BIC.
All this did not prevent Logisticheskaya Kompaniya Vostok from receiving rate breaks and bonuses for trade in the Eurasian Economic Union: the company was included in the Union's register of authorised economic operators. Its goods were declared and released at customs in a fast-track manner. This happened three months after Teterin sent his email to the State Customs Committee.
How did Teterin get the right to import German chocolate if MART did not give him a quota? With whose permission did he launch a scheme that forces Belarusians to overpay his company for the artificial scarcity created by Lukashenko's decree?
Mikhail Kirylyuk commented on the precedent:
“I can’t imagine a situation where a businessman in Belarus – a big, pro-government one – does something that violates the law, and this happens without the knowledge and consent of Lukashenka’s administration.”
Anatol Kotau, a former employee of the Presidential Administration of Belarus, shares a similar opinion:
“If seriously no one wanted to allow Teterin [to import ‘counter-sanctioned chocolate’], then MART would probably take care of how the sub-sanctioned products end up on the shelves of Belarusian stores. But if they didn’t care, then they just look at RitterSport chocolates point-blank and see Kommunarka (Belarusian confectionery plant - ed.) chocolates. And such myopia is explained only by the fact that they were told not to notice it for the time being. Most likely, that time will never come. To do this, Teterin needs to quarrel with Lukashenko.”
Business can't ruin friendship
We tried to contact Logisticheskaya Kompaniya Vostok, but our calls and emails were unanswered. A source who works for a large food importer in Belarus told us that Vostok is just a proxy backed by another Teterin company, BelGlobalGarant. The same insider told us that it was BelGlobalGarant that received the exclusive right to import German chocolate.
We contacted BelGlobalGarant, and the company's employees were indeed aware of the Ritter Sport trade. Under the guise of clients, we tried to find out the wholesale price of chocolate and a staff member redirected us to Mostra Group, a large chain supplier. We received a price list from them. According to it, the wholesale price of the Ritter Sport chocolates varies from 4 to 5 Belarusian rubles. Before the introduction of "countersanctions", it was the retail price of Ritter Sport, which means already with an extra charge from the seller. Now you can buy this chocolate for almost 7 and a half Belarusian rubles.
This is one of the multiple non-standard ways of doing business by Sergei Teterin. In our previous investigation into the activity of this entrepreneur, we found out that in order to promote his ideas and get benefits, he most often wrote emails to Lukashenko. In them, he asked to create special conditions for his business, sometimes contrary to the laws, norms and regulations.
We pointed out the friendship between Teterin and Lukashenko on several occasions. But while working on this investigation, we noticed some new details. Thanks to the CyberPartisans hacker collective, we learned that in 2014, Teterin and Lukashenko were on vacation in the UAE for almost two weeks. They were joined by Tatsiana Matveyeva, the very sister of the owner of Logisticheskaya Kompaniya Vostok, who is now smuggling German chocolates to Belarus.
At that time, Matveyeva and Teterin co-owned BelGlobalTon company.
In 2016, Lukashenko and Teterin went to Doha, but it seems they spent most of their time in the Emirates again. They were accompanied by businessmen Alexander Shakutin (Shakutsin) and Alexander Mashenski ( Moshenskiy, Moshensky), Lukashenko's personal physician Svetalana Konoshenko (Sviatlana Kanashenka), photo model Tatsiana Baletskaya, and Mikalai Lukashenko's piano teacher. Tatsiana Matveyeva was also on that flight. We decided to have a closer look at this businesswoman.
In 2014, Tatsiana Matveyeva, together with Sergei Teterin and Nikita Shatsior, founded BelGlobalTon. The company traded furniture and interior items.
Besides being a private entrepreneur, Matveyeva worked as a designer. She was commissioned by another Teterin company, BelGlobalStart, to develop the corporate design for the “Blockbuster” movie bars chain that Teterin had inquired about in his request to Lukashenko.
Matveyeva also decorated the Svoboda.4 bar in Minsk, which was opened by Sergei Teterin's daughter and her friends.
She also designed Teterin's bathhouse in Aleksandria, according to an email we found on Aleph.
We also came across documents proving that Matveyeva planned to redesign and re-stitch curtains for Aliaksei Aleksin's company Belneftegaz. She was supposed to supply the company with curtains worth almost $35,000.
Under the guidance of Matveyeva, BelGlobalTon company opened its own store in Trium shopping centre.
And signed contracts to supply furniture from China worth tens of thousands of dollars. For example, an order from the Chinese brand Rich Collection cost the company $17,000.
However, in recent years, judging by its financial reports, BelGlobalTon has been conducting rather modest commercial activities.
Tatsiana Matveyeva's brother, Aliaksei, also had a share in Teterin's business. Before he became the owner of Logisticheskaya Kompaniya Vostok, he was the director of TAS GLOBAL company.
It existed for only five months in 2017 and was reorganised afterwards. Officially, the company belonged to Cyprus-based offshore companies, but all of its documents were in Teterin's mailbox.
TAS GLOBAL was a spin-off from Transpetrolbaltik, a company known for a major smuggling scheme. It supplied Polish apples to Russia under the guise of Moldovan ones and smuggled sanctioned products there at least in 2015 and 2018.
From 2014 to 2020, Transpetrolbaltik was owned by two Cypriot offshore companies – Demistat Company Limited and Langoria Company Limited.
In their turn, those companies were connected with the Lithuanian-Cypriot offshore provider Lewben, which served Lukashenko's "moneybags", Aliaksei Aleksin and Aliaksandr Zaitsau (Alexander Zaitsev), as well as the Gaz Venture company associated with their Bremino Group.
Transpetrobaltik and its director Volha Palavets (Olga Polovets) have provided at least two loans to Teterin's company BelGlobalStart, on favourable terms. The first loan was provided in April 2015 and added up to 10 billion Belarusina rubles with no interest and no liability for the parties.
The second loan amounted to 741 million Belarusian rubles in April 2016.
As early as June of 2016, Palavets resigned from Transpetrolbaltik and became the director of Gaz Venture.
Lawyer Siarhei Yeliseyeu acted as a representative of the Cypriot companies Demistat and Longoria when TAS GLOBAL was spun off from Transpetrolbaltik.
He worked for Aleksin's company Belneftegaz.
The ultimate beneficiary of Demistat, Russian citizen Mekhti Mekhtiev, resident of UAE, is also connected with this businessman.
Mekhtiev and Dzmitry Aleksin, Aliaksei Aleksin’s son, are board members of the Turkish company.
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