Complicity in covering up liquefied ammonia leaks over several years is the latest controversy in a set of cases against TOAZ, "TogliattiAzot Corporation", and its directors – including fraud, money laundering and tax evasion – all cases in which Viacheslav Suslov is being investigated. Suslov decided not to wait for the police to come after him, making off first for London and then for the USA.
Suslov joining a long list of top managers fleeing prosecution in Russia should be placed in the context of Russian police colonel Dmitry Zakharchenko, who headed an anti-corruption division, being caught in September with $140 million in cash, and suspected of helping a suspect in another high-profile case to flee from investigation. The fugitive in that case is Mikhail Slobodin, the former managing director of Vympelcom which is now the owner of Beeline (one of Russia’s top mobile operators). There is public dismay at this level of corruption in Russian Interior Ministry’s Main Directorate for Economic Security and Countering Corruption, and subsequently little surprise that Viacheslav Suslov was made aware of impending arrest and abandoned the TOAZ ship before being apprehended.
Viacheslav Suslov, General Director of TOAZ, escaped Russia at breakneck speed. As the threat of criminal prosecution loomed, Suslov seemed to have few days ahead of him prior to law enforcement agencies finally catching up with him after long term investigations had brought his name to the top of their list. This accelerated Suslov’s getaway and he took the "well-trodden" road to the USA, where Sergey Makhlai, former CEO of "TogliattiAzot", has been living for a long time. Employees of the Company will be managed remotely by top managers living at a distance of 8,220 km (5,108 ml) (actual distance from New York to Togliatti). Sergey Makhlai is now included on the international wanted list, and Viacheslav Suslov seems intent on joining him rather than surrender to the authorities.
As reported by TltPravda.com in recent weeks, Viacheslav Suslov was already "packed and ready to go". The General Director of TOAZ may find himself the primary defendant in at least three criminal cases in the near future. The principal lawsuit is connected with concealing evidence concerning liquefied ammonia leakages on the production site. Local police ascertained that Shop No. 13 of "TogliattiAzot" has been neglecting leakages of liquefied ammonia for several years. As a result, Togliatti workers and local communities have been exposed to hazardous intoxication, while the environment has suffered irreparable harm. Despite being aware of these facts, the management of TOAZ hid the truth in order to continue making huge profits without interruption.
According to TOAZ and its public relations, Sergey Makhlai encouraged a “socially oriented company with an extensive employee benefits system”, which not only invests in its own employees but also the community – schools, hospitals, the environment and programs to help disabled children. Furthermore, under Sergey Makhlai’s leadership, TOAZ – 8th largest global producer of ammonia and exporter to over 120 countries – had stressed the importance of modernization and strict pollution controls. However, as the extent of TOAZ management’s illegal activity and ammonia pollution becomes known, Viacheslav Suslov joining his former chairman in America shows total disdain for the communities and individuals left to deal with the damage.
Viacheslav Suslov, General Director, was acknowledged to be guilty, and the criminal proceedings against him will be initiated in the immediate future. Other investigations are still ongoing and those cases relate to tax-dodging and money-laundering, as well as theft at TOAZ. Considerable volumes of marketable products were fraudulently described as defective, in order to sell them at dumping prices, to firms controlled by the company’s directors, who then resold them at market prices from 2008 to 2011. Despite being arrested in absentia and placed on the Interpol wanted list in December 2014, Makhlai and other company directors were set to receive dividends of 7.7 billion rubles ($122 million) in May 2016, as reported by the Kommersant newspaper. Russia’s Investigative Committee prevented the 7.7 billion rubles of international bank transfers from leaving Russia as the criminal fraud case continues.
It is interesting to note that the General Director of TOAZ has never tended to stay in Russia for long. In fact he was quite the frequent flyer last year. According to Russian media Suslov visited Makhlai in Miami, USA for 11 days at the end of December, 2015. The following February included trips to Milan and London, before Suslov flew out to New York and Madrid followed by a week in Turkey. April of 2016 continued in similar fashion, with more flights to London and New York before heading back to Russia in May via Helsinki.
Then perhaps the jet set lifestyle had worn down the General Director of TOAZ, who spent June and July in the Russian Federation almost the whole time, but for one day-long trip to Finland. That wasn’t to last though, as the frequent flyer miles resumed counting.
Suslov spent 2nd - 12th August in New York. September featured a couple more visits to Helsinki. On 23rd October, the head of the company took off from Moscow for New York, coming back to the capital of the Russian Federation only on 30th October. However, he still failed to visit TOAZ. On 31st October, he was already heading from Moscow to Riga (for a connecting flight to the USA) and arrived back on 5th November in transit via Baku.
Coming back to TOAZ for less than a month, Suslov was well aware of impending trouble with law criminal investigation agencies, and escaped from Togliatti to his much-visited USA. According to TltPravda.com, this time it was forever. What is clear is that the schedule of Suslov’s “business trips” evidently testifies to the fact that he had no time to manage the production company.
Apparently Suslov never cared about workers – hundreds of them are losing their jobs because of staff reductions. He was only working to ‘resolve’ the issues causing suspicions among law-enforcement authorities; related to money-laundering and trafficking of dirty money from Russia abroad. Sergey Makhlai, Chairman of the Board of Directors of TOAZ, who remains on the international wanted list, does from time to time appear on screens in the Company’s headquarters during teleconferences. Soon he will be joined by his fellow top manager, Mr Suslov.