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Latvia's Skonto Stadium mystery buyer revealed

On December 8 LTV's De Facto investigative team said they uncovered the identity of the mystery Skonto Stadium buyer who purchased the property in 2015 for 35 million euros via the Belize tax haven, His name is Andrey Rogachev, the report revealed.

Rogachev is from an influential family. His grandfather is the former governor of Oryol Oblast and his father was a general in the Federal Security Service (FSB). The buyer says that he was cheated in the deal, and now it's up to the prosecutor to decide whether to prosecute.

The money trail

The Russian citizen and chair of the board of directors of one of the largest construction companies in the Oryol Oblast turned to Latvian real estate company Ordo Agency in 1994. He asked the agents to find him investment property. After viewing several options in the center, Rogachev noticed the landmark Skonto Stadium where Latvia's soccer team has played hundreds of games, and decided to buy it, acccording to De Facto's account.   

Ordo Agency had previously received a request to find a buyer for the stadium for 35 million euros from property developer Ģirts Čudars, who can apparently no longer remember in whose name he was looking for a buyer.

The stadium officially belonged to the state-owned company Reverta, which managed the problematic assets belonging to the former Parex Banka. Reverta took over after the former Skonto Football Club and Latvian Football Federation President Guntis Indriksons encountered financial trouble.

The stadium continued to be managed by a company called SSA, whose owners were Indrikson's business partner and a former Skonto football player. It wasn't possible to sell the property without SSA permission, as they had pre-emptive rights. 

Rogachev agreed to the price and didn't ask for an evaluation. The property apparently cost less per square meter than other properties he looked at.

“He accepted that the price is 35 million. He didn't ask if he could have it for a million less. We didn't even speak about that,” said Ordo Agency Co-owner Jeļena Rudzīte.

The deal was very complicated and lasted about a year, while the money went through seven company accounts from the Belize tax haven to Estonia. Rogachev is named as the beneficiary for the Belize offshore company Silvertone Enterprises Limited. The 35 million euros were transferred through four loans without collateral to the Latvian company Mani Group, which allegedly has connections to Rudzīte's family.

Mani Group then took 14 million euros and loaned it to SSA, which was managed at the time by Indrikson's business partner Vladimirs Koļesņičenko. SSA used the loan to buy the Skonto Hall (indoor facility) and Stadium from Reverta. The Stadium and surrounding area were later transferred to Mani Group, and the company owner became Rogachev's offshore in Belize. From the leftover 20 million euros, the agent kept a five million commission and the rest stayed in the hands of SSA, according to De Facto.

The investigation

After the deal the stadium buyers turned to the police with a complaint that they have been misled about the true price of the property. After completing the investigation the State Police asked that Ivars Rudzītis, Nataļja Rudzīte, Jeļena Rudzīte and Estonian citizen Allan Selter (SSA owner during deal closing) be charged with fraud.

Deputy Head of the Economic Crimes Prevention Office Ilze Sokolovska said that during the investigation evidence was uncovered that the price may have been inflated, but prosecutors are deciding on what to do next. The agent said that the price was adequate, because it was for the land.

“He was of course worried no one would allow him to tear it down. So the seller had to guarantee that the stadium demolition will receive permissions. And these details really were included in the purchase and sale agreement,” said Jeļena Rudzīte.

De Facto has documents that show that around 15 million from the escrow account wasn't transferred to SSA, but to two other unrelated companies. Sun Garden received a small fraction, but the majority went to Estonian company Fumox. The beneficiary for both of these companies is Estonian Kristina Lõhmus. 

The police are still investigating what happened to the remaining 15 million euros, as well as whether or not there may have been money laundering involved. Officially two Swiss citizens are named in the register of enterprises as the beneficiaries of the Belize company Silvertone Enterprises Limited.

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