Sanctioned Russian Oligarch – Shareholder in DSK Bank

by Николай Марченко



Billionaire Megdet Rahimkulov and his shares in monopoly companies – from Russian “Gazprom” and VTB to the Hungarian OTP Group and MOL

Listed as 52nd in the Russian edition of the Forbes magazine list of the wealthiest Russians, Megdet Rahimkulov is a major shareholder in the Hungarian OTP Group – the owner of DSK Bank in Bulgaria. In March 2018, the National Bank of Romania (the country’s central bank) banned the sale of Banca Româneasca to OTP because of controversial transactions. This did not prevent the Hungarians from buying Expressbank in Bulgaria from the French Société Générale. In February 2019, they reached another agreement with the French for Mobiasbanca in Moldova. The regulators in Sofia and Chisinau are ignoring the fact that OTP’s top shareholder is on the US sanctioning list.

As of January 30, 2018, the former Gazprom representative in Budapest, considered to be the wealthiest Hungarian with a personal wealth of USD 1.9 billion (according to Forbes.ru), is on the US Treasury Department’s Sanctions List along with dozens of oligarchs close to the Kremlin.

Megdet Rahimkulov (Mihail Nikolaevich Rahimkulov) is a shareholder in Russian State monopolies such as Gazprom and Vneshtorgbank (VTB, known as the Bank of the KGB and the FSB or the Bank of the Kremlin), which held about 10% in the now-collapsed Bulgarian private lender – Corporate Commercial Bank (CCB). Rahimkulov’s portfolios in Russia and Hungary are controlled by the family-run Kafajat Kft, which the oligarch manages together with his sons.



Megdet Rahimkulov is number 52 on the Forbes Russia list with USD 1.9 billion, photo by Forbes.ru

The Russian has been a shareholder in Hungary’s largest bank Országos Takarékpénztár (OTP Group Plc.) since 2007. OTP Group controls banks not only in Hungary, but also Russia (OTP Bank), Ukraine (OTP Bank), Slovakia (OTP Banka Slovensko ), Serbia (OTP banka Srbija), Croatia (OTP banka Hrvatska), Montenegro (Црногорска комерцијална банка – Montenegrin Commercial Bank), Romania (OTP Bank Romania SA) and Slovenia (OTP Banka Slovenska).

The leading Hungarian oil company Magyar Olaj és Gázipari Részvénytársaság (MOL) is also in OTP, with 8.57%. Megdet Rahimkulov, himself, is a shareholder in MOL, where the State holds a share of about 33%.

MOL Group is a regional player – it has a network of 2,000 gas filling stations in Hungary, Slovakia and Romania.

MOL was to become one of the shareholders in the suspended Nabucco gas pipeline project for transit of Azerbaijani natural gas to Europe through Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria.

The Hungarians play side by side with the Russians

The acquisition of the French Société Générale Expressbank (SocGen) by DSK Bank – OTP Group, was approved on November 14, 2018. On January 15, 2019, OTP announced that the transaction had been completed.

According to the Bulgarian Capital weekly, by September 2018, the total assets of both banks (Expressbank and DSK Bank) were BGN 19.4 billion.


The management of Kafajat Kft, photo by moneymakerfactory.ru

This is a slightly more than the assets of the largest Unicredit Bulbank of the Italian group UniCredit S.p.A. Obviously, the deal had not encountered any problems, as employees in Expansbank branches have been already using business cards with the DSK Bank – OTP Group logo before the New Year holiday, Bivol has learned.

The third largest bank in the Republic of Moldova – Mobiasbanca S.A. (Groupe Société Générale) – is also about to be sold to OTP Group.

The price is not known but is lower than the EUR 39 million that the Bulgarian Doverie – United Holding PLC will pay for the second largest bank by assets in Moldova – Moldindconbank SA (see in Bivol HERE and HERE)

“They have finally reached an agreement on the price,” a source at Mobiasbanca commented for Bivol.

According to the source, Mobiasbanca has a smaller network of branches, which means lower sale value than that for other banks recently privatized in Moldova. The approval of the National Bank of Moldova (NBM) and the National Committee for Financial Stability of the country is forthcoming.


“Expressbank” becomes part of the Hungarian OTP Group, which owns DSK Bank in Bulgaria, photo by Dnevnik/Capital

Only Bucharest handled security more seriously. There, the regulator, the National Bank of Romania (NBR), banned the takeover of Banca Româneascã S.A. (owned by the National Bank of Greece – NBG) by OTP Bank România S.A. as early as March 15, 2018.

According to the Romanian newspaper Ziarul Financiar (ZF), “the regulator’s ban is an unprecedented case in the history of the country”.

“The NBR looked very carefully at the transactions between 2012 and 2015 through OTP Bank România, which have caused many suspicions,” ZF writes. The bank regulator in Bucharest, however, did not provide any details. OTP has been in Romania since 2000 when it acquired Robank and Millennium Bank. According to data for 2017, OTP holds 2.2% of the Romanian banking market.

Greetings from the 1990s

Megdet Rahimkulov created his business empire in the early 1990s, when the USSR’s Gas Industry Ministry was transformed into the Gazprom monopoly. He then became the General Manager of the Interprocom company, which later became one of the leading suppliers of IT equipment for Gazprom.

In 1994, Rahimkulov headed the Hungarian gas trader Panrusgaz, a joint venture between Gazprom and MOL. Since 1996, he has been Chairman of the Russian Credit Bank’s Supervisory Board, “Company Finance Project”. According to the Romanian edition of the US magazine Newsweek, as a former top manager, Rahimkulov holds at least 10% in Panrusgaz.

The publication also mentions the seizure of Altalanos ErtekForgalmi Bank (AEFB) by the Gazprom representation in Budapest, led by Rahimkulov. In 2005, the bank was bought out by the Russian-Hungarian billionaire. The Hungarian press announced in 2007 that Rahimkulov had sold AEFB, and the money earned had been invested in MOL and OTP Bank.


The Hungarian MOL controls over 2,000 gas filling and service stations in Hungary, Slovakia and Romania

In 2011, against debt, Rahimkulov gained control over the company “Vellhim”, producing hair sprays, air fresheners and auto cosmetics. In 2013, he sold the company to the German Henkel Corporation for USD 40 million.

According to data by Forbes.ru, Rahimkulov’s two sons are Hungarian citizens. A check by Bivol in the Bulgarian Trade Register did not find any legal entities with the names of Mihail Nikolaevich Rahimkulov, Ruslan Mihailovich Rahimkulov and Timur Mihailovich Rahimkulov.

Pray not to be bought out

Newsweek devoted to the oligarch its article “Putin’s Pawns, Mother Russia, Daughter Hungary and Grandchildren MOL and OTP.” Newsweek România cites George Friedman, the founder of the American geopolitical intelligence platform and publisher Stratfor, whose email on Russia’s interests in MOL has leaked to Wikileaks and was published by it.

It is written in the email that “according to a diplomatic source, most of MOL’s shares are in Russian hands”.

The Russian oil company Surgutneftegas was also a shareholder in MOL with 25%, along with the well-known in Bulgaria Czech State-owned CEZ Group (7.3%), while the shares of the Hungarian State were only 7.1%.


The Newsweek România article on OTP Group, MOL and Megdet Rahimkulov

Surgutneftegas suddenly became one of MOL’s largest shareholders after a secret deal in 2009 when the Russians had bought the shares of the Austrian OMV. “MOL was Russia’s first target, the second goal in the country will be Hungary’s largest bank, OTP Group,” according to the same diplomatic source said in Budapest.

“In general, we can say that Russia’s direct and indirect interests in MOL have already exceeded 50%”

OMV was publicly accused of “covering up Russian interests”. The accusation was voiced by Zsolt Hernádi, MOL Group Chairman and CEO before the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Hungarian Parliament. The hearing was about the unwelcome shareholder Surgutneftegas of Russian billionaire Vladimir Bogdanov, who since 2018 is also on the US sanctions list.


Surgutneftegas had secretly acquired 25% of MOL in 2009

Representatives of the Russians had not been admitted to the meetings of MOL shareholders. This was followed by lengthy court battles, which ended with the purchase of shares of the Russian giant by the Hungarian State against USD 1.88 billion in May 2011. The authorities in Budapest saw the secret deal as a “hostile takeover” by Moscow.

“It was a heavy fight,” is how Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban commented on the fight to not allow Surgutneftegas in MOL. “No country can be strong if it is totally vulnerable to the supply of energy resources,” Orban said then.

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