Russian media recently published new details of the so called “fake terrorist attack” on Togliattiazot chemical plant. This case made the headlines back in 2017 when police found a bazooka, a number of AK-47 and ISIS propaganda materials hidden behind ceiling panels in the plant’s office – a very well-guarded facility. The huge plant in Russia’s Volga region – ToAZ – is the world’s largest producer of ammonia and other chemical fertilizers, and any accidents there could be fatal and put at risk thousands of people in the surrounding communities.
According to website Politicallore which follows this story, in January 2018 police arrested a number of people involved in the case including the former head of Boris Berezovsky’s security service Sergei Sokolov, Valentin Gonastarev, Alexey Alekseev, Ruslan Milchenko and Oleg Antoshin. It was revealed later that they were hired by one of the former owners of ToAZ – Vladimir Makhlai – to simulate a terrorist attack on the plant and, by doing this, to discredit his son Sergey Makhlai and to remove him from company’s management and take control over the plant.
This story began in 2015. Russian court arrested 100% of shares held by the majority shareholders of ToAZ, including Sergey Makhlai, as a part of investigation into a multibillion-dollar international fraud. Sergey Makhlai began to look for ways to sell his stake in ToAZ to someone powerful who could help to stop the investigation against him, lift up the arrest of the shares and then buy them out. According to media reports, he was in talks with three powerful Russian oligarchs: Vladimir Evtushenkov, Roman Trotsenko and Alexey Khotin – and asked $1.3 billion for his stake.
The information about negotiations leaked to the market and became known to Vladimir Makhlai, Sergey Makhlai’s father and former longtime CEO of ToAZ which he always considered his brainchild. Vladimir Makhlai left Russia many years ago and was residing in the UK. He was furious at the news and decided to stop the deal whatever it takes to regain control over the business.
Vladimir Makhlai contacted Boris Berezovsky’s former bodyguard, Sergei Sokolov, whom he had known as well as ToAZ chief security officer Oleg Antoshin. Together they crafted a plan to simulate a terrorist attack being prepared at ToAZ which should scare away potential buyers of ToAZ and discredit the management team portraying them as uncapable of providing basic protection of the plant.
A special plan to remove ToAZ CEO Vyacheslav Suslov was also devised. Suslov was to be accused of raping an underage girl. The plan almost worked. The 17-year-old «victim» was brought from Ukraine. A car of the same model and color as Suslov’s car was purchased, identical license plates were made. According to the scenario, a twin car with a minor in the passenger seat had to travel along such route that it would be registered by the city’s video surveillance cameras, drive towards the forest belt, where the act of violence would «take place». The girl would then have written a statement to the police, her hair would have been planted into Suslov’s real car, pornographic files with the participation of minors would have been uploaded onto the director’s computer – and that would have been it, the criminal case with 100% evidence would have been ready. Suslov was saved only by chance – shortly before the appointed day, Suslov changed his car.
The criminal case of large-scale fraud, which had been preventing Sergey Makhlai from selling the arrested shares of ToAZ for several years, ended in 2019 with a conviction in absentia. Sergei Makhlai and other defendants in the case, according to the court verdict, should pay damages of 87 billion rubles (about $ 1.2 billion).
In the rich criminal history of the Makhlais’ empire, corruption, embezzlement, tax evasion, illegal withdrawal of funds to offshores through shell companies, and even crimes against the person have long been a part of their activities. Now, this long list will be expanded with such an unsightly crime as imitation of a terrorist attack aimed at state foundations.