Companies owned by ‘Putin’s Chef’ Dominate Russian State Catering Deals: Report

Companies owned by Yevgeniy Prigozhin, a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin, have won a total of 5,393 government contracts worth $3.2 billion, according to a new report.

The investigation leading to the report was carried out by Current Time, a Russian language media project led by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA and anticorruption website Municipal Scanner.

Most of the contracts were concluded to provide food and other services to military units, but Prigozhin’s companies also cater for schools and health-care facilities.

The actual number of contracts could be much larger, in part because Prigozhin has created an opaque ownership network that makes it difficult to track all his activities, the report said. Another factor is that in 2017, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev issued a government decision that allowed the Voentorg military-supply agency and its subsidiaries to conceal information about its tenders on national-security grounds.

There is evidence, in the form of court and other records, that some of Prigozhin’s companies have been providing services to military units although they do not have a publicly recorded tender. Several companies tied to Prigozhin, including MTTs, Pishchevik, Obshchepit, Merkurii, and ASP, are listed on the Voentorg website as “partner” organizations.

“It is a classic system,” said a business expert contacted by Current Time. “Two or three structures compete in one tender. You own them all. You win the contract with minimal effort…. Although sometimes you can see companies competing that have one address, one director, one e-mail address. This is an old system — it has been used 1,000 times and will be used 1,000 more.”

According to the investigation, many of the companies winning state contracts are owned or managed by known associates of Prigozhin, while others share a legal address or contact information with companies within the oligarch’s empire. Several of them have used the same lawyer, Irina Medved, to represent them in disputes with the Defense Ministry or other government agencies.

St. Petersburg Financial University Professor Sergei Chyornykh told Current Time that such ties could be a coincidence, but could also indicate affiliations among companies that should attract the attention of financial-monitoring agencies.

Currrent Time sent a list of questions to Prigozhin’s main company, Konkord Managemeen and Consulting, with a request for comment on its investigation. The company responded by saying it had no obligation to answer Current Time and that the questions were “not publicly significant.”