Sunday, 3 July 2011

Police raids at Domodedovo

Police and investigators swooped on Domodedovo airport Thursday in a day long raid, kicking employees off their work stations into the corridors, seizing computers and pulling out the ceilings.

There was no disruption to flights, but it is yet another sign that the knives are out for Moscow’s largest transport hub, and the signs are that it boils down to a clash of personalities.

Two different reasons were reported for the raid. One was that security forces were out to grab documents pertaining to ownership, President Medvedev himself has said he is not happy with the status of Domodedovo’s management.

The other reason was to follow up a criminal investigation into security shortcomings that, for one, allowed a suicide bomber to kill 37 people and injure 173 in the arrivals hall in January, Interfax reported.


Neither of these persuade Nikita Melnikov, a transport analyst at Aton Brokerage, “I think that all these things, these security issues and the state declaring that the police actions are because of the terrorist act or this woman who boarded a plane with no ticket, can be taken as a base to return to the question of ownership,” he told The Moscow News.

Airline tycoon Dmitry Kamenshchik is 100 percent owner of the airport. He’s the 86th richest man in Russia with a net worth of $1.1 billion, according to Forbes magazine.

“To be honest, I think that all these things are connected with the president’s idea, and not just the president’s, that Domodedovo is not fairly owned by Mr Kamenshchik…The state has a long history of conflict with Mr Kamenshchik,” Melnikov said.

he hostile attitude is unmerited, says Melnikov, as Kamenshchik has turned the airport around and brought it up to speed with the modern world, making Domodedovo the Moscow airport of choice for most international airlines.

“When we have a successful business of which the origins are not very clear then the state shows an interest in how this business is run,” Melnikov said by telephone. He added that this conflict is likely to continue until Kamenshchik takes on board some of the state’s ideas.

“It seems that we know who the owner is, but a check is underway. The owner is hidden behind the structure of beneficial owners” President Medvedev said, apparently unconvinced by the IPO document declaring Kamenshchik as the owner, as reported by Radio .

“And this is our largest transport hub and where there is the largest number of planes!” he exclaimed.

The origins of the airport’s private ownership, back in the topsy-turvy days of perestroika, are indeed hard to trace and the deeds have changed hands at least 13 times, financial analyst Andrei Sotnik told Radio Svoboda.

The powers that be are unlikely to be able to trace those origins as many of them lie overseas. But Sotnik does point out that the original owners, East Line, were a Soviet group, “I doubt that a Soviet era firm with overseas ties came into being without KGB ties,” he said.

The airport, meanwhile, is choosing discretion, “The airport is directly interested in an objective investigation and Domodedovo has been actively cooperating with law enforcement agencies and investigators at all stages of the investigation from the moment it began in January 2011,” the airport’s press service announced.

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