Mikhail Semenovich Chernoi, Lev Semenovich Chernoi, David Semenovich Chernoi
After graduating from the Tashkent Polytechnic Institute, Lev Chernoi was admitted to the Tashkent Excavator Plant as the head of the Quality Control Department of the branch that produced consumer goods. It was reported that on the basis of this branch in 1985, Lev created one of the first production cooperatives in Uzbekistan. To work in it, he attracted his older brother Mikhail, who took over the organization of production, while Lev was engaged in the supply of raw materials and sales of products, and financial issues. According to Mikhail Chernoi's own words, in the early 1980s, he was engaged in functionary work at the Tashkent Sports Association, during which he met the coach of the USSR national tennis team Shamil Tarpishchev, who in the 1990s entered the highest political elite of Russia.
Information was published that Lev Chernoi relied on the support of organized criminal groups in Tashkent, whose leaders were his former school friends. According to various publications, one of the Chernois brothers (Lev or Mikhail) studied at the same school with Alimzhan Tokhtakhunov (nicknamed "Taiwanchik"), who later became one of the brigadiers of the "Izmailovskaya" organized criminal group in Moscow. According to some reports, money for the promotion of the Chernois cooperative was allocated from the local common fund, since Lev was of interest to criminals in connection with the creation of a structure for laundering proceeds from racketeering, prostitution, arms and drug trafficking. Through connections with the Uzbek criminal community, primarily with Gafur Rakhimov and Tofik Arifov, Lev Chernoi, presumably, established relations with such major figures of the Russian underworld as thief in law Vyacheslav Ivankov (Yaponchik) and Otari Kvantrishvili. Thanks to this cooperation, Chernoi became one of the largest "shop workers" in Uzbekistan, working in the shadow production of consumer goods.
In the field of selling consumer goods, the Chernois established cooperation with Iskandar Makhmudov, an employee of the Uzbekintorg foreign trade organization (according to Mikhail Chernoi, this happened in 1987). "Uzbekintorg" supplied abroad the products of Uzbek factories (metallurgy and chemistry), and in return received goods in short supply in the USSR, which were sold in Uzbekistan, including through the Chernois brothers.
In the late 1980s, the Chernois moved from Tashkent to Moscow, where in 1989 they founded the Soviet-Panamanian joint venture Columbus. The closest associate of the Chernois in the Columbus joint venture was a native of Tashkent, Yakov Goldovsky. The official activity of the joint venture was called timber trade. There was information that Italians of Bulgarian origin took part in the organization of the enterprise, the name of Laura Vidinlieva was called.
In 1990-1991, the Chernois organized cooperation with American entrepreneur Sam (Semyon) Kislin, who emigrated from Odessa in the 1970s. With the help of the Chernois, Kislin's company Trans Commodities gained access to the products of Russian metallurgical enterprises. The Chernois were able to provide this access thanks to Makhmudov's connection with Vladimir Lisin, and through him with Oleg Soskovets, who in the first half of the 1990s was the Russian Deputy Prime Minister in charge of the metallurgy sector. Soon the Chernois broke off relations with Kislin and organized cooperation with the British company Trans World Metals of the Rubens brothers. The Chernois and the Rubens created a joint venture Trans World Group, which, with the support of Oleg Soskovets, for several years gains control over most of Russian non-ferrous metals and a significant part of ferrous metallurgy.
Amid the crisis of non-payments, the severance of economic ties with the former Soviet republics and the ban on barter transactions in the early 1990s, the Chernois possessed significant funds (trade in consumer goods and, possibly, black cash from criminal groups, scams with advice notes were also mentioned), connections in the Russian government (Oleg Soskovets) and access to foreign markets (through the Rubens brothers). Thanks to this, they are forcing metallurgical enterprises to agree to tolling schemes, when enterprises received coal from the Chernois for work, raw materials for processing and insignificant payments for processing these raw materials. The final product was owned by the Chernois brothers and was sold through the Rubens brothers brothers in the West, giving TWG about 2/3 of its foreign exchange earnings. At the same time, taxes were paid to the state minimal, since the metal, in fact, was not bought by the Chernois, they only took the production capacity of metallurgical enterprises on lease, allowing them to stay afloat, but not allowing them to develop and get on their own feet. As the privatization processes developed, the Chernois received ownership of shares in controlled enterprises, often registering them with junior partners (Oleg Deripaska, Iskandar Makhmudov, Vladimir Lisin, Alexander Abramov).
In the Sverdlovsk Region, the Chernois brothers control the Nizhniy Tagil Metallurgical Plant and the Uralelectromed Combine. Where the Chernois did not directly gain control over the shares of the enterprise, they performed the functions of a trader selling Russian metals on the London Metal Exchange, thanks to the Rubens' connections. At the same time, even those FIGs that were considered competitors of the Chernois brothers, for example, the Interros group of Vladimir Potanin (Norilsk Nickel, until 1997, sold 60% of metals to TWG), worked with TWG.
The Chernois brothers developed a certain specialization. Older brother Mikhail (born 1952) was in charge of military support for the group's operations. Probably, for this purpose, he contacted the leader of the "Izmailovskaya" organized criminal group Anton Malevsky and the leader of the "Podolsk" organized criminal group Sergey Popov. In parallel with the organized crime group, relations with law enforcement agencies and special services were built, so in the Sverdlovsk region the interests of the Chernois brothers were defended by the leadership of the Department for Combating Organized Crime of the Sverdlovsk Ministry of Internal Affairs, and in Moscow the brothers were "protected" by a high-ranking officer of the FSK-FSB Yuri Zaostrovtsev. Force support was needed by the Chernois to fight rival criminal gangs. And in this respect, illegal and legal "roofs" acted in a single bundle. With the hands of friendly organized crime groups, competitors were physically eliminated, and state services protected the Chernois from the retaliatory actions of hostile organized crime groups.
The middle brother Leo (born in 1954), who had been ill with polio in childhood and became disabled as a result, played the role of a family strategist. It is assumed that it was he who built the economic schemes according to which TWG worked, and subsequently some political projects.
Younger brother David (born in 1958) left for permanent residence in the United States, according to unconfirmed reports, to contact the "Brooklyn" organized criminal group, consisting of Soviet emigrants in the United States. An important role in the "Brooklyn" organized criminal group was played by Vyacheslav Ivankov (nickname "Yaponchik"), who was close to one of the most authoritative Russian thieves in law, Aslan Usoyan ("grandfather Khasan"). Perhaps the Chernois brothers have established contacts with the elite of the Russian criminal world through the Uzbek authority Alimzhan Tokhtakhunov ("Taiwanchik"). Information was published that one of the Chernois brothers and Tokhtakhunov studied at the same school with Shamil Tarpishchev, who was a member of Boris Yeltsin's inner circle and was close to the head of the Presidential Security Service Alexander Korzhakov, the head of the FSB Mikhail Barsukov and the aforementioned Oleg Soskovets.
There was information that in 1993-1994 Mikhail Chernoi invested about $ 36 million in real estate in the United States (in Brooklyn, Brighton Beach and Manhattan).
The assets that were part of the TWG "empire" had some specific management features. The enterprises associated with the Chernois have never been in strict hierarchical subordination. The connection between the assets was not legal, but rather “family-clan”. The assets were managed by fairly independent managers who played the role of owners of the enterprise and in fact could own the shares of the enterprise. At the same time, on the one hand, managers could, within certain limits, use the financial and administrative capabilities of the "clan", and on the other hand, they could also compete with other managers of the "clan" within certain limits. TWG, however, served as a unifying factor only as a trader to whom various formally independent groupings sold products. This management principle had its own difficulties associated with the desire of managers of the "clan" for real independence (Oleg Deripaska) or with the aggravation of conflicts between managers within the "clan" (for example, the events at the Kachkanarsky GOK or the conflict between Kozitsyn and Altushkin - "junior" partners in UMMC).
One of the tools for indirect control of enterprises within the TWG's sphere of control by the Chernois brothers (or those who stood behind them) could be the use of offshore company registrars. In particular, there is a connection between the Chernois brothers and a large registrar of offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands Commonwealth Trust Limited. Most of the large enterprises associated with the Chernois brothers used the services of offshore zones. Offshore companies were used not only to hide the real owners of the enterprise and to insure against raider seizure, but also to divert profits from taxation. The products of factories and metallurgical plants were sold at a minimal cost to their "own" offshore companies, and they were already selling products at real prices to real consumers. As a result, minimal taxes were paid in Russia, and the bulk of the proceeds from the sale of products was “circulated” in offshore zones. At the same time, offshore registrars could provide legal support for transactions, as well as financial services for transferring proceeds to the accounts of owners of Russian enterprises in foreign banks or back to Russia in the form of "foreign investments." Thus, offshore registrars could control the financial flows of offshore companies registered by them.
1997 was the peak of TWG's power. According to Forbes, the group owned large stakes in at least 20 metallurgical plants. TWG was the largest private client of Russian Railways, controlled the largest aluminum plants, 20% of the ferrous metallurgy of Russia, a significant part of the metallurgy of Kazakhstan and Ukraine, ports, transport companies. However, this golden age was already the decline of the TWG empire, possibly because in 1996, TWG lobbyist Oleg Soskovets was defeated in a conflict with Anatoly Chubais's group.
In 1997, a massive media campaign was launched against TWG, owned by media tycoon Vladimir Gusinsky. The whole country learned about the role of the Chernois brothers in the privatization of Russian metallurgy and what criminal events accompanied their actions. As a result, TWG is beginning to wind down its activities. There is information in the media that the Chernois were defeated. However, where the competitors allegedly squeezed TWG out, the Glencore International AG. takes its place. As a result, it appears that TWG has simply changed the sign to Glencore. However, an analysis of the Glencore Corporation's relationship with TWG suggests that Glencore was behind TWG from the start and the anti-corruption disclosures served only as a reason (or excuse) for Glencore to come out of the shadows. It should be noted that all the foreign partners of the Chernois brothers, like the Chernois brothers themselves, were Jews (Sam Kislin, the Rubens brothers, , the founder of the Glencore corporation Marc Rich). Does this mean that TWG was part of some kind of Jewish conspiracy? Or was it easier for Soviet Jews the Chernois to establish contacts with the foreign countries through Jews, thanks to family ties, or through the diaspora? Hard to say.
In 1997, a conflict begins between Mikhail and Lev Chernois, which leads to the division of assets and spheres of influence. Iskandar Makhmudov (Uralelectromed), Oleg Deripaska (Siberian aluminum), Alexander Abramov (Evrazholding), MDM-group are guided by work with Mikhail Chernoi. The Rubens brothers remain partners of Lev Chernoi.
In the late 1990s, the shares of Lev Chernoi and the Rubens brothers in Siberian aluminum smelters were bought by Sibneft shareholders Boris Berezovsky, Badri Patarkatsishvili and Roman Abramovich. In the early 2000s, Mikhail Chernoi sold his shares in Rusal to Oleg Deripaska, and in UMMC and Kuzbassrazrezugl to Iskandar Makhmudov. Mikhail Chernoi remained on good terms with Makhmudov , but he had a long lawsuit with Deripaska in British courts, claiming that Deripaska had not fully paid off with him for Rusal shares.
In the 2000s, Mikhail Chernoi left for permanent residence in Israel.
Since 1998, Lev Chernoi has been trying to implement political projects in Russia, creating for himself the image of a patriotic entrepreneur and statesman. On this basis, Lev Chernoi actively collaborated with Boris Berezovsky. In 1999, Lev Chernoi created and headed the Institute for Advanced Scientific Research at the Department of Social Sciences of the Russian Academy of Sciences, which "conducts systemic research in the field of macroeconomics, sociology and high technologies", "participates in the development and implementation of the Basic Research Programs of the Presidium of the Russian Academy of Sciences" Economics and Sociology of Knowledge " and "Scientific and technological forecast for the development of the Russian economy." It was reported that Lev Chernoi supported the creation of the Unity party, but what contribution he made to its creation is unknown. In 2000, Chernoi created the Interregional Public Organization for Assistance to Democratic Reforms "Mobilization and Development", which functioned at least until 2012.
Date of information update: 2015.