Throughout history, Latvia and Lithuania have always been and still remain the gates for all kinds of criminal transactions with Russian money coming from both the Russian Federation and other CIS countries. The situation never changed over the past two decades.
Last year Latvian media performed a detailed investigation in order to show the public audience how the financial industry participates in servicing shady gambling industry directly related to Russia. They also managed to find key figures and those, who created a sophisticated system that processes tens and hundreds of millions of dollars a month from Russian bookmakers with their subsequent withdrawal to offshore accounts.
This article is the second part of the investigation of the activities of Russian players who launder “dirty” money in the Baltic countries and abroad.
As soon as the overall turnover of shady money reached significant amounts of tens and hundreds of millions of dollars, several banks and financial organizations received large fines and even lost their licenses.
It happened with several Latvian and Lithuanian banks (Trasta Komercbanka AS, ABLV Bank AS, and many others). In that case, the Latvian Financial and Capital Market Commission (FFKTK) managed to detect and record long-term violations in the field of legalization of criminally obtained funds, currency processing violations, and even several facts of terrorist financing. We would also like to remind you about the scandal with the Estonian branch of Danske Bank that was used to process billions of shady dollars from Russia.
Fairness requires us to say that Russian money laundering occurs in other countries of Europe and the world. In many cases, financial companies that have licenses to accept payments and are connected to banks and Visa and Mastercard systems are involved in this shady process.
According to the US Treasury, the largest amounts of shady money from betting, gambling, pornography, drug trafficking, and other illegal activities are transferred from Russians to banks in the Baltic States and EU countries.
1xBet and their friends from Police Department “K”
Already two years ago, journalists of the Russian Forbes published an article about the largest gambling empire called 1xBet which has a turnover of $2 billion. Journalists described the scheme in detail and added that several police officers and IT specialists from Bryansk were directly connected to the project. They also told the audience about the foundation and the history of the gambling empire.
According to journalists and the information from the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, the chief cyber police officer Sergey Karshkov from Bryansk, who worked in the department “K”, together with his friend Roman Semiokhin, started to work in the field of betting and launched the 1xBet brand. Sergey Karshkov was responsible for the marketing of the 1xBet network. Already in 2014, the Russian authorities introduced licensing for online bookmakers, and 1xBet was not really ready to adjust to new rules. The company began illegal activities, while still accepting bets and using the bank cards of their customers. Sergey Karshkov invited one of his colleagues from Bryansk, Sergey (Sergei) Kondratenko, who also worked in the Department “K”, and with whom he worked for several years.
In 2016, Sergey Kondratenko registered the SIA Royal Pay Europe online money transferring company in Riga. The company with the same name was also registered in Russia.
According to the Russian media, Royal Pay Europe is directly connected with the activities of one of the largest shady online bookmakers 1xBet.
“For example, one of the largest players in the market, 1xBet bookmaking company, has already created its own payment system called Royal Pay for making payments,” writes The Bell with reference to a former employee of the company. Journalists also reported that the company even worked “in such closed countries as Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan, where card payments in the field of gambling were not available for a long time.” It turns out that RoyalPay company which was used as a financial agent in conjunction with the company in Kazan created a foundation for the successful operation of 1xBet and payments processing in Russia.
The direct connection with the bookmaking company can be seen with the naked eye as well. For example, while depositing money to a bookmaker’s account through the Royal Pay payment system, customers receive an additional bonus or so-called cashback in the amount of 5% of the deposit.
Royal Pay Europe was founded in 2016. In 2017 it received a license of an electronic money institution in England, which gave it the right to accept payments and service card transactions in European and British jurisdictions. In addition, the company registered its activities in Latvia. In addition, it offers relevant services in the EU, CIS, and Asian countries.
Family “business” of Sergey and Galina Kondratenko
It is worth noting that Sergey Kondratenko is also the owner of the company with the same name in Colombia. Already on January 7, 2021, he founded Findexiq Ltd company in the UK.
Over the past few years, Sergey Kondratenko from Russia has registered dozens of companies in various countries (Latvia, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Great Britain, UAE, Republic of Singapore, and so on) under his own name, as well as under his relatives and acquaintances. He owns the following legal entities: Kiparis DMCC (United Arab Emirates), Alium Limited (aliumpay.com), Optimum FinTech s.r.o. (Ilia Zavialov), VestraPay Nigeria Ltd, and Digitalex pte. ltd.
These companies own identical websites. In addition, they do not conduct public activities and their main goal is to act as an intermediary when accepting payments.
Sergey Kondratenko (born on November 05, 1982) introduced his wife Galina (November 1, 1982) to the family business of laundering betting money. They studied together at the Bryansk branch of Moscow University of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation and graduated together in 2004. After graduating from the university, Sergey and Galina Kondratenko got married, and they have two children.
Galina and Sergey Kondratenko celebrate the 15th anniversary of their life together (Source: VK.com)
Over the past few years, Sergey Kondratenko has registered several companies abroad on behalf of his wife Galina: Startling Limited (Cyprus, the company could have been eliminated in 2020), Skylove Ltd, PP MONEY TRANSFER s.r.o. from Czech Republic (psppaymentplanet.eu), and many others.
Such companies as Royal Pay, as well as all other legal entities with their illusory managers, act as financial intermediary companies for transferring and laundering millions of dollars from Russia and CIS countries through European banks with withdrawal to Cyprus and other offshore accounts.
In 2018, Sergey Kondratenko and his wife bought Cyprus citizenship; however, according to Russian databases, they have not changed their citizenship to date.
One of their friends from Bryansk, who knows them well, said that the family visits Russia once in a while, but spends most of their time abroad.
There are high chances that cryptocurrencies are involved in the shady schemes of the mentioned legal entities. Sergey Kondratenko’s partner, Nikolajs Kirillovs from Latvia with Russian roots, who previously had a minority stake in Royal Pay Europe, decided to work with cryptocurrencies and opened the FERVIDO s.r.o. in the Czech Republic, as well as the DigitMoney company.
The journalists conducted an investigation and revealed that Sergey Kondratenko and his legal entities work with such Lithuanian companies as UAB NexPay, UAB Transactive Systems, and others.
The management of these companies avoids making any comments on the activities of their clients.
Russian Forbes also writes that the owners of 1xBet are closely connected with Russian officials, deputies, and criminals.
We will continue to monitor the state of the empire for laundering the shady money of Sergei Kondratenko and his entourage and will publish another part of this investigation in the near future. We would like to highlight the fact that all data on his companies, schemes, and counterparties will be transferred to the law enforcement and financial authorities of the United States and other countries since their activity clearly reminds the activity of an international criminal organization.
Author: Valdemas Kazlauskas, [email protected]
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