WOG goes to bankruptcy

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Owners of the “Continuum” group (WOG gas stations) Stepan Ivakhiv and Sergey Lagur bankrupt their company in order not to return debts.

In a recent interview, the owner of the “Galnaftogaz” concern (“OKKO” chain) Vitaliy Antonov said that the WOG network “costs nothing” and its buyer will have to dig into “in the tripe”.

How could this happen to a company, which in 2007 occupied 10% of the fuel market and in 2015 was the leader in the import of petroleum products with a turnover of UAH 35 billion?

The decline of the “Continuum” group began after the death of one of the co-owners of the company, Igor Yeremeyev, who was the leader of the group. Under the leadership of Igor Yeremeyev, WOG was one of the most developing operators in the Ukrainian market, and was among the top five leaders in the retail market for petroleum products.

Yeremeyev’s legacy was estimated at $ 400 million: the assets that were in the “Continuum” group at the time of Yeremyev’s death, consisted of 500 filling stations, “WOG Café”, dozens of dairy enterprises, more than 20 fuel retail businesses, and other assets (in terms of the number of gas stations WOG is second only to the informal association of 1,500 gas stations of the Privat group).

After Yeremyev’s death, partners — Stepan Ivakhiv, Sergey Lagur and Petro Dyminsky, began to divide the business and try to withdraw money from it. First, Petro Dyminsky left the list of shareholders and then Lagur and Ivakhiv were engaged in attempts to “throw out” the heirs of the deceased Yeremeyev from business. Then they tried to negotiate the sale of the company to Dmitry Firtash, but this deal also did not “stick together”.

Today, Firtash owns a 6.55% stake in OWG Oil West Limited (the parent company of WOG), which was among the founders of the core assets of the “Continuum” group, according to EP. According to the newspaper, Firtash invested $ 200-250 million in WOG.

To this figure, we need to add about $ 300 million of debt to commercial banks, among which about $ 60 million is the group’s debt to “Forum” bank, which is managed by the Deposit Guarantee Fund.

At the same time, the cost of WOG in its current state is estimated by analysts and investment bankers at 300-400 million dollars.

Fiscal pressure is added to the problems with creditors: in 2016, State Fiscal Service of Ukraine found tax evasion schemes at WOG, and obliged WOG to pay excise tax to the budget in the amount of UAH 416.7 million.

Studying court registers in search of information about the confrontation between the SFS and the “Continuum” group, we found out that in July 2016, the Specialized Tax Inspectorate for Major Payers of the Lviv SFS paid for “VOG Retail” company for the period from July 2011 to December 2015. As a result of the audit, an underestimation of excise tax payment was revealed in 2015 in the amount of UAH 530 million. SFS focused on the fact that excise-free sales were made through a chain of gas stations, that is, at retail.

However, representatives of the WOG filed a lawsuit in court, where they requested to annul these decisions. And in all likelihood, using their “connections” in the western region of Ukraine (owner of WOG Ivakhiv, born in Volyn) — by a decision of the Volyn Regional Administrative Court, and later by the decision of the Lviv Appeal Administrative Court, the accrual of the SFS was canceled.

How this cancellation was carried out can be guessed by studying the WOG lawsuit to “its” Volyn Regional Administrative Court (case 803/1118/16), in which it was stated that on August 2, 2016 “VOG Retail” through the court office, a payment order was submitted UAH 1 million court fee.

At the same time, “VOG Retail” submits a petition to defer payment of the court fee in the amount of UAH 5.2 million. They justify by saying that “VOG Retail” is in a difficult financial situation. The court takes a positive decision and gives a delay for WOG at UAH 5.2 million.

The judge of the Volyn Regional Administrative Court, Alexander Lozovsky, who made this decision, later became the head of the court, and in February 2018, together with his brother, an advocate, was caught taking a bribe in the amount of USD 3.6 thousand.

The consideration of the case has already reached the Supreme Court of Ukraine, and by a decision of November 28, 2018 — the decision of the Volyn Regional Administrative Court of August 26, 2016 and the decision of the Lviv Administrative Court of Appeal of January 25, 2017 were canceled and new decisions were taken. The claim of “VOG Retail” denied.

In parallel, the term of the installment plan from the FDG is expiring (a loan for the “Forum” at UAH 1.1 billion). After that, the owners of WOG, apparently, decided to make the company bankrupt.

For this, the company “Naftotrade Resource” was involved, which also belongs to the “Continuum” group, and began to work actively from 2016, “transferring” all the main supplies to itself.

The ultimate owner of LLC “Naftotrade Resource” is Sergey Lagur, and Roman Yeremeyev, son of Igor Yeremeyev (who has no real influence on the company).

“Naftotrade Resource” is filing a lawsuit against the main founder of the “Continuum” group, LLC “WEST OIL GROUP”. In this lawsuit, “Naftotrade Resource” asks the economic court of Volyn region to recover from “WEST OIL GROUP” UAH 473.9 million: of which UAH 462.6 million are repayable interest-free financial assistance (No. 06 / 03 / 17P from March 6, 2017) + UAH 8.8 million losses caused by inflation, + UAH 2.5 million per cent per annum.

They substantiate this claim by saying that “WEST OIL GROUP” does not return financial support on time.

On November 8, 2018, the court accepts the claim for consideration and opens the proceedings.

“Naftotrade Resource” is the very element in the WOG group, through which individuals purchase petroleum products, using cards (coupons) for fuel.

The “Coupon scheme” is one of the most popular in the shadow market, through which “cash” occurs. In Ukraine, the product is often sold through one channel, and the documentation is different. Paper trading allows you to “earn” a fictitious VAT of billions. The fuel that these stations implement is not accounted for in any reporting.

“Naftotrade Resource” has already been involved in such schemes — it was a participant in fictitious sales of diesel fuel, gasoline (not leaded) with the facts of “transfer” of goods and the formation of a fictitious tax credit along the supply chain in 2015 — 2016

The enterprises of the “Continuum” group purchased goods with the nomenclature: “cheese”, “chicken”, “women’s shoes”, “baby carriages”, “chandeliers”, “umbrellas”, “tires”, “lamps”, “toys”, “sugar” ”, etc., and were realized according to the“ diesel fuel ”nomenclature in the total amount of UAH 52.4 million of VAT.

That is, initially “Naftotrade Resource” was involved in this scheme to withdraw funds from the WOG group.

And now it is used to declare a company bankrupt.

Alexander Dubinsky