Photo caption: Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport where ticket prices were increased as much as 50 percent to cover the cost of fuel scams.
Phantom companies that sold fuel to Moscow’s main airport at inflated prices were connected to a network of companies and proxies, dubbed the "Proxy Platform,” uncovered by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) in a project published late last year. Russian authorities are currently investigating one case where these same Latvian banks and proxies were involved in a chain of shell firms that sold fuel destined for Moscow’s airport to each other in a convoluted scheme that increased the price up to 40 percent. The added costs were passed on to travelers who for years paid extra for their airline tickets in Moscow.
Between 2008 and 2010 the Russian tax authority audited the city’s main airport and the oil companies that sold fuel to it. The investigation started after the 2008 "fuel crisis", when some of Moscow airports did not have enough fuel to meet the needs of airlines.
Prices spiked. The problem became so acute in 2009 that Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov publicly told Prime Minister Vladimir Putin that the fuel market was full of "black bugs," referring to the phantom companies. Putin himself demanded authorities get rid of the "bugs."
The investigation proved Ivanov right. Documents show that Moscow’s Sheremetyevo, was at the center of the fuel related fraud. The findings are featured in an ongoing criminal court case by the investigative department of Russian police. The airport is owned by the Russian government and from 2003 till 2008 airport authorities chose to purchase fuel through a long chain of intermediary phantom companies rather than directly from refineries.
A case taken from the investigation showed how one of the gas purchase deals worked.
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