How Austrian apartments of 'Lukashenka's wallet' avoid sanctions
Real estate owned by the Varabey family still not sanctioned by the West / Euroradio collage
The Belarusian businessman divided real estate worth ten million dollars between his daughter and his wife.
The West imposed sanctions against the Belarusian regime and its associates, but missed the expensive real estate of Mikalai Varabey, who is an "oil purse" of Aliaksandr Lukashenka. The Belarusian businessman owns a chalet and apartments in Austria, each in the name of his relatives and worth millions of dollars.
Mr Varabey covered his property operations not with the help of some ordinary Austrian person, but thanks to Maximilian Christoph Graf von Habsburg-Lothringen, a descendant of a branch of the Austro-Hungarian imperial family. And the entourage of this aristocrat is connected to Jan Marsalek, one of Europe's most wanted swindlers.
A firm that operates with multimillion losses
The Belarusian Investigative Center together with the Austrian publication Dossier exposed Lukashenka's henchman. "The most notable asset [of the Varabey family] is a chalet in the Carinthia region in southern Austria. The 300 square meter residence has a 19 thousand square meter plot of land with meadows, woods and gardens. This property belongs to the company Power Chemical Trading," say the Belarusian investigative journalists.
This firm is registered to Katsyaryna Smushkovich (Varabey), the daughter of Mikalai Varabey. And he had earlier received Power Chemical Trading from his partner Maximilian Christoph von Habsburg-Lotharingen.
Power Chemical Trading incurred a net loss of one and a half million euros in 2020, according to its financial report. The firm had either 0 or 1 employees in different years. "What does that mean? It looks as if the firm's main function is to own and maintain a house in Carinthia," the investigators conclude.
In addition to luxury real estate in the south of Austria, Varabey was concerned about buying an apartment in Vienna. It was purchased in 2013 by the wife of the Belarusian businessman Tamara Varabey. The apartment cost her 3,700,000 euros.
At the time, Tamara Varabey worked in the Navapolatsk companies "Interservice" and "Autoimport," and the woman's annual salary was $35,000.
In 2017, Varabey's daughter Katsyaryna Smushkovich bought an apartment in the First district of the Austrian capital. For 202 square meters, the girl paid 3,000,000 euros.
It is possible that the purchase of expensive real estate was accompanied by a large-scale gray scheme carried out jointly with the Belarusian authorities by Varabey's "Interservice". Thanks to gaps in legislation, Belarus reexported oil products derived from Russian oil under the guise of solvents. This made it possible not to pay duties to Russia from deliveries outside the Customs Union. When the Russians realized they had been badly fooled, they demanded $1.5 billion in compensation, but in the end the case was thrown out.
The Austrian aristocrat Maximilian Christoph Graf von Habsburg-Lothringen and Mikalai Varabey have known each other for a long time, even before the deal with MHL Property Management (as Power Chemical Trading used to be called). Cyber-Partizan hackers confirm that since at least September 2013, Habsburg-Lothringen, Varabey, and their relatives have flown from the EU to Belarus and back several times.
Since 2020, the Austrian aristocrat has headed the "Austrian-Russian Friendship Society." This organization mediates between Austrian and Russian businessmen. The Austrian press reports that the "Friendship Society" and its founder, Florian Sternmann, may be related to one of Europe's most wanted suspected swindlers, Jan Marsalek.
The Dossier Center investigation shows that the fraudster Marsalek left Vienna via Belarus. He was also assisted by the Russian secret service, which provided the man with a passport under a new name. Marsalek was suspected in a major scam he pulled off at the German company Wirecard. The result of the crime was a financial shortfall of almost two billion euros.
After the leak of correspondence indicating that Florian Sternmann was an intermediary in the transfer of confidential information from Jan Marsalek, the founder of the Austrian-Russian Friendship Society resigned as executive secretary of this organization. But in doing so, he promoted Maximilian Christoph Graf von Habsburg-Lothringen, a sidekick of Mikalai Varabey, to his place.
Mikalai Varabey also keeps in close touch with Russian oligarch Yakov Goldovsky, owner of the Austrian investment company Petrochemical Holding and former head of the large Russian petrochemical holding company Sibur.
The Varabey family lives the high life and can afforf anything, regularly attending social events, skiing resorts and making expensive status purchases. Read more about this and more in the article "Belarusian Investigative Center".