How Belarus' former Prime Minister helps Russian corporation avoid sanctions

Andrei Kabyakou left the government to become a coal miner/collage by Ulad Rubanau, Euroradio

Three former Prime Ministers of Belarus continue their careers "in the Russian direction" after their dismissals. Mikhail Myasnikovich is chairman of the Eurasian Economic Commission, Syarhei Rumas became a member of the supervisory board of Rosselkhozbank in 2021, and Andrei Kabyakou is heading a coal holding company worth more than two billion dollars.

Except that Kabyakou has not had much luck with the holding company: in February, as part of the property of the Russian state corporation VEB.RF fell under sanctions. And now the former Prime Minister has to make an effort to protect his new workplace just as he once did to save the Belarusian economy from sanctions.

Master of Siberia

The Kemerovo region is located in Western Siberia. Kazakhstan and Mongolia are relatively close by. There are also large deposits of minerals here. This is why "Sibuglemet" holding has been active in the region.

"Sibuglemet" is engaged in the production of coking coals used in metallurgy. At the end of 2020, the holding was headed by former Belarusian Prime Minister Kabyakou, just after he left his position as independent director of Belgazprombank.

The owners of the holding - the state corporation VEB.RF - had earlier tried to sell the debt-ridden enterprises for a sum close to two billion dollars. Discussions about this were held with Roman Abramovich, but so far no deal has been reached. Thus, the holding continues to incur losses and accumulate debts.

Уставной капитал компании — миллион российских рублей, а продать её хотят за 2 млрд долларов

"The deal was done on market terms and took place within the framework of the management buying out the management company's shares. The individuals who took part in the transaction are not related to VEB.RF at present. As part of the transaction, the participants also decided to rename the management company. At present, all the enterprises managed by NMMC continue to operate in a normal mode, ensuring continuity of the production process and fulfillment of all obligations to customers and partners," the "Sibuglemet Group" told Interfax in March.

In mid-March, it emerged that Andrei Kabyakou became the general director of NMMC. According to the State Register, he then ceased to be the head of "Sibuglemet Group".

After the formal ownership structure changed, the reshuffles in the holding continued. For example, Andrey Tarasko, one of Kabyakou's new partners, became the general director of "Sibuglemet-M," one of NMMC's subsidiaries responsible for wholesale sales. And in May, "Sibuglemet JSC," the trading company within the holding, changed its name to "Yuzhno-Sibirsky Trading House" JSC. 

Formally "saved"?

The sanctions imposed by the United States against "VEB" and its subsidiaries two days before the war mention only "Sibuglemet Group" out of all the numerous legal entities connected with coal mining. Neither "Sibuglemet Holding" nor individual trading houses are mentioned there.

Now formally, "Sibuglemet Group" has nothing to do with coal mining and production. Moreover, NMMC (formerly Holding Sibuglemet) is not affiliated with "VEB.RF" and is, according to the papers, a company owned by individuals. None of the holding's top managers has been included in the restrictive lists so far.

In fact, Kabyakou joined the company as a hired manager and not only helped to restructure the property but also received a share in it. It is not known on what grounds, though.

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