The founder and owner of bankrupt carrier VIM Avia has left Russia, this way evading prosecution by the judiciary. His leaving the country comes after regulator Rosaviatsia and an investigative Committee announced that they will inspect the airline’s activities and Mursekaev’s role in the insolvency.
Where is Rashid Mursekaev? That’s a hotly debated topic in the Russian aviation industry, judicial and political circles. All what’s known so far is that the oligarch did not respond to a
subpoena from Rosaviatsia, despite his prior firm commitment to appear. Instead, he took a flight to Turkey and supposedly transited to the United Arab Emirates, Russian media speculate. If so,
Mursekaev evades court proceedings that could lead to his conviction.
The case is dubious and difficult for outsiders to see through. The 52 year-old is a dazzling figure, and little supportive of the media. Since the ninetee-nineties, he was engaged in many businesses including financial affairs, aircraft leasing or airline matters.
Short of cash
His commitment in the field of aviation began 2003 when he bought a number of Boeing aircraft, founded VIM Avia and offered charter flights to the Russian market. Some years after, his airline had become the largest charter operator in the country.
In Germany, he became one of the main financial backers of Air Cargo Germany, but lost a lot of money after the carrier bit the dust in 2013, due to accumulated debts amounting to €30 million. Also other businesses he engaged in ran rather poorly, hindering him to cross-subsidize VIM Avia. This led to unpaid landing fees as claimed by Moscow Domodedovo Airport and cash flow difficulties preventing the airline to pay fuel bills in due time.
Finally, as result of high debts VIM stopped all charter flights last week. The grounding of the fleet of 30 aircraft left thousands of passengers stranded in Greece, Turkey, Italy and Spain. Meanwhile, a criminal case was initiated under Part 4 of Article 159 of the Criminal Code of Russia.
The one ruble offer
Prior to his disappearance Rashid Mursekaev said that he was ready to sell his airline for a symbolic sum of one ruble, because “I’m tired of being involved in aviation,” he told the authorities. The head of the Federal Air Transport Agency Alexander Neradko confirmed this statement. Neradko further said that Mursekaev promised to cover parts of VIM Avia’s most pressing debts, speaking of an amount in the region of 50 million rubles (€736,000) to keep the ailing charter airline afloat despite his one-ruble offer. Those were the last words he told Neradko and Rosaviatia before he vanished last week.
In the meantime, Russian police have detained VIM Avia’s Director General Alexander Kotchnev and head of finance Yekaterina Pantelejewa on the grounds of embezzlement and fraud.