|Intro||Russian restaurateur, businessman|
|Birth||1 June 1961, Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire, Tsardom of Russia|
Yevgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin (Russian: Евге́ний Ви́кторович Приго́жин; born 1 June 1961) is a Russian businessman with ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin. Prigozhin was called "Putin’s chef" in an Associated Press article because of Prigozhin's restaurants and catering businesses that hosted dinners which Vladimir Putin attended with foreign dignitaries. Prigozhin controls "a network of companies," including three accused of interference in the 2016 United States elections. Prigozhin is also accused of attempting to influence the 2018 U.S. midterm elections. Prigozhin, his companies and associates face economic sanctions and criminal charges in the United States.
Prigozhin was born in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg) on 1 June 1961, to Violetta Prigozhina (Russian: Виолетта Пригожина). He graduated from an athletics boarding school in 1977 and was engaged in cross-country skiing. His father and stepfather were of Russian-Jewish descent, while his mother is of ethnic Russian descent.
On 29 November 1979, Prigozhin was given a suspended sentence for stealing (in Leningrad). In 1981 he was sentenced to twelve years imprisonment under articles of robbery, fraud, and involving teenagers in prostitution. Prigozhin spent nine years in prison before he was released.
Casino, restaurant and catering career
In 1990, after his release, he and his stepfather set up a network to sell hot dogs. Soon, according to a New York Times interview with him, "the rubles were piling up faster than his mother could count them." He also became a 15% stakeholder and manager of a "Contrast," started by Boris Spektor (Russian: Борис Спектор), a classmate from his boarding school, which was the first grocery store chain in Saint Petersburg. Also, Prigozhine as CEO and Spektor and Igor Gorbenko (Russian: Игорь Горбенко) founded the first casinos in St Petersburg under Spectrum CJSC (Russian: ЗАО «Спектр»). They founded Viking CJSC (Russian: ЗАО «Викинг»), too. In 1995, when revenues began to fall, Prigozhin persuaded a director at Contrast, Kiril Ziminov, to open a restaurant with him. The two men opened the "Old Customs House" (Russian: Старая Таможня) in Saint Petersburg. In 1997, inspired by waterfront restaurants on the Seine in Paris, Prigozhin and Ziminov spent $400,000 remodeling a rusting boat on the Vyatka River and started the floating restaurant called New Island, which became one of the most fashionable dining spots in Saint Petersburg. He said his patrons "wanted to see something new in their lives and were tired of just eating cutlets with vodka." In 2001, Prigozhin personally served food to Vladimir Putin and French president Jacques Chirac when they dined at "New Island". He also hosted US President George W. Bush in 2002. In 2003, Putin celebrated his birthday at New Island. By 2003, Prigozhin had left his business partners, established his own independent restaurants, and had become a confidante of Putin, apparently free to engage in illicit activities without fear of prosecution.
His company, Concord Catering, got hundreds of millions in government contracts for feeding school children and government workers. In 2012 he got a contract to supply meals to the Russian military worth $1.2 billion over one year. Some of the profits from this contract are alleged to have been used to start and fund the Internet Research Agency.
In 2012 he moved his family into a St. Petersburg compound with a basketball court and a helicopter pad. He has a private jet and a 115-foot yacht.
The Anti-Corruption Foundation accused Prigozhin of corrupt business practices. They estimated his illegal wealth to be worth more than one billion rubles.
According to Novaya Gazeta in October 2018, Evgeny Arkadievich Gulyaev (Russian: Евгений Аркадьевич Гуляев) is the head of the security service for Prigozhin.
On December 11, 2019, which is "Heroes Day" or "Heroes of the Fatherland Day", Msk LLC (Russian: ООО "Мск") which has the same phone number as Concord Catering, was paid 4.1 million rubles for a Kremlin banquet. In 2018, Msk LLC was paid only 2.5 million rubles from the Presidential Administration for the exact same banquet at the Kremlin.
Prigozhin has been linked to a mercenary group known as the Wagner Group which has been involved in various actions as a private military contractor. On 7 February 2018, Wagner attacked US backed Kurdish forces in Syria in an attempt to take an oil field. Wagner and their allies suffered dozens of casualties when the US responded with airpower.
The Washington Post reported Prigozhin was in close contact with Russian and Syrian military officials before the February 7 action. The connections between Prigozhin and Wagner have been the subject of press coverage in Russia and the United States. Wagner is led by Dmitry Utkin, who was once head of security for Prigozhin. A person by the name of Dmitry Utkin was also listed as Director General of Prigozhin's Concord Management. Since 2011, Prigozhin's mother Violetta Prigozhina has been the owner of Concord. Concord and Prigozhin denied any connection to Wagner, however in November 2016 the company confirmed to Russian media that the same Dmitry Utkin leading the Wagner Group was now in charge of Prigozhin's food businesses. Wagner has also been reported to be fighting in eastern Ukraine with pro-Russia forces.
On 30 July 2018, three Russian journalists working for a news organization often critical of the Russian government were murdered in the Central African Republic, where they had been attempting to investigate the activities of the Wagner Group in that country. The Russian government had begun a collaboration with the president of the Central African Republic in October 2017. In its response to the killings, Russia's foreign ministry stressed that the dead journalists had been traveling without official accreditation.
Internet Research Agency
Prigozhin is alleged to have financed and directed a network of companies including a company called the Internet Research Agency Ltd., (Russian: ООО «Агентство интернет-исследований») Concord Management and Consulting Company and one other related company. The three companies are accused of Internet trolling and attempting to influence the 2016 US presidential elections and other activity to influence political events outside Russia.
Russian journalist Andrey Soshnikov reported that Alexey Soskovets, who had participated in Russian youth political community, was directly connected to the offices of Internet Research in Olgino. His company, North-Western Service Agency, won 17 or 18 (according to different sources) contracts for organizing celebrations, forums and sport competitions for authorities of Saint Petersburg. The agency was the only participant in half of those bids. In the summer of 2013 the agency won a tender for providing freight services for participants of Seliger camp.
Despite links to Alexei Soskovets, Nadejda Orlova, deputy head of the Committee for Youth Policy in Saint Petersburg, disputed connection between her institution and the trolling offices.
Campaigns against opposition in 2013 involved Dmitry Bykov and the then head of RIA Novosti, Svetlana Mironyuk, while a homepage claiming to fight fake news (Gazeta O Gazetah) was used to spread fake news.
US Treasury Department sanctions
On 20 December 2016, the US Treasury Department designated Prigozhin pursuant to E.O.13661 for sanctions for providing support to senior officials of the Russian Federation.
In June 2017 US sanctions were imposed on one of Prigozhin's companies, Concord Management and Consulting, in connection with the war in Eastern Ukraine.
On 28 January 2018, the US Treasury Department also designated Evro Polis Ltd for sanctions. Evro Polis is a Russian company that has contracted with the Government of Syria to protect Syrian oil fields in exchange for a 25 percent share in oil and gas production from the fields. The company was designated for being owned or controlled by Yevgeniy Prigozhin. The sanctions require that any property or interests in property of the designated persons in the possession or control of U.S. persons or within the United States must be blocked. Additionally, transactions by U.S. persons involving these persons (including companies) are generally prohibited.
In September 2019, three more Prigozhin companies (Autolex Transport, Beratex Group and Linburg Industries) were sanctioned in connection with the Russian interference in the 2016 United States election.
US criminal charges
On 16 February 2018, Prigozhin, the Internet Research Agency, Concord Management, another related company, and other connected Russian individuals were indicted by a U.S. grand jury. He was charged with funding and organizing operations for the purpose of interference with the U.S. political and electoral processes, including the 2016 presidential election, and other crimes including identity theft.
During 2018 through both 100 to 200 political consultants and Prigozhin's mercenaries in his Wagner Group, Prigozhin established numerous interests in Africa especially in Madagascar and Central Africa Republic (CAR) along with other countries: Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Senegal, Rwanda, Sudan, Libya, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Mozambique, Nigeria, Chad, South Sudan, and South Africa. Pyotr Bychkov (Russian: Петр Александрович Бычков) is responsible for coordinating the "Africa expansion".
Central African Republic
In the Central African Republic (CAR) southwest prefecture of Lobaye and west of Bangui, the Prigozhin associated company Lobaye Invest has been engaged in the mining of diamonds, gold, and other minerals starting in early 2018. After traveling to Russia in the fall of 2017 to meet with Sergey Lavrov in Sochi and in June 2018 to meet with Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg, Faustin-Archange Touadera, the President of the Central African Republic, under advice from his national security advisor Valery Zakharov (Russian: Валерий Захаров) increased the Russian presence in CAR by allowing 5 Russian military advisors and 170 Russian contractors to work starting in January 2018 near Bobangui at Berengo, which is the former palace of Jean-Bédel Bokassa and is 60 kilometers southwest of Bangui. Since December 2017, the Kimberley Process allowed diamonds to be mined in the southwest of CAR. Under managing director Evgeny Khodotov (Russian: Евгений Ходотов) who is associated with security for Touadera through the firm Sewa Security Service, Lobaye Invest was founded through M-Invest by Dmitry Syty (Russian: Дмитрий Сытый) and is a subsidiary of M-Finance which were founded by Prigozhin. On the night of 31 July 2018, three Russian journalists, Alexander Rastorguev (Russian: Александр Расторгуев), Orhan Dzhemal (Russian: Орхан Джемаль), and Kirill Radchenko (Russian: Кирилл Радченко), who were sent by the Mikhail Khodorkovsky-sponsored Investigation Management Center (SDG) (Russian: Центр управления расследованиями (ЦУР)), were killed north of Sibut while they were investigating the operations of Lobaye Invest and Russians interests in the east of CAR at the Ndassima gold field for an upcoming film. On 15 April 2019, Putin sent 30 Russian troops as part of a UN mission in CAR to support Lobaye Invest interests.
Financial support for Maria Butina in 2019
During May 2019, Maria Butina appealed for help in paying her attorney fees. In February 2019 Valery Butin (Russian: Валерий Бутин), Masha's father, told Izvestia that she owed her attorneys 40 million rubles. Through Prigozhin's Fund for the Protection of National Values (Russian: Фонд защиты национальных ценностей) which is managed by Petr Bychkov, 5 million rubles were donated to Maria Butina's defense attorney costs. She had not been receiving any funds for her defense attorneys fees from Igor Levitin through Konstantin Nikolaev.
Financial support for Saif Gaddafi
On March 20, 2020, it was revealed that Prigozhin had financially assisting Saif Qaddafi, son of the late overthrown Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, in a bid to win the Libyan Presidency in 2019.
Personal life and family
Prigozhin is married to a pharmacist (Russian: химик-фармацевт) Lyubov Valentinovna Prigozhina (Russian: Любовь Валентиновна Пригожина). She owns a network of boutique stores known as the Chocolate Museum (Russian: «Музей шоколада») in Saint Petersburg. In 2012, she started her first "luxury dayspa", the Crystal Spa & Lounge which won a third place award in 2013 for the Perfect Urban Day Spa. Her Crystal Spa & Lounge, located along Zhukovsky Street (Russian: Улица Жуковского) in Saint Petersburg, received design support from Valery Uvarov (Russian: Валерий Уваров). She owns a wellness center in the Lenningrad region and a boutique hotel called the Crystal Spa & Residence which won the Perfect Spa Project award in 2013. She owns the New Technologies SPA LLC (Russian: ООО «Новые технологии СПА») which is located at plot 1, Granichnaya street (Russian: улица Граничная, участок 1) in Lakhta Park (Russian: Лахтa Парк), Sestroretsk, Kurortny District, Saint Petersburg, Also, she is the legal owner of Agat (Russian: Агат).
They have a daughter Polina.
His mother, Violetta Prigozhina (Russian: Виолетта Пригожина) who is a former teacher and doctor, is the legal owner of Concord Management and Consulting LLC (Russian: ООО "Конкорд менеджмент и консалтинг") since 2011, Etalon LLC (Russian: ООО "Эталон") since 2010, and Credo LLC (Russian: ООО "Кредо") since 2011. The Prigozhin's "Bay of Islands" project (Russian: "Залив островов") near Lakhta is being developed by Singer-Development LLC (Russian: ООО "Зингер-Девелопмент") which, in January 2018, has the same phone number as Violetta Prigozhina's Etalon LLC.