Business and wealth of Viktar Sheiman. How Belarusian smuggling schemes work

In 2016, Russian and Belarusian journalists began writing about Globalcustom, a firm involved in the supply of sanctioned goods. At the same time, Belarusian Hanna Pushkarova (Anna Pushkareva) was named as the company’s the co-owner.

Pushkarova came to Belarus from Irkutsk in the 1990s. She studied at a regular school in Dzerzhinsk. In 2007, she entered the Belarusian State Academy of Arts’ School of Acting at the Faculty of Theater.

One of the teachers told us about her: “She was an excellent student. Beautiful. Like a star from a French glossy magazine. Such a promising girl who thinks about her future. She is very businesslike, persistent in achieving her goals. She can manage any office with her talent ”.

Pushkarova graduated from the Academy of Arts in the summer of 2012, and in the autumn, yesterday’s student became an owner of a premium real estate – an apartment on Kharuzhai Street in Minsk worth about US$240,000.

Four months after that deal, the 22-year-old Hanna founded Kids Time. Her sister Yulia Brygadnaia (Yulia Brigadnaya) was managing the company. The company owned a children’s store Dzetki-tsukerki (Detki- konfetki or Kids-Sweets) in the Southwest of Minsk. Now the firm is liquidated.

In 2013, Hanna Pushkarova entered Minsk State Linguistic University. In 2015, she became a co-owner of Globalcustom. The firm was founded a year after Russia had banned food imports from Western countries in response to sanctions.

The company Globalcustom became known to the general public after the Russian edition of RBC made a publication about the smuggling of sanctioned goods from Belarus to Russia. Globalcustom was named among the main suppliers. The company denied its guilt:

«Globalcustom does not supply sanctioned products to the Russian Federation, the Russian authorities did not receive any claims from the control bodies, just as our Russian partners did not receive them.»

Nevertheless, the company was included in the reports of Rosselkhoznadzor more than once. Thus, in January 2019, the company exported to Russia 20 tons of walnuts allegedly from Turkey, but inspectors found old labels on some of the bags, according to which the place of origin of the goods was the United States. The vehicle was not allowed to enter Russia.

Aliaksei Koraneu (Alexei Korenev), the analyst of the Finam group of companies, confirmed the fact of sanctioned products delivery from the Belarusian side: “We remember well the wonderful story about Belarusian shrimps, mussels, kiwis, bananas, which do not grow in Belarus, but Belarus was stated as the country of origin everywhere. There were more complex schemes when products were shipped with a certificate from African countries. In fact, the products could be from any other country.»

But Globalcustom was involved in more than just food smuggling. As our previous investigation revealed, the company is involved in the illegal supply of clothing under the guise of fabric.

A truck was detained in Russia, the case was considered in a Belarusian court. At the trial, it turned out that Globalcustom had purchased the goods, cleared them in Belarus, benefited from reduced fees, and sent them to Moscow for sale to its own subsidiary, as Aliaksei Koraneu explained:

“In fact, large deliveries of cargo are carried out completely openly by trucks or through substitution of cargo in the documents. That is, for example, clothing is declared as a fabric, and fabrics are subject to a much lower customs duty. This is a fairly common violation in the customs system, not only between Belarus and Russia. There was a large number of sanctioned products, so this practice became widespread.»

The court refused to prosecute Globalcustom, accepting the company’s explanation that they had a lot of cargo and they simply were not able to check all the trucks. As a result, the driver and the owner of the vehicle were convicted.

Beside Globalcustom, a number of other companies close to the Belarusian authorities are involved in the re-export of flowers to Russia at discounted prices. Russian authorities are trying to cover up this scheme, as Ivan Utenkov, the founder of the Tsvetochnyi Ryad (Flower Aisle) company and a member of the board of the Russian Flower Retail Association, told Belsat:

“A real genocide of transit of flower products through the Republic of Belarus to the Russian Federation has begun. A vehicle loaded with flowers, with a complete set of documents goes to the border of Belarus with Russia to obtain an act of phytosanitary control. There, they take it away for an examination, they take it to the Smolensk or Moscow region. After the examination, they don’t return the vehicles to their owners. And we have been observing this practice since February 4.»

In addition to flowers, in 2017-2020 Globalcustom supplied to Russia clothing, footwear, furniture, electrical equipment, car parts, fabrics, bicycles, and children’s toys.

Late last year, the company was restructured. In its place emerged Globalcustom-Management, associated with the Presidential Affairs Management (the PAM). The company owns 75% of the enterprise Belgeopoisk. The remaining 25% is owned by the state enterprise Belzagrantorg, which is subordinated to the Presidential Affairs Management.

Previously, Globalcustom-Management also owned GardService. This is the only private organization in Belarus to whom Lukashenko granted the use of lethal weapons.

Aliaksandr Miatla (Alexander Metla), the head of the charitable foundation Memory of Afghanistan, now owns GardService. The foundation had the support of Viktar Sheiman (Viktor Sheiman), as political observer Aliaksandr Fiaduta (Alexander Feduta) confirmed to us:

“Viktar Sheiman is an Afghan war veteran himself, so it is clear that as a person who had been in Afghanistan all this time, he was trying to help them. His former comrades from Afghanistan. But it so happened that the benefits given to this foundation at some point became much greater than the business that the Afghan veterans were engaged in from the start. Businessmen began to use them, and very actively.»

Today, Globalcustom-Management manages another firm, Globalcustom-Commerce. It is the latter that supplies goods to Russia now. We are talking about the re-export of food and industrial products.

According to the insiders from the logistics field, re-exports go through the logistics centre Bremina- Vorsha, for which a tax offshore was created on the border with Russia.

The project is being implemented by the businessmen close to the authorities, i.e. Aliaksei Aleksin (Alexey Oleksin), Mikalai Varabei (Nikolai Vorobey), and Aliaksandr Zaitsau (Alexander Zaitsev).

The full text of the investigation is available in pdf, mobi, epub formats.