The business is related to the arms trade.
Businessman Aliaksandr Zaitsau is known as the founder of Sohra Overseas, co-owner of the Bremina-Orsha industrial and logistics complex, and football clubs. However, Zaitsau is also involved in defense projects related to companies in Belarus, Latvia, and Ukraine.
In its investigation, Belsat tells about a little-known part of the business of an oligarch close to the Lukashenka family.
Echo of Zingman's arrest
In March 2021, businessman Aliaksandr Zingman, close to Viktar Sheiman, was arrested at Lubumbashi airport in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Local intelligence agencies suspected the owner of the AFTRADE DMCC company that he intended to sell weapons to the former president of the country, Joseph Kabil. But Zingman was not charged, and he was released after 12 days in a Congolese prison.
After that, the businessman gave an interview to tut.by, where he categorically denied his involvement in the arms trade, but, at the same, time recalled one Belarusian company, to which the Congolese special services had questions:
"The head of the DRC State Security Agency himself came to the cell and asked: "Mr. Aliaksandr, do you know such a company, they say, do you have anything to do with it?" And he shows the folder that says BSVT-NT. And in the presentation of the campaign, there are photos of equipment, weapons, and military training. I know this company, which has a corresponding license [for the supply of weapons] in Belarus. But I have nothing to do with this company."
BSVT-NT is a trademark of the Belarusian military-industrial complex BSVT - New Technologies. One of the owners of the company is the firm of the oligarch Aliaksandr Zaitsau Sohra Overseas.
At the end of March 2021, BSVT - New Technologies was renamed Kidma Tech OJSC. However, the company retains the BSVT-NT trademark and remains known in the public space under this name. To avoid confusion, in the article we will use only the old name, regardless of what period of the company's activity we are talking about.
Belsat sent a request to BSVT - New Technologies to comment on the information that the DRC special services are showing interest in them. However, they did not receive an answer.
Military expert Aliaksandr Alesin in an interview with belsat.eu noted that one can only guess why the Congolese special services are interested in the Belarusian enterprise:
"BSVT - New Technologies is an organization that works quite legally, under the roof of the state, and is obliged to comply with all international legal acts in the field of arms trade. This is, in fact, an aggregated supplier of the Belarusian military-industrial complex, through which enterprises enter the external market. If a deal is concluded directly with BSZT, then it will necessarily be legal contracts with legal sellers through legal banks."
According to the expert, enterprises like BSVT - New Technologies are very concerned about their reputation, as they deal with the governments of other countries, and it is important for them to be above any suspicion.
"But, in general, there is such a practice when BSVT and other world arms dealers do not trade directly. Intermediaries can act as a "spacer" between legal state foreign trade associations and questionable traders. But legally, the state is separate from the questionable sellers who retail around the world."
Belsat.eu has no information that would indicate that BSVT - New Technologies supplied weapons to DR Congo directly, through intermediaries or simply seal firms. But the scandal with the arrest of Zingman was a good reason to take a closer look at the military-industrial complex enterprise associated with the oligarch Zaitsau.
»Producer" in the Belarusian military-industrial complex
The BSVT - New Technologies company, registered in 2012, manufactures sights, instruments, and surveillance systems and is engaged in the modernization of military equipment and air-to-air missile systems, as well as the development of new types of weapons and equipment.
Aliaksandr Alesin notes that the BSVT - New Technologies company plays a peculiar role of a “producer” in the Belarusian military-industrial complex.
“This is a company that finds developers in Belarus under the demand of the external market, gives them orders, and finances the modernization and creation of new models of equipment,” he says.
As noted by Alesin, earlier, the State Foreign Trade Enterprise Belspetsvneshtekhnika traded mainly in old Soviet weapons. But since the demand for such products began to fall even in undeveloped countries, then there was a need to develop new types of weapons. For these tasks, BSVT - New Technologies attracts not only the operating state-owned enterprises of the military-industrial complex but also venture projects using the resources of other sectors of the economy, including private companies.
"BSVT - New Technologies very successfully combined the interests of not very wealthy consumers and the capabilities of our military-industrial complex," says Alesin. The expert considers the contribution of this company to the development of the military-industrial complex to be “quite large.”
In recent years, BSVT - New Technologies has presented several ambitious projects: the Trio air defense missile system, robotic combat systems, as well as a pistol and sniper rifle by Belarusian designer Ihar Vasiljeu. And in 2018, the company launched the first ammunition production in Belarus in the Orsha region. It is also planned to organize the production of armored vehicles and anti-tank guided missiles there.
Alesin says that not all of the company's developments then go into mass production, but the demand in foreign markets for these products can be considered quite high.
“In terms of success, the ratio is about 60 to 40%. That is, 40% do not find their development in the field of mass production. But this is a very good percentage. Usually in the world, the ratio is reversed. So the output to serial production is quite high,” the expert emphasizes.
The director of the company is Aliaksandr Balihatau, ex-deputy minister of defense of Belarus. In the public space, BSVT - New Technologies is positioned precisely as a state company, a subsidiary of the Belspetsvneshtekhnika enterprise, which is engaged in the export of weapons and military equipment. But de jure, this is not entirely true. In official registers, the form of ownership is designated precisely as "private." The state-owned Belspetsvneshtekhnika does indeed appear among the founders, but the other two owners are Sohra Overseas from the UAE and Electrooptika from Latvia.
Sohra Overseas is one of the main assets of the oligarch Aliaksandr Zaitsau. In the 2000s, Zaitsau was an "inconspicuous clerk" in the apparatus of the Council of Ministers and also, according to media reports, worked as an assistant to Viktar Lukashenka. And then he went into the commercial sector and, in a short time, became one of the most influential oligarchs in the country - along with Aliaksei Aleksin and Mikalai Varabei. Zaitsau is considered a person close to Viktar Lukashenka, who until 2021 was a member of the Security Council and was his father's national security assistant.
Zaitsau's business was almost from the very beginning tied to the UAE - he has been a resident of this country since 2008. His company Sohra Overseas positions itself as a key supplier of civilian products from Belarusian state-owned enterprises to the Gulf countries and Africa.
Interestingly, Sohra Overseas is registered in the Jebel Ali FEZ, which is a de facto offshore zone. Companies there are deprived of the obligation to pay taxes (including income tax for individuals), import and export duties, and also have the opportunity to withdraw capital from the country one hundred percent. At the same time, they are guaranteed the secrecy of information about the real owners and beneficiaries of the companies. In 2019, the National Bank of Belarus included the UAE in the list of countries where there is a high probability of carrying out illegal financial transactions for money laundering.
As for Electrooptika, it looks more like a gasket firm. According to the Latvian business register, the company is engaged in "engineering activities and technical consulting," but there is no information about their services in open sources. The financial indicators of Electrooptika are very modest: the authorized capital is 2,845 euros, the turnover in 2020 did not reach 110 thousand euros. The office of the firm, which is a co-owner of one of the leading enterprises of the Belarusian military-industrial complex, is located in an ordinary residential building in the resort town of Jurmala.
The owners of Electrooptika are two citizens of Latvia: 99% belongs to Marks Blats, and another 1% belongs to Angela Shakina. Journalists and representatives of the Latvian business environment, with whom belsat.eu spoke, unanimously say: they have never heard of Electrooptika or Blats and Shakina.
According to the registers, Electrooptika is the only business in Latvia in which 59-year-old Blats was involved. Shakina, 53, was once on the board of directors of the small company SNAI, which was liquidated two years ago. There is no more information about these people in open sources.
We could not get a comment from Mr. Blats. By the contact phone number of Electrooptika indicated in the business registers of Latvia, the belsat.eu correspondent was first told that he had a wrong number and that there was no such company here. But then the phone was answered by a woman who introduced herself as an accountant of Electrooptika. She said that Blats and Shakina are now outside Latvia, and only they can give comments on the company's activities.
Daughter of a millionaire and former deputy director of Ukroboronprom
Marks Blats is also Zaitsau's business partner in Ukraine: they are co-owners of Miltek-s. According to the documents, the main activity of this company is the production of weapons and ammunition. At the same time, Mr. Blats is designated as the ultimate beneficiary.
Miltek-s was founded in 2003; it specialized in real estate transactions and was part of the Petrus group of companies, headed by Lyudmila Rusalina and Nikolai Petrenko. The holding itself specializes in the sale of alcohol, confectionery, cosmetics, as well as in real estate transactions.
For the first 12 years of its existence, Miltek-s had nothing to do with Belarus or armaments, even formally. But in 2016-2017, a real revolution is taking place in the company: Miltek-s changes its type of activity to "making weapons," and the owners include the daughter of the owner of the Petrus holding Valeria Rusalina, ex-deputy director of the Ukroboronprom concern Maxim Glushchenko, the firm Electrooptika, as well as Aliaksandr Zaitsau and Oleg Silvanovich.
Silvanovich at that time was the director of BSVT - New Technologies. He was also one of the owners of the Minsk company TEMO, which in 2012, together with Belspetsvneshtekhnika, established BSVT - New Technologies.
And in 2015, Silvanovich was Zaitsau's partner in the Stiskha company affiliated with Sohra Overseas, which in turn was also part of the TEMO owners for some time.
Maxim Glushchenko is the son of the Ukrainian banker Mikhail Goykhman, who, in turn, was an advisor to Yanukovych's associate Sergei Arbuzov. During the Yanukovych era, Maxim Glushchenko made a fabulous career in the public sector. At the age of 27, having no experience in the military-industrial complex, he became deputy director of the Konotop Aircraft Repair Plant Aviakon, a strategic enterprise for the Ukrainian defense sector. And at 30, he was deputy director of the Ukroboronprom concern, where he oversaw the export of military products. His civil service ended with the presidency of Viktor Yanukovych, after which he went into business and social activities.
»Gasket" in the village of Proliski and tenders of the National Police
There is no information in the public space about Miltek-s products and transactions; the company has never taken part in open tenders. At the same time, Miltek-s has a legal address in the village of Proliski, Kyiv region, at the place of mass registration of companies - 38 firms are tied to this address at once. Very often, such circumstances indicate that the company does not actually conduct real business. This assumption was confirmed by belsat.eu by the contact number of Miltek-s, which is indicated in the registration documents.
“The company has not been operating for many years and is not engaged in this type of activity (production of weapons and ammunition - ed. belsat.eu). Probably, the company never worked,” a woman who called herself a representative of Miltek-s told us.
- What role did Zaitsau play in Miltek-s? - asked belsat.eu.
- No idea.
- Why was the company created at all, if it never actually worked?
- I am not ready to answer this question. Probably, there were some goals.
Of course, the sudden appearance in the Ukrainian dummy company of Zaitsau, Silvanovich, and Blats could not be accidental. Most likely they needed Miltek-s as a gasket firm. And since this trinity is related to BSVT - New Technologies, it is logical to assume that the operations for which they became part of the owners of Miltek-s are connected precisely with this Belarusian enterprise. But what these deals are - one can only guess.
Interestingly, Zaitsau and Blats are co-owners of another company in Ukraine - Sigma Technology (55% belongs to Electrooptika, 10% to Zaitsau, the remaining 35% - to two Ukrainian citizens). Earlier, Oleg Silvanovich was among the owners of the company.
Sigma, unlike Miltek-s, is a real company. It is mainly engaged in the supply of thermal imagers, night vision devices, and accessories for small arms for the security forces. On the Facebook page of Sigma Technology, it is reported that the company itself produces thermal imagers and night vision devices and supplies products from foreign companies - from Germany, Israel, Singapore, and Turkey.
Since 2018, Sigma has regularly won government tenders. We are talking about supplies to various regional departments of the National Police of Ukraine of accessories for security officials (electronic bracelets, belts, clips), as well as optical transformers for the state-owned enterprise Fotopribory.
In 2020-2021, the company won all tenders in which it participated, and 2/3 of these tenders were held on non-competitive terms - that is, Sigma was the only participant.