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Ex-head of TogliattiAzot convicted in absentia for $1.4 bln embezzlement

Four other suspects in the case were also sentenced in absentia

TOGLIATTI /Samara Region/, July 6. /TASS/. A court in the Russian Volga area city of Togliatti on Friday sentenced in absentia Vladimir Makhlai, the former head of the world’s largest ammonia producer TogliattiAzot, to nine years in prison for embezzling 89 billion rubles (about $1.4 billion at the current exchange rate), a TASS correspondent reported from the courtroom.

"The court ruled to find Vladimir Makhlai guilty <... > and sentenced him to a jail term of nine years, to be served in a general security prison," Judge Andrei Kirillov said.

Other former top managers of the enterprise, Sergei Makhlai and Yevgeny Korolyov were sentenced to 9 and 8.5 years in a general security prison in absentia. The owner and director of Swiss trader Nitrochem Distribution AG, Andreas Zivy and Beat Ruprecht, were also sentenced in absentia to 9 and 8.5 years, respectively. Besides, each of the defendants was ordered to pay a fine of 900,000 rubles.

All the five suspects in the case have fled Russia and have earlier been arrested in absentia.

A criminal case into embezzling 89 billion rubles from TogliattiAzot was launched in 2012, upon a request from the company’s minority stakeholder, Uralkhim. The court hearings began in January 2018. Investigators believe that between November 2007 and March 2012, TogliattiAzot top management sold ammonia and urea at prices below the market ones to Swiss trader Nitrochem Distribution AG, which later sold them at market prices.

TogliattiAzot is the world’s biggest ammonia producer, accounting for 8% of the global ouput. The company’s production capacities can produce over 3 million tonnes of ammonia and 960,000 tonnes of urea annually.