Sanctioned oligarch Vyacheslav Kantor is connected with the family of the former deputy director of the Foreign Intelligence Service

Journalists documented the connection between Russian billionaire Vyacheslav Kantor and former deputy director of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), and later deputy secretary of the Russian Security Council, Yuri Zubakov.

Kantor is trying to challenge in court the EU sanctions imposed against him after the outbreak of a full-scale war in Ukraine.

Vyacheslav Kantor is a non-public businessman who was ranked 11th in the latest Forbes magazine ranking (his fortune is estimated at more than $11 billion). According to the Dossier Center, during the war the oligarch’s capital more than doubled: Kantor’s main business is fertilizers, the prices of which soared after the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Despite the fact that Kantor’s enterprises are located in Russia, the businessman himself has been living abroad since the early 90s, mainly in London. In 2022, it was revealed that he has 11 villas in Italy.

The European Union imposed sanctions against Kantor on April 8, 2022, for “close ties with Putin” that “helped him maintain a significant fortune.” The Dossier Center confirmed the oligarch’s connections with the Russian authorities.

Since the early 90s, Kantor’s main business has been Akron, a chemical plant in Veliky Novgorod. The businessman said that he received the enterprise at a check auction, investing “several hundred kilograms of vouchers.” Journalists learned that at that time the deputy director of the SVR in 1991–1996, Yuri Zubakov, could have patronized Kantor.

Acron Group is one of the largest producers of mineral fertilizers in the world. In the first nine months of 2023, 14 percent of the company’s profits came from the United States and Canada, and approximately 2.5 percent from the European Union and the United Kingdom.

Now Vyacheslav Kantor owns a 45 percent stake in Acron

Having fallen under EU and UK sanctions in April 2022, Vyacheslav Kantor formally distanced himself from Akron. Now he owns a 45 percent stake in the enterprise (through Luxembourg-based Redbrick Investments and the Russian JSC Acron Group), and has transferred almost 50 percent of the shares into trust management to three companies that belong to Acron’s top managers.

The general director of one of these companies is Aza Vyacheslavovna Zubakova. Judging by information from the leaked databases, in recent years Zubakova has received at least a million rubles from Acron and affiliated structures.

Journalists established that this is the daughter-in-law of the now deceased Yuri Antonovich Zubakov, ex-deputy director of the SVR and deputy secretary of the Security Council. A few months before Zubakov’s death in the fall of 2022, his daughter-in-law’s company received almost 18 percent of Akron shares (worth approximately 120 billion rubles today) in trust.

According to the Dossier, Yuri Zubakov himself was directly connected with Akron. Judging by the group’s reports, in the fall of 2011, Zubakov left his position as Deputy Secretary of the Russian Security Council and joined the company’s board of directors as an independent director (he officially left the company in 2012).

Journalists have revealed that Vyacheslav Kantor may be connected through Akron with another government representative. A source with access to Acron Group bank accounts told the Dossier Center that on November 11, 2022, more than 860 thousand rubles were transferred from the account of Acron Group JSC (the company is completely controlled by Kantor) in Raiffeisenbank to the Moscow travel agency Travelaris with a note “for a hotel room and service fee for Yuri Chernyak.”

The Dossier suggested that this is the deputy of the Smolensk Regional Duma, Yuri Aleksandrovich Chernyak. This region is home to the Dorogobuzh enterprise, Acron’s second most important asset after the chemical plant in Veliky Novgorod. 61-year-old Yuri Chernyak is a member of the United Russia party, a member of the committee on property and land relations, as well as the anti-corruption commission.

In the fall of 2022, Vyacheslav Kantor filed a lawsuit in the Luxembourg court, stating that he saw Vladimir Putin only at general events, and the European authorities, when imposing sanctions against him, relied on publications automatically translated from Russian that contained false information.

Nevertheless, in 2015, after the annexation of Crimea, in a conversation with a journalist from the Vedomosti newspaper, the oligarch admired the Russian president: “This is a man of certain values. And I was not deceived by him.” A year later, Putin presented Kantor with an order of honor “for the achieved labor successes and many years of conscientious work.”