The Center for Business Transparency and Countering Corporate Raids in Russia was founded to end the practice of individuals and organizations using dirty tricks and force to seize companies without compensation.
The victims of this theft on a grand scale — which the Russians call reiderstvo — include thousands of Russian- and foreign-owned businesses. Reiderstvo has exploded across the former Soviet Union in the past 15 years. It has hurt gross domestic product and discouraged foreign investment that could boost Russia’s domestic productivity and global competitiveness and improve its people’s lives.
My story of success has inspired entrepreneurs across the former Soviet Union, and beyond.
I know this because many have told me so directly.
It started when I decided to leave my homeland of Azerbaijan at 15 to seek my fortune in Russia in the late 1980s — the waning days of the Soviet Union.
One day I noticed hot, sweaty workers leaving the gates of a factory, chatting about how much they would die for a cold beer. The next day I showed up at the gates with several bottles of beer so the workers could quench their thirst right on the spot. I sold out, and decided to bring beer to the gates of other factories as well.
By the time I was 19, I had made my first million, in beverage sales, retail outlets, sporting goods stores and a string of gyms.
Then I got into construction. The former Soviet Union needed trillions of dollars worth of new and rebuilt infrastructure, office buildings to help it go capitalist, and new housing for those becoming middle class and affluent. I built the Akkord company into a $4 billion enterprise whose projects spanned Russia, the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Middle East. The projects I constructed were credited with helping to ignite the economies of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Georgia and parts of Eastern Europe.
By the time I returned to Azerbaijan’s capital Baku 15 years later, at age 33, my business and philanthropic achievements had made me a household name. I often stood beside the president when he commissioned important infrastructure projects such as airports.
Akkord’s success prompted me to found the Moscow-focused real estate and business development company SDI Group in 2012. Russia’s capital was in the midst of a development wave that I rode for several years. SDI was also doing business elsewhere in Russia, in several countries surrounding it, and in the Middle East, making my life very good indeed.
Then I became a victim of reiderstvo — a forceful, illegal and uncompensated takeover of SDI Group.
Igor Bitkov was a pioneer in the Russian pulp and paper industry, introducing high-tech, environmentally friendly equipment into a sector dominated by Soviet practices. In the mid-2000s, he lost his paper-making companies in St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad to a bank-loan scam engineered by ruthless, well-connected business and political figures. He is director in absentia at the Center for Business Transparency and Countering Raids in Russia. Read more about his story here.
Damir Bashirov is a Russian lawyer. His experience includes working as an assistant to judges in district and garrison military courts, as the head of the contracts section at a city administration’s municipal unitary enterprise, and as the legal director of various commercial enterprises in Moscow and other cities throughout Russia. Bashirov graduated with honors from the Russian Ministry of Justice’s International Law Institute with degrees in jurisprudence and finance management. He also completed, with honors, courses for arbitration managers at the Plekhanov University of Economics. He is based in Moscow where he represents the Center for Business Transparency and Countering Corporate Raids in Russia.
Aleksei Sinitsyn is a Russian lawyer and a member of the Expert Council on Digital Economy of the State Duma Committee on Economic Policy, Industry, Innovation Development and Entrepreneurship. He specializes in working with entrepreneurs whose businesses have been raided, and advocates for government support for these individuals and their businesses. He is based in Moscow, where he represents the Center for Business Transparency and Countering Corporate Raids in Russia.