Bulgaria did not spare the children of Yota co-founder

The Bulgarian authorities have deprived the citizenship of the republic of the children of Yota co-founder, Russian entrepreneur Sergei Adoniev (number 193 in the ranking of the richest businessmen in Russia, his fortune is $ 550 million), according to the Bulgarian investigative journalism website Bivol, citing a request sent to them to the Ministry of Justice of Bulgaria.

“The Bulgarian citizenship of the children of Sergei Adoniev was withdrawn after checking the grounds on which they were registered as Bulgarian citizens. <...> Two children <...> received Bulgarian passports when they were minors, according to the law on Bulgarian citizenship, since both of their parents received Bulgarian citizenship, ”the portal writes.

According to the response of the ministry, Minister of Justice Krum Zarkov ruled that after the cancellation of the naturalization of Adoniyev himself on May 22, 2018, the basis for registering his children as Bulgarian citizens was lost. “The Ministry has instructed the municipality of Plovdiv to exclude them from the list of citizens of the Republic of Bulgaria. <...> The instructions were completed on February 14, 2023. They (the children of Adoniyev) are not Bulgarian citizens,” Bivol quotes a letter from the Ministry of Justice.

The ministry notes that Adoniev received a Bulgarian passport about 15 years ago, in 2008, for special merits on the proposal of the head of the Ministry of Transport, socialist Petr Mutafchiev. The businessman established a company in Plovdiv with the intention of investing in the country’s economy. However, writes “Bivol”, investments for the entire time amounted to only 50 thousand levs (€ 25.3 thousand at the current exchange rate).

Bulgaria stripped Adoniev of his citizenship in May 2018. As Reuters reported in January 2019, citing the Ministry of Justice of the country, the reason was that the businessman “was convicted in the United States 20 years ago on charges of fraud.”

At the same time, the Bulgarian government said that in an effort to accelerate accession to the Schengen area, it intends to stop allowing wealthy foreigners to “buy” Bulgarian citizenship in exchange for investment, which allows them to move freely throughout the European Union.

In October 2021, a US court granted Sergei Adoniev’s petition to overturn the indictment against him in the 1998 case. The court acknowledged that Adoniyev had “a good reason not to challenge the conviction earlier”, allowed him to withdraw his confessions given in the 1990s, and cleared his criminal record. As lawyers explained to RBC, such a decision means that Adonyev has every reason to say that he was not really found guilty of a crime, restrictions on entry into the United States are lifted for him.

In the 1990s, US law enforcement officers discovered that US-registered MCW Enterprises was violating a 1960 ban on trade with Cuba, and charged Adoniev, the owner of this company, with embargo violations and money laundering. In 1996, a US Attorney accused a Russian businessman of fraud on payments related to the dispute, the suspect was arrested in Germany, after which his wife hired American Stephen London as a lawyer. In 1997, London advised Adoniev to plead guilty, after which the businessman was sentenced to 30 months in prison and paid $1 million, but in fact he paid $4 million. In August 1999, he was deported from the United States. The criminal case led to the fact that Adoniyev was effectively prohibited from returning to the United States.

What is known about Sergei Adoniev

Among the businesses in which Sergei Adoniev participated are the JFC company, which was engaged in the import of fruits (owned from 1994 to 2000 together with Vladimir Kekhman); Skartel and mobile device manufacturer Yota Devices (from the mid-2000s to the mid-2010s, together with Denis Sverdlov, Albert Avdolyan, Vladislav Martynov, etc.); Greenhouse Growth Technologies (in the 2010s, together with Sergey Rukin). An A-Property representative told RBC that Adoniev and Avdolyan “are systematically forming an industrial cluster in Yakutia, which includes the Yakut Fuel and Energy Company, the Ogodzha coal project and the port of Vera.

Adoniev was one of the founders and sponsors of Art-Strelka and created the Stanislavsky Electrotheater Support Fund in Moscow, sponsored Ilya Khrzhanovsky’s film Dau, sponsored Novaya Gazeta and Ksenia Sobchak’s campaign when she ran for the presidency of Russia.