Last year, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin signed a decree that placed his businessman friend, Arkady Rotenberg, in charge of Moscow’s second-largest airport, Sheremetyevo (SVO). Now, reports Lloyd’s Loading List, Rotenberg has won a court case upholding the contract for the handling of Aeroflot’s cargo at SVO.
Sources close to Aeroflot said the two-year contract is worth close to US$50 million. In a recent meeting, the general director of Aeroflot, Vitaly Savelyev, told Putin, “I would like to report that Aeroflot and the Aeroflot group of companies are doing quite well.” The transcript did not provide specifics on cargo.
Under the decree from 2015, Putin consolidated the state-owned assets of the airport with the assets of Rotenberg’s company, TPS Avia, reducing the state’s stake in SVO from 83 percent to 30 percent, which gave TPS Avia control of the airport. The cargo handling contract for SVO was then won by Moscow Cargo, a TPS Avia subsidiary, which, until then, had limited exposure in the Russian air cargo handling market.
The decision to grant the cargo handling tender to Moscow Cargo, led to a legal challenge from Sheremetyevo Cargo, which handled Aeroflot’s Cargo in most of Russia’s airports. Sheremetyevo Cargo filed a petition to the Moscow Arbitration Court, claiming partiality with regard to Rotenberg and his relationship with Putin, who is said to be Putin’s long-time judo partner.
Rotenberg, who also owns the SGM group, the largest construction company for gas pipelines and electrical power supply lines in Russia, was listed in 621st place among the world’s wealthiest people by Forbes in 2014. He was subject to Western visa bans and asset freezes after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.
Sheremetyevo Cargo claimed that Aeroflot was not transparent in the tender for the cargo handling deal, and didn’t provide enough information about the scope of services required. However, the Moscow Arbitration Court ruled in favor of Moscow Cargo.