Press Club Brussels

Europe Today: Latvia has granted political asylum to Igor Sychev

Russian citizen Igor Sychev has been granted political asylum in Latvia. Sychev is the former head of the tax department of Phosagro, one of the world’s leading producers of phosphate-based fertilisers based in Moscow.

He escaped from Russia in 2016 after conflict with shareholders of Phosagro Andrey Guryev and Igor Antoshin, closely related with the political elite of Russia. The conflict started after Sychev made an official claim against Phosagro regarding not having received remuneration for defending Phosagro's interests in court. The court case disputed previous court decisions for Phosagro’s fines on tax avoidance. Phosagro won the case and all charges were dropped. Phosagro saved around $700 million and received compensation of around $10 millions.

Igor Sychev stated: "In Russia my life was in danger after I tried to close a written agreement with shareholders of Phosagro. Somebody tried to deal with me three times. The wheels of my car fell off three times, when I was driving. 4 independent investigations were carried out and all confirmed that the cars were damaged before I drove them.

I tried to solve everything in legal way but unfortunately it was not able to attain justice in Russia. I was forced to leave the country leaving my family there, and started to look for a justice in other countries — in Great Britain, Switzerland and Latvia.

I took the floor in the Latvian Parliament in a capacity of person being subjected to persecution in Russia. I told my story in the Press Club Brussels as well. I applied for political asylum in Latvia in December 2016"

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Europe Today: Putin's Russia: One Man's Story Of Corruption & Persecution

Igor Sychev, a former senior manager of the Russian company PhosAgro, one of the world's leading producers of phosphate-based fertilisers, had been for many years the head of that company’s tax department.

This week Sychev visited Brussels to discuss how a falling out with senior figures within the company has led to attempts on his life, and to him fleeing the country to safety in Latvia. His story paints a frightening picture of business, politics, and corruption in Putin's Russia.

From 1995, PhosAgro had been owned by Mikhail Khordokovsky, at one time the wealthiest man in Russia, but who fell could of Vladimir Putin after entering the world of politics. Khordokovsky was to be persecuted and imprisoned in 2003, and with high profile international support was he to be released recently, after which he promptly left the country, and currently resides in Switzerland.

One of Khordokovsky’s former employees, Andrei Guryev, a former Communist Party committee leader in Moscow, was to become head of the company. Guryev, now a billionaire, currently resides in London’s Highgate, his home being the second largest in London, after Buckingham Palace.

Through a trust, Guryev’s family effectively owns PhosAgro, although in 2014 one Vladimir Litvinenko, former campaign manager to Vladimir Putin during the period 2000-2004, and the man who “oversaw” Putin’s controversial dissertation work in 1996, secured 9.73% of the company, although there is some Confusion over his precise holding at the time of writing.

Arguing that Guryev had promised him shares in PhosAgro but then reneged on the promise, Sychev initiated a criminal complaint for fraud, forgery of documents and malpractice against him in Switzerland.

Then began a series of events which led Sychev to flee Russia.

Speaking to EU Today he explained what happened.

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