The Belarusian Investigative Center, in partnership with the Lithuanian Siena Center and with the support of JournalismFund and CyberPartizan, released an investigation into how businessman Yury Chizh, close to Alexander Lukashenko, earned more than $5 billion in Belarus in just a year and a half.
Having received access to cheap Russian oil from the state, Chizh, with the help of his partner, Lithuanian businessman Vitold Tomashevsky, sold it under the guise of solvents. They withdrew the earned money from Belarus.
According to the investigation, in August 2011, Tomashevsky founded Savoil LLP in Singapore to trade fuels and oils. In just five months, Chyzh's partner received $800 million through this firm. By the end of 2012, the revenue of the new company amounted to about five billion dollars.
With the permission of Lukashenka, in 2011-2012, under the guise of solvents, Russian oil products were exported from Belarus without paying export duties. The Triple company of Yuri Chizh also participated in this business.
Belarusian statistics began to record the export boom of solvents from September 2011, that is, a month after Chizh's Lithuanian partner registered Savoil LLP.
Yuri Chizh and Vitold Tomashevsky have known each other for about 20 years. Since 2005, the Lithuanian has been flying with Chizh to Istanbul, Berlin, Paris and other cities, according to the investigation.
By the time he met Tomashevsky, Yury Chyzh had already gained Lukashenka's trust and gained access to the oil industry. In the early 2000s, Chizh's company Triple replaced the former players on the Belarusian oil market - Yukola, Jurimex and Schwebel. And at the end of the decade, the company also entered other areas: it founded a pharmaceutical plant, began building housing for the military, and received attractive building plots in Minsk. The businessman himself at that time was Lukashenka's neighbor in the elite village of Drozdy.
The solvent scheme was stopped by then-Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev at the end of 2012, according to the investigation.
But the cooperation between Chizh and Tomashevsky did not end. According to an extract from the Belarusian Ministry of Justice, they still own JLLC NefteKhimTrading. Yuri Chizh as an individual, and Vitold Tomashevsky through the British company Globecast Limited.
In March 2016, Chizh was charged with tax evasion on an especially large scale. He was sentenced to $12 million in damages. In September 2016, the businessman was released, but in March 2021 he was detained in a new case - also tax evasion. Chizh was released on pardon, as the media wrote, in September of this year.
Chyzh lost the trust of Lukashenka, but not all of his business, and, according to investigators, he still has influential partners, and some of his assets are registered with his children.
As for Tomaszewski, Chizh's schemes allowed him to acquire villas and apartments in Europe, and regional media called him "the richest man" in Lithuania.